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Bridgeport raises LGBTQ+ flag to honor Pride Month

Rev. Sara Smith, to her right is John Brannelly, who works on the flag raising and the lady sitting down is Josephine Thomas, a moderator of the LGBT and allies club at central high school in Bridgeport.
Eddy Martinez
Connecticut Public
Appearing with musician Whendi Cook Broderick (left to right), Josephine Thomas, a moderator of the LGBT and allies club at Central High School in Bridgeport, John Brannelly, and Rev. Sara Smith, address people gathered for the raising of a pride flag at Bridgeport's government center.

Bridgeport residents at the city’s annual pride flag-raising event learned that a community center for people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) will be opening in their neighborhood.

Elliot Leonard, co-founder of the Fairfield-based Leonard-Litz Foundation, which supports LGBTQ+ causes in the Northeast, said that his organization would award a grant of $100,000.

“The foundation is looking to create a task force to develop a community organization in Bridgeport that represents the youth in every aspect,” Leonard said.

John Brannelly, a local LGBTQ+ advocate, said even though Bridgeport is the most populous city in Connecticut, it lacks an LGBTQ+ culture. The center could change that, he said.

Brannelly, who is gay, works with the city’s pride flag-raising event. The city used to have gay bars in the ‘70s, he said, but they all closed and the nearest bar, Trevi, is located in Fairfield.

“I would say in Bridgeport, it's a very conservative town at times,” he said. “And so that really is partly why there is not a community center already.”

While other municipalities nearby have LGBTQ-oriented spaces, Brannelly said they’re difficult to get to for people who don’t have a car.

“We do have a community center in Norwalk, which is phenomenal,” he said. “But a lot of people have transportation issues. If you live in Bridgeport, if you're low income, if you don't have a car, transit to Norwalk is not easy by bus or train.”

Norwalk is home to the Triangle Community Center, where Leonard is on the board. He said he is frequently asked why there wasn’t a similar center in Bridgeport.

“People have been talking about it, but no one's taking leadership,” he said. “So we are assuming that mantle.”

A task force would access neighborhoods and recommend a location.

Even though Bridgeport has lacked a gathering space for people who are LGBTQ+, the community is active.

Stephanie Saujon of Stratford, who identifies as queer, is working with the Greater Bridgeport Pride to promote its Pride event – now in its 13th year – on July 29 and 30.

“We're going to have a ‘unity in the park’ event that is going to have performances and vendors and food and just community support,” Saujon said.

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