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EDITION NO. 1

THE OFFICIAL LGBT+ GUIDE OF CONNECTICUT LOVE | LIFE | EQUALITY

EXCLUSIVES

The things that affect us all in our community

WWW.OUTINCT.COM The ultimate guide to all LGBT+ activities and events


We wish to thank our inaugural sponsors for helping bring PRIDE back to Hartford.

CommArts Center

Visit our online LGBT+ Friendly Business Directory at www.outinct.com

Add your business or organization to outinct.com and reach thousands of potential clients and members. By supporting us you help keep PRIDE alive in Hartford.


CONTENTS

Charlie Ortiz//Editor Dear Friends,

04pg//The executors 05pg//About Us 07pg//Cake & Hate 10pg//Hartford Scene 12pg//I am... 14pg//Q&A With Mucha 18pg//LGBT+ in CT 22pg//CCAR 26pg//Save the Date

Welcome to our premier issue of OUTINCT.COM. After several years of requests for PRIDE to return to our city, I am extremely joyful and grateful to all the volunteers who have worked hard to make this weekend celebration a reality. This celebration will allow all of our peoples to come together to acknowledge the contributions of the LGBT+ community. The LGBT+ community has contributed significantly to our city, state, nation and the world: we now take pause to celebrate those achievements. I also want to thank CLARO and the other organizations and sponsors whose time and generosity have made this event possible. I hope that in future years this event continues to grow and all communities join hands in this celebration so that it becomes a gathering of all nations and peoples represented in our rainbow flag. Showcasing our artists, scientists, leaders, workers, families and struggles will enable us to bring pride to our community and most especially our youth, letting them know that we do have a lot to be proud of, while acknowledging the need to do even more. This year we take note of and celebrate Supreme Courts decision on Marriage Equality, but we must also take note of the responsibilities to be fostered while acknowledging that the work is not complete. Lets recognize that we must persevere in eradicating hate, homophobia and all other forms of discrimination. In closing a special thanks to our local, state and federal leaders, straight and gay, who have supported our community over the years on this most special year. I hope that you all enjoy the festivities and that you have an opportunity to show your PRIDE. Sincerely,

Charlie Ortiz

Chair & Editor of OUTINCT.COM

LGBT+ GUIDE OF CT 2015 - 2016 | 3


Contributors 2015

THE EXECUTORS

Thanks to the support and leadership of following people we were able to bring PRIDE back to Hartford.

Timothy Taylor

Mayor Pedro Segarra “I am greatly honored to celebrate Pride Fest in Connecticut’s Capital City,

Charlie Ortiz

especially in light of the recent, historic Supreme Court decision granting a

Our celebration of Pride is a powerful

victory for marriage equality. For too

tool in showing the unity, strength and

long, the LGBT + community has been

resiliency of the LGBT+ community. We

deprived of civil and political rights –

must continue to collect and share our

now there is no distinction between gay

history, so that the injustices of the past

marriage and marriage. This weekend is

are never repeated. Much work remains

a celebration of inclusivity and equality,

to be done with our Youth and other

as much as it is a celebration of pride in

individuals who still face discrimination.

our community.”

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“As a capital city, Hartford has the opportunity to be a beacon for the LGBT+ community across the state. Coming together to celebrate who we are, what we’ve accomplished and the progress that’s been made is vital to our continued fight for equality.”


Highlight About Us September 2015

IT’S TIME TO COME OUT TO PLAY OUTINCT.COM relies on the commitment of volunteers and your donations to publish the premier guide to LGBT+ life in Connecticut. As a community we all share in the success of this publication by promoting pride and awareness of LGBT+ community supporters during the year. When you make a donation or volunteer with us you will be making a difference for your community as a whole. Why it matters? OUTINCT.COM will showcase LGBT+ accomplishments and the best our community has to offer in Connecticut. We need you to make sure that “Pride, Love, Life and Equality” continue to be alive and well in Connecticut. We will continue to build awareness of our community in order to make Connecticut more inclusive.

What do you get out of it! Our work is about community! If you want to help make the world you live better, then the best way is join in! Make your voice heard and play your part. Volunteering, fundraising or donating to us gives you the opportunity get involved with the future and success of your community. By volunteering you can gain experience, develop new skills, improve your career prospects, build confidence and meet new interesting people.

What you can do? There are a whole range of volunteer opportunities for all types of people, of all abilities, and skills. We will aim to personalize your experience and find what suits you best. We need event staff, ad sales, fund raisers, public relations, marketing assistants, photographers, and administrative staff.

Our Mission Connecticut Latinas/os Achieving Rights and Opportunities (CLARO), is dedicated to promoting for Latinos LGTBQI equality, policy, social justice, human rights and education addressing homophobia and heterosexism. We accomplish these goals by mobilizing our community and partner agencies on issues like marriage equality, parental rights, inclusive anti-bullying policies, employment discrimination, hate violence, privacy rights, sexuality education, adoption, domestic partnerships, and HIV/AIDS.

Want to know more? Please visit our website or write for more information on how to be part of the OUTINCT.COM team. Give us your contact information and let us know what volunteer opportunities interest you.

info@outinct.com www.outinct.com LGBT+ GUIDE OF CT 2015 - 2016 | 5


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“Cake & Hate Don’t go together” Erika Stirk, owner of Somewhere Over The Bakery By Lauren Incognito In the wake of the Supreme Court decision to fully recognize and legalize same-sex marriages in all US states, myriad couples were finally, after years of fighting for marriage equality, able to find relief in the fact that state lines could no longer define the validity and, legitimacy, of their unions. The LGBTQ community and its allies rejoiced in the news; however, not every citizen shared in the enthusiasm. Opposition to the ruling has swayed from nothing more than simple bigotry and discrimination to a deeper-seeded question of religious infringement. Thousands of GLBTQ folks will continue overcoming the mire of discrimination as they anxiously begin cultivating the life they’ve waited so long to craft. For many, that life will include the opportunity to say two small yet profoundly important words with complete freedom—“I do.” Wedding planning involves equal parts perseverance and the ability to accept the fact that one half of the marrying duo will inevitably second-guessing every decision he or she makes. Should the dress have sleeves or be strapless? Should the suit be dark or light? How many bridesmaids or groomsmen? What are the entrée options? Will the wedding include tiny humans, or will kids be treated like the plague? To elope or host the party of the year? To feed them fruit or let them eat cake? So many questions and months, sometimes years, of planning for a soirée over in five-hours. But people run toward this massive undertaking because they want their relationship recognized by the bond of marriage, and they’re in love with the idea of love, right? Sure, the couple getting married are

important, but what other symbolic representation of marriage elicits as much awe and excitement from the crowd as the cake? I personally don’t want to be bothered with anyone at this stage of my life, but I do love the idea of cake tasting from bakery to bakery—it’s the little things really. From what we have seen in recent news, ordering the wedding cake is anything but a “little thing” for many same-sex couples. Earlier this year an Oregon bakery was ordered to pay $135,000 to a lesbian couple whom they refused to provide service to on the grounds of religious beliefs, and just last month the Colorado Court of Appeals rejected a baker’s argument that his Christian beliefs were sufficient grounds to deny service to a same-sex couple. For photographers, florists, and bakers who identify as Christian, the argument to deny service to same-sex couples is sweeping the nation and leading to some hefty financial repercussions along the way. Many business owners have fired back, arguing they feel forced to engage in practices that challenge their belief system or face steep fines. They argue that same-sex couples can just as easily take their business to another vendor without initiating legal proceedings. Luckily, countless business owners view the issue as far less complex and are willing to step in where others have refused. Erika Stirk started baking in high school when she took a culinary class. Having parlayed that hobby into something much larger, Stirk is now the owner of Somewhere Over the Bakery, which she has been operating since 2013. In addition to the myriad birthday, graduation, and all-occasion cakes peppering

www.uconnfertility.com LGBT+ GUIDE OF CT 2015 - 2016 | 7


her Facebook page, Stirk is also a gay-friendly baker who is more than willing to play an integral part in a couple’s wedding, regardless of sexual orientation. In between cake orders, Stirk deftly balances life with a child, boyfriend, and her job in the emergency room. “My other job is an Emergency Department Tech in a local emergency department… but baking is my passion. My goal is to turn Somewhere Over The Bakery into a full time business in the near future,” said Stirk. As of now, Stirk operates her bakery on a part-time basis but continues to take orders. Her cakes range from the ubiquitous Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles and Frozen-themed birthday confections to the downright whimsical. Stirk has the vision and the customers, and she’s not afraid to take on the haters. When it comes to business owners who refuse to serve same-sex couples on the grounds of religious beliefs, Stirk fires back with a hefty dose of realism. “From a religious side, discrimination is hateful, and cake and hate do not go together,” Stirk said. “Bakers are baking a cake and providing a service; they are not delivering the vows. From a business point of view, why turn away a customer? And, why turn away potential future customers?” Many business owners who identify as Christian do not see the situation as black and white. For them, the idea of baking cakes for a gay wedding contradicts the values and beliefs they hold towards the institution of marriage. Forcing businesses to provide a service that directly challenges their religious convictions and beliefs is, some argue, as discriminatory as the refusal to provide service in the first place. “I think it’s unfair to force a business to bake a cake for something they don’t believe in,” said Paul Ellsworth, a retired math teacher on Long Island. “If a gay couple meets resistance from a baker they should move on and find another baker, not file a lawsuit. Are they looking for a wedding cake or compensation from a lawsuit to pay for the wedding,” Ellsworth said. However, public sentiment seems to align with the idea that individual businesses should be held financially and emotionally accountable for their actions. After all, would society tolerate a cake that depicted a swastika and people being led into a gas chamber? Of course not; nor would society tolerate any baker who refused to provide service to someone who was Black, Asian, or Indian. “A business that opens its doors to the public has a responsibility to act in a non-discriminatory way. A baker cannot refuse service based on race, and they cannot refuse service based on sexual orientation. These are the laws of the United States, and if a baker refuses service based on bias then they deserve to be fined,” Stirk said. We are a nation whose citizens have historically believed and, fought for, the basic tenet of equality.

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Proponents of equality have ferociously argued for civil rights and women’s rights. There was a time not too long ago in our history when it was acceptable to post ‘Whites Only’ signs outside a business. Legions of people came together to challenge and, prevail, over the deplorable, arcane treatment of Black Americans. This begs the question as to why some people fail to see the same basic principles of equality as they pertain to sexual orientation. “I feel that being denied service is offensive and dehumanizing, especially in the midst of arranging what should be a joyful celebration. No one should fear being turned away from a public business because of who they are,” said Carrie Cello of Plainville. Stirk reminds us that there is work to be done to ensure that all citizens are treated fairly and equally, but business proprietors like Stirk also challenge us to believe that when people unify for a common good we are capable of overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges. Baking cakes for same-sex couples is Stirk’s contribution to the discrimination many LGBTQ people still face, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling that every same-sex marriage warrants federal recognition and equality. “I want to be a business owner who helps bring that equality to our country, not fight it. Really, if these bakers only want to serve one group of individuals they should just stick to their Church’s bake sales and leave the real baking to people who want to see happy people eating cake.” As of now, people can find Somewhere Over the Bakery on facebook, where they can see some of Stirk’s creations and privately message her to place an order.

Hartford Psychological Services Richard W. Stillson, Ph,D. Psychologist

210 Wethersfield Avenue Hartford, CT 06114

(860) 296-0094


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AN OPENING IN TIME • Sept. 24, 2015 By Christopher Shinn • Directed by Oliver Butler

ROMEO & JULIET • Feb. 18, 2016 By William Shakespeare • Directed by Darko Tresnjak

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By Emily Mann • Adapted from the book by Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth Directed by Jade King Carroll

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Jefferson Mays and Ken Barnett in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder. Photo by Joan Marcus. *All tickets subject to facility and handling fees. Not valid on SuperSavers.

Get 25% OFF* tickets for the show plus pre-show nosh and complimentary wine (plus drink specials at the cash bar!) for members and allies of the LGBT community. Doors open at 6:15 p.m. Show at 7:30 p.m.

USE CODE:

LGBT25

AN OPENING IN TIME • Sept. 24, 2015 By Christopher Shinn • Directed by Oliver Butler

ROMEO & JULIET • Feb. 18, 2016 By William Shakespeare • Directed by Darko Tresnjak

HAVING OUR SAY • Apr. 7, 2016 By Emily Mann • Adapted from the book by Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth Directed by Jade King Carroll

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Jefferson Mays and Ken Barnett in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder. Photo by Joan Marcus. *All tickets subject to facility and handling fees. Not valid on SuperSavers.

LGBT+ GUIDE OF CT 2015 - 2016 | 9


Life & Style

LGBT+ HARTFORD SCENE

Send your photos to gallery@outinct.com

2015

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LGBT+ GUIDE OF CT 2015 - 2016 | 11


“I Am ...” by Lauren Incognito

You don’t want to be the parent who is standing over your child’s grave saying, ‘I wish I had supported you.’

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A 2012 issue of “The New York Times Magazine” explored new and progressive approaches to raising gender-fluid children. On the front cover, a boy perhaps 9 or 10 years old, appeared carefree and in motion. A pink shall paired well with a rose-colored dress with white flowers. The child’s long, dark hair billowed in the breeze as golden streaks from a late-day sun illuminated flowing locks. The image of this child inspired and frightened me. I praised the boy’s parents for allowing their child to appear on the cover of a national magazine wearing clothes that did not align with his birth gender. The ease with which this child appeared to express his preferred gender frightened me. How were his parents coping with raising a male child who preferred clothing typically assigned to girls, and would anyone physically harm this child because the exterior failed to match the interior?

The term transgender is an umbrella description for individuals whose gender identity and gender expression do not align, or conform, to the gender they were assigned at birth. The continuum of what it means to be transgender, however, can sometimes elicit confusion. Transgender does not always mean surgical intervention, nor does the term imply that surgery is an absolute in order for a person to emotionally connect to a gender different from the one assigned at birth. A gender-fluid individual, such a boy who depicts society’s representation of what a male child looks and behaves like, but who also connects with the female gender and expresses that connection by wearing clothes typically associated with females would exist under the transgender umbrella. Tony Ferraiolo was born he explains, “With the presumed sex of female.” Ferraiolo, a certified life coach and mentor is playing an integral role


in the lives of young transgender kids throughout Connecticut and the caregivers raising them. He is a man recreated; however, the evolution took 52 years and what some might call divine intervention. “I went down to the beach to kill myself,” Ferraiolo said of that infamous day in 2014. He was neither a heterosexual female nor a lesbian, despite tiresome efforts to exist within these constructs. Miserable, depressed, and ashamed, suicide seemed the only panacea. With the ocean before him, Ferraiolo recalls the intent to end his life. But before he could commit the act, a voice from within said, “Create yourself.” These words were poignant, their message a revelation after so many years of suffering silently. No matter how hard Ferraiolo had tried, a happy and productive life that matched the gender he identified with never revealed itself. He knew why he was miserable. He had always known. He had known since he was a small boy. “I was five-years-old and playing football with my older brother. He took off his shirt while we were playing and I took off mine,” Ferraiolo said. Ferraiolo’s mother swiftly intervened, prompting Ferraiolo to put his shirt on because he was not a boy. The incident confused Ferraiolo. How did his own mother not know he was a boy? Ferraiolo recalls telling his mother, “I’m a boy.” It was a defining incident for a then five-year-old Ferraiolo. Everything about his being, how he related to the world, and what he understood to be true told him he was a boy. He didn’t understand why that knowledge wasn’t clear to those around him. Unfortunately, this was only the start of multiple occurrences throughout his life that would serve as painful reminders of the misalignment between his birth gender and the gender he connected to on a deep-seeded level. Until Ferraiolo could finally create himself into the person he was meant to be, his emotional and mental state could never exist harmoniously, and there would never be a life, or a future, to settle into. At 41, Ferraiolo had chest surgery, a major step in his journey of recreation. In 2005 Ferraiolo transitioned. It was a physical transition that surgically altered his body and a spiritual transition that carried him out of despair and into a world of light and possibility. Ferraiolo’s journey captivated advocates of LGBT equality and caught the attention of documentary filmmaker Lori Petchers, whose feature length documentary on Ferraiolo, titled A Self Made Man, resulted in a candid, poignant view into what it truly means to be transgender. The film received widespread accolades and garnered the 2014 win for best LGBT feature documentary. Not every transgender child will find him or herself the focus of an award-winning documentary or be invited to participate in a medical school curriculum that includes a module on cultural competency for future doctors who might one day provide care to transgender patients. Not every transgender person will follow Ferraiolo’s trajectory; however, no person, especially a child, should suffer or feel the degree of shame and confusion over gender identity the way Ferraiolo did prior to recreating himself.

To Love!

www.redgold.net

LGBT+ GUIDE OF CT 2015 - 2016 | 13


10

QUESTIONS WITH... Mucha Mucha Placer

1. IF YOU WHERE A FOOD WHAT WILL IT BE? IT WILL BE RAINBOW SHERBET. I’M A SUCKER FOR COLORFUL, SWEET STUFF. 2. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE COLOR? APART FROM THE WHOLE RAINBOW, WHICH IS PROBABLY REDUNDANT AND QUITE OBVIOUS BY ALL MY OVER-EXPOSURE, MY FAVORITE COLOR LATELY IS ORANGE.

3. DIAMONDS OR PEARLS? NEITHER, GIVE ME GAWDY, OVERSIZED COSTUME JEWELRY AND I’M IN ECSTASY.

4. IF YOU WROTE A BOOK WHAT WILL THE TITLE BE? “DOLL, HOW YA DOIN?”

5. IF YOU HAD A SUPER POWER WHAT WILL IT BE?

SUPERHEALER POWER TO MEND ALL THE FENCES WE’VE BROKEN, LIVES WE’VE RUINED, HURT WE’VE INFLICTED, DISSENT WE’VE CREATED, AND NAILS AND LASHES I’VE LOST.

6. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CURSE WORD? I ABSTAIN FROM CURSING AND TRYING TO

KEEP IT IN CHECK. SO DON’T EVEN TRY TO GET ME TO GO THERE.

7. IF YOU COULD BE ANYONE, WHO WOULD IT BE? WOULD LOVE TO BE MICHELLE OBAMA WEL-

COMING THE PRESIDENT HOME EVERY NIGHT AFTER HIS STRENUOUS DAY.

Life is short, Break the rules, Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Dance often, Love truly, Laugh uncontrollably, And never regret anything that made you smile.”

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8. IF ALIENS LANDED ON EARTH HOW WOULD YOU GREET THEM? “DOLLS, HOW YA DOIN?”

9. SESAME STREET OR FRAGGLE ROCK?

NEITHER, I THINK WE’RE READY FOR A DRAG CHILDREN’S SHOW, WADDYA THINK?

10. WHAT IS THE COOLEST THING YOU OWN? A NEW OUTSIDE SHOWER. I’VE BEEN WORKING ON BRINGING FAVORITE VACATION PERKS HOME TO MY BACKYARD, SO I CAN ENJOY THEM MORE THAN ONCE A YEAR.


LGBT+ GUIDE OF CT 2015 - 2016 | 15


Worship Sunday 10:30 a.m. 136 Capitol Avenue Hartford, Connecticut 06106 860.246.2224 www.firstpreshartford.org Feeding the Hungry- Soul and Body Since 1851

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Determined to support non gender-conforming youth, Ferraiolo signed up to be a mentor with True Colors, an organization that ensures the needs of LGBT youth are met by working in collaboration with schools, community organizations, and social service agencies. Ferraiolo started a group for transgender teens in New Haven that he promoted through his affiliation with True Colors. The first meeting was held in April of 2008 and marked a new realm of support and advocacy not only for transgender youth but also for the caregivers raising them. That he has dedicated his life to protecting youth isn’t without irony. “I never cared for kids too much,” said Ferraiolo amused. He’s seen too much evolution and strides to ever back away. “When you give anyone hope for a better life, they won’t want to take their life,” said Ferraiolo when explaining his connection to the kids. Hearing their stories, watching them flourish emotionally and mentally with peers in a safe, supportive space means that Ferraiolo has grown to care very much for kids. To bring awareness to his group, Ferraiolo says he began by visiting pediatric offices, medical groups, and counseling centers in and around the New Haven area. Today, in an undisclosed location in New Haven, Ferraiolo and a team of trained volunteers operate two groups for transgender kids. An art group known as “Create Yourself” is open to transgender and non-gender conforming kids age 12 and under. The group does not initiate guided conversations about gender identity but rather allows children to organically express their identified gender through creativity and the freedom to wear whatever clothes align with how they feel internally. The group “Translation” is open to youth ranging from 13 to 18 who are emotionally ready to participate in the group setting. Translations is open to transgender teens and those who are questioning. Not all, but some of the kids in this group have already begun to surgically alter their bodies. Meaning, not everyone needs surgery for a healthy transition. “Gender identity is your deep sense of yourself,” said Ferraiolo. If an individual strongly connects with his or her preferred gender on a deep level, medical intervention isn’t always sought. For others, a physical change in anatomical structure is necessary in order for the individual to fully connect with the gender they identify with. Between both of Ferraiolo’s groups, approximately 30 transgender kids have an opportunity to freely express themselves in a safe, supportive environment, replete with glue sticks and copious amounts of glitter for those participating in the art group. What makes Ferraiolo’s work so unique and important is the concurrent support group for parents. While children participate in their own group, a parent facilitator leads the parent support group, which creates an opportunity for existing and new families to connect and relate to one another on a deep, personal level. Since 2008, Ferraiolo’s outreach has grown to where he now serves more than 250 families throughout the tri-state area. His work with transgender teens and their families has made him a widely known name to many therapists throughout Connecticut. A girl who doesn’t style her hair with clips, ribbons, or hairbands and who only wants to wear clothes typically associated with males is considered a tomboy. Society has


a name for girls who like to climb trees and play with boys within its main stream lexicon, and society doesn’t stare too long at these girls when they’re out in public. But what is the name we give to little boys who want their fingernails painted and who enjoy wearing dresses? What is society’s response to the parents of boys who leave the house in garments widely identified as female? A sombering 41% of transgender individuals attempt suicide Ferraiolo notes. He acknowledges the confusion, even grief, experienced by parents of transgender children, but also provides support and hope. Ferraiolo assures parents that gender non-conformity is nothing they did as caregivers, nor is it the consequence or result of the way they parented. “We need to acknowledge these families and these children. There is nothing to be ashamed of,” Ferraiolo drives home to parents. “You don’t want to be the parent who is standing over your child’s grave saying, ‘I wish I had supported you.’” said Ferraiolo. When caregivers and community unite in support to simply provide compassion and acceptance, the percentage of suicide attempts drop. Ferraiolo understands the fear for some parents though. Despite the strides in gender equality, the reality is that transgender people are still discriminated against, still beaten, still murdered. A parent learning what it means to raise a boy who wants to wear dresses to school will naturally experience anxiety—anxiety over what people will say and think, anxiety over the possible loss of friends and family, and pure, primal anxiety and fear that someone will harm their child. The life coach in him allows parents to embrace their fear but then quickly teaches them to shift their mindset in order to change the story. When it comes to their child’s future, Ferraiolo radiates love, wisdom, and compassion every time he tells parents, “Fill their journey with love and light.” Ferraiolo also reminds families of the importance of surrounding themselves with people who love and support them. To the children who come through his doors, Ferraiolo’s message is rooted in comfort and assurance. “You need to believe in yourself because when you believe in yourself, you’re unstoppable.” Changing the story from one rooted in fear to one that embraces possibilities is the story that’s going to ensure a child has an amazing life journey. To protect the children and families attending his groups, the location in New Haven is not disclosed. Families can reach out to Tony through his website Tonyferraiolo.com

89 Pratt Street Hartford, CT 06103 T (860) 524-8577

www.thetobaccoshoppehartford.com

“How can we help you with your RECOVERY today?” Hartford Recovery Community Center 198 Wethersfield Avenue Hartford, CT 06114 (860) 244-3343 Mondays/Wednesdays/Thursdays: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesdays: 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Fridays:

www.influentiald.com

We invite you to join us every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. for the LGBT Recovery Group

9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Visit us online at www.ccar.us

LGBT+ GUIDE OF CT 2015 - 2016 | 17


Quick Facts

LGBT+ in Connecticut The Movement Advancement Project (MAP) helps educate and persuade public audiences (such as policymakers, allied organizations and funders, media and the American public) and helps support LGBT movement audiences (including LGBT organizations and advocates, and LGBT funders). Data from www.lgbtmap.org

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Soka Gakkai International-USA (SGI-USA) is a diverse Buddhist community in the US and is part of the global SGI network of more than 12 million people in 192 countries and territories. SGI members base their practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo on the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Buddhism, which teaches that each person has within the courage, wisdom and compassion to face and surmount any of life’s challenges. Based on Buddhist principles such as respecting the dignity of human life and the interconnectedness of self and the environment, SGI engages in peace activities like human rights education, the movement to abolish nuclear weapons and efforts to promote sustainable development. LGBTG Courageous Freedom members in SGI-USA proudly practice within our organization, meet occasionally for afďŹ nity and to represent SGI-USA in Pride events.

www.chezest.com

SGI-USA Connecticut Activity Center 518 Boston Post Rd, Orange, CT 06477 203-799-0512 Open Sat/Sun 8:30am-5pm sgi-ct.org sgi-usa.org

LGBT+ GUIDE OF CT 2015 - 2016 | 19


THE HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN IS PROUD TO SUPPORT

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR WORK ADVOCATING FOR LGBT EQUALITY, PLEASE VISIT: WWW.HRC.ORG/FOUNDATION

Just Peace Open & Affirming Multi-cultural Environmentally-conscious

You are welcome here! Sunday Worship: 10am

Immanuel Church, 10 Woodland St., Hartford, CT 06105, 860.527.8121 www.iccucc.org, facebook.com/iccucc

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Get to know the Health Collective. We want to get to know you.  860- 278-4163 info@hglhc.org  hglhc.org  facebook.com/hglhc LGBT+ GUIDE OF CT 2015 - 2016 | 21


A PLACE FOR RECOVERY

By Lauren Incognito

Recovery from addiction is a difficult undertaking and its success depends on multiple variables working in tandem with one another. Anyone who says recovery is easy is either continuing to use illicit substances during the treatment process, lying to himself, or minimizing the extent of the addiction. Either way, there’s deception—to the clinician trying to help, to family members and, most importantly, to the person in treatment. The truth is that recovery from any addiction is arduous, mournful, depleting, and emotionally taxing. Whether someone is new to the recovery process or has been living sober for years, if they say it’s easy be on the lookout for red flags flapping wildly in the distance. I’ve had clients with 15 or 20 years of sobriety come into my group for treatment because they relapsed. They start again at day one, and for three hours they mourn their sobriety, beat themselves up emotionally, refer to themselves as ‘stupid’ or a ‘failure’, or misdirect their frustration and anger at me, the clinician. To every client who experienced a relapse, I said the same thing: “You’re not a bad person trying to be good, you’re a sick person trying to get better.” Recovery is ongoing, even if it’s been several decades since someone took their last drink or did their last drug. The process never stops because people living with addiction are human beings and human beings stumble, they make mistakes, and they exist in a world where anything can be a trigger, even something as simple as running out of laundry detergent when there’s a mound of dirty clothes to wash. A competent clinician who follows through and knows how to establish trust with clients is a must. A strong evidence-based curriculum taught by a competent clinician is a must. Supportive family, friends, or connection to the community is a must, and a client who shows up and is committed to the recovery process is a must. Each contributing variable in the recovery process plays an integral role, and each individual unit that comes together echoes a basic philosophical principle: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Anytime one of these variables misaligns 22 |

with another the recovery process is put in jeopardy. Virginia Adams, Center Manager of the Hartford Recovery Community Center for the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery, CCAR, lives every day remembering these principles. “I’m a woman in long term recovery,” said Adams, who made it through her “day one” in 1992. That was 23 years ago. Adams, despite many years of sobriety, admits she still wasn’t fulfilled. The substance was gone but so was any sense of deep purpose within her to connect to. “I was really, really depressed,” said Adams. She spent her days watching television at home, despondent and without anything to anchor herself to. A friend suggested to Adams that she consider volunteering at CCAR. Adams took the advice and walked through the doors of CCAR to inquire about how she might use her experience to help others just beginning, or struggling to stay in recovery. That was four years ago. From the initial steps she took over the threshold into the CCAR building, Adams was offered a job as a volunteer coordinator and in June of this year she was promoted to her current role as center manager. “It got me out of the house,” said Adams of her early days as a volunteer. “It gave me a purpose to get up in the morning. I started to feel better about my life; I was helping people and people were helping me,” said Adams. At the time she started volunteering Adams had close to 20 years in recovery, yet she had been on the journey long enough to know that she would always need help. Accessing the support and wisdom of the recovery community while being given the opportunity to help others turned into one more strength Adam’s could add to her recovery toolbox. CCAR is neither an outpatient nor inpatient facility. They offer no clinical services whatsoever. Rather, CCAR serves as a pillar in the recovery community as a resource for people to use at various stages of recovery. Adams manages the day to day operations and coordinates activities and programming for those coming into the center. There are standard recovery meetings available through


CCAR but also volunteer opportunities and support and training opportunities. CCAR also offers myriad support groups to the recovery community, including women and men’s groups, grief and loss groups, and LGBT support groups. Adams admits that many LGBT people in recovery are comfortable attending mainstream support groups thanks to increased visibility of the LGBT community, marriage equality, and laws protecting them from discrimination. People who are LGBT have assimilated into mainstream daily life. They no longer have to go to gathering places once heavily frequented by the LGBT community to socialize with other people like them. A lesbian or gay couple having dinner somewhere in West Hartford Center may not generate any stares or even warrant a second thought. “We have come a long way. We have integrated into mainstream society,” said Adams. However, it’s naïve to believe everyone has caught up to the idea of basic equality. The Kentucky clerk who made national news for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite the Supreme Court ruling served as a reminder that progress will inevitably, at one point or another, be thwarted by ignorance and resistance. “We are a marginalized community. We need a safe space to talk about our issues, to speak a common language that we can understand,” said Adams of the LGBT community as a whole. Individuals who are transgender may feel the burn of discrimination on an even deeper level. Despite an increase in visibility from women like Caitlin Jenner and Laverne Cox, assimilation into mainstream society is not as simple or welcome. In the Fall of 2014 Adams and Dr. Richard Stillson, a licensed psychologist and longtime transgender activist who has made a career of providing clinical services to the LGBT community in Connecticut, met to discuss starting a recovery group at CCAR for LGBT people. The idea was to meet one night a week. In less than one year from the initial conversation, the first LGBT recovery group at CCAR was launched and held in the Spring of 2015. “We started out with three people,” said Adams. “The three of us were just looking at each other,” Adams now laughs thinking of that first night. As with any new venture, it took time. Word of mouth spread and neither Dr. Stillson nor Adams wavered in their commitment to keeping the group going. The LGBT recovery community needed the group to speak, as Adams said, a language they could all understand. Dr. Stillson facilitated and Adams co-facilitated until the LGBT group slowly found its legs and evolved into what has become a coherent, organic group with 8-13 regular group members. Recovery services at CCAR are free and Adams notes that an average of 800 to 900 individuals walk through the doors of CCAR on any given month. Funding for day-to-day operations at CCAR come from funding from the Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services, fundraising, and private funding. A person can be a part of CCAR whether he or she has 15 plus years in recovery or two days. Once they have made the decision to add CCAR

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to their list of recovery supports, Adams promises a breadth of group topics, some of which include triggers to relapse, coming out (LGBT group), relationships in recovery, honesty, working and living the program, and discovering ways to have fun without substances. Recovery is not easy and not everyone will be successful. Countless people will attain recovery while countless others continue to relapse or even give up entirely on living a sober life. Addiction is a relapsing disease; the majority of people who begin treatment will and do relapse. That is the nature of addiction; however, as long as they get back up and start the process again, even if it’s for the tenth time, they are moving in the right direction. They are not bad people trying to be good; they are sick people trying to get better. CCAR’s mission is one rooted in helping people through this process by serving as an anchor of support in the ongoing journey of sobriety and, ultimately, recovery. Upcoming CCAR events: CCAR Walk for National Recovery Month, September 18th in Bushnell Park. For more information about CCAR, meetings, and upcoming events, visit www.ccar.us

LGBT+ GUIDE OF CT 2015 - 2016 | 25


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Short Interview

Being yourself is just being human. Everywhere. Every day. We’re with you. We Bank Human and celebrate the LGBT community. TM

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Premier guide for the LGBT+ community in Connecticut.

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