The Day – New London to celebrate Pride at Ocean Beach

New London — A Pride celebration will take place from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday at Ocean Beach, giving folks a chance to connect with one another and celebrate the city’s LGBTQ community.

The event is sponsored by OutCT, a New London nonprofit that promotes the acceptance of all sexual orientations and gender identities through education, events and social programming. This year’s festivities began with a drag brunch on Sunday, kicking off a weeklong celebration that also featured a virtual art show, karaoke night and, on Friday night, a family-friendly ice cream social downtown.

With dozens of vendors and a full schedule of performers taking the stage to sing, dance and perform in drag, the beach will be packed with Pride.

All of the performers who will entertain crowds throughout the day are members of the LGBTQ community, OutCT Vice President Edwin Ivey said. “We try to involve as many people from within the LGBT community as we can. We really prioritize that, especially when scheduling our performers — we try to make sure they are our people so we can see ourselves on stage.”

Constance Kristofik, founder of OutCT, said that Pride celebrations are an important part of the city’s culture and have been for years.

“New London is a really inclusive city and this is a great opportunity for the community to come together and reinforce and affirm how welcoming New London is for the LGBTQ community,” Kristofik said. “It just reinforces that acceptance and inclusivity that we have here in New London.”

Throughout the year, OutCT hosts a variety of social gatherings. On Wednesdays, group members meet at Dockside on Bank Street for karaoke night. On the last Wednesday of every month, they visit a different local restaurant or bar for happy hour.

Ivey, who is gay and has spent most of his life in New London, said the community OutCT provides is what he was looking for when he was young. He remembers driving through the city as a teenager and seeing a Pride flag waving from Frank’s, a former New London bar, and thinking he couldn’t wait to be old enough to hang out there.

He’s glad that now there’s a space in the city for everyone.

One of the programs that OutCT prioritizes is its youth program, chaired by Polly Fuhrmeister (see Sunday’s paper for a profile on Fuhrmeister’s experience as a transgender woman).

The youth program meets on the third Sunday of every month — at Ocean Beach during the summer — and provides a safe space for folks ages 12 to 18 to meet other kids and teens who are like them.

Each meeting begins with an introduction — to recognize the names and pronouns each individual is using at that exact moment, and offer a safe space for folks to try out name and pronoun changes — and a brief check-in with the group over pizza. Then, they hear from leaders of OutCT or members of the community, such as engineers from Electric Boat or sexual health experts, before having time to socialize and get to know one another.

“The kids don’t all come from the same school district, so it’s nice for them to intermingle and learn how to deal with other kids in school and get to interact with people who are just like them,” Ivey said. “These kids have a safe space to be themselves, which is really great.”

The youth program also offers an opportunity for parents to meet one another and receive support and resources for themselves and their children.

At the last Pride festival in 2019, more than 150 teens and preteens attended the youth celebration in the city.

Last year, New London’s Pride celebrations were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. OutCT is happy the festival can return this year and be held safely outside. Masks are optional and health care workers will be set up to offer all three types of the COVID-19 vaccines to anyone who is interested.

There is no entrance fee for Pride, but regular parking and walk-in fees for Ocean Beach apply.

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