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Pride Comes To Westport

June will be so gay in Westport.

Around the world, Pride Month — commemorating one of the first uprisings against police raids on gay bars, at the Stonewall Inn in June 1969 — is celebrated with parades, festivals, discussions and more.

Next month, Pride comes to Westport.

Actually, it’s already here. Formed just 5 months ago, a new group — Westport Pride — has developed an ambitious slate of events for June.

With dozens of members, from teenagers through grandparents — and hundreds of followers on social media — Westport Pride’s goal is to raise the visibility of LGBTQ residents and issues; increase understanding; provide mentors; inspire future leaders, and share the LGBTQ community’s culture and accomplishments.

They’ll do it with an array of events. Some are live, some virtual. Some will be educational; others, fun. All are important.

Westport Pride kicks off June 2 (7 p.m., Zoom) with a discussion on the past, present and future of LGBT life here. Panelists include Pride founder Brian McGunagle, Staples High School Gender Sexuality Alliance faculty advisor Kayla Iannetta, and members of that GSA. The moderator is … me. Click here for the link.

On June 4, Staples High celebrates Pride. The day-long event includes music, buttons, and an art show featuring submissions from Staples’ LGBTQ community. Rainbow attire is welcomed.

The original rainbow flag. Other colors have been added, symbolizing transgender issues and the AIDS crisis.

The next day — Saturday, June 5 (10 a.m. to noon) — is the Big One. The entire town is invited to Jesup Green for a Pride Rally. Youth (and non-youth) will speak, sing and perform. Clergy and political leaders will join together (with 1st Selectman Jim Marpe issuing a Pride Month proclamation).  A rainbow flag will fly, and there will be children’s art activities too.

On Sunday, June 6 (5 p.m.), Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church hosts a Pride Eucharist service, with scripture, song and prayer in the courtyard.

Westport elementary schools get in the spirit on June 15 with “You Be You Spirit Day.”  Begun by a Coleytown Elementary School student in 2019, it’s a celebration of what makes each child special.

This year’s theme is “What Makes You Shine?” Activities include a Staples student-created video, suggested book readings, and a self-portrait art project. Children (and parents) can proudly wear “You Be You” t-shirts and other apparel (click here to purchase).

MoCA Westport celebrates Pride June 25 through August 21 with “Love Wins.” The exhibit highlights the issues, themes and conversations of the local LGBTQ community, and beyond. Featured artists include Staples graduate Noah Fox, and a mural designed by Staples senior Poppy Livingstone.

All month, a large banner — designed by Staples senior Claire Hanley — will hang on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge (which will be lit by rainbow lights). The project was a collaboration between Staples’ GSA and the Westport Downtown Association.

Baker Graphics offers Westport Pride lawn signs, with a “Pride in Town/Pride in Each Other” message. They’re available at the 1753 Post Road East location, at a Pride-special $10 price.

JL Rocks is one of many local businesses supporting Westport Pride.

Other businesses are joining too. A “Summer of Love/Merchants of Pride” promotion with Pride-themed items and events includes JL Rocks, Savvy + Grace, WEST, Franny’s Farmacy, Fourth & Pride Vodka, Bespoke Designs, Le Rouge by Aarti, Purpose 2 Purchase, Rosebud Slumber Parties, Grammie’s, JoyRide, Norwalk Crossfit, The Row House, Pure Barre, Amis Trattoria, The Whelk and Don Memo.

But Westport Pride is not stopping after Pride Month. In the works: a Book Club discussion with the Westport Library about the true crime story “Last Call,” a killer who preyed upon gay men (July 22; click here); a panel with the Westport Weston Clergy Association; events for Coming Out Day in October, and more.

Westport has a long LGBTQ history. The Brook was one of the first gay bars in the area — and, when it closed in 2011, the oldest continually operating one in the country.

Staples sponsored the first Gay Straight Alliance of any public school in Connecticut.

A Staples High School GSA bulletin board near the cafeteria provides education and history.

Fairfield County’s inaugural Gay Pride celebration was held at the Unitarian Church. It, and other religious institutions, have been strong proponents for inclusion for years.

What’s happening now builds on that past. It honors the present, and empowers the future.

I’ll be proud to see you on Jesup Green — and everywhere else — next month.

PRIDE PS: Senior Ben Zack says, “I believe we are working toward the very important mission of educating people, creating acceptance and celebrating the LGBTQ community in our town. Even more importantly, we are setting the groundwork so that youth who are questioning have a place to turn, an organization that supports them and helps reduce the struggles they go through because of fear of accepting who they are.”

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