LGBTQ+ Nonprofits in Connecticut: Celebrating and Serving Our Communities

LGBTQ+ Nonprofits in Connecticut: Celebrating and Serving Our Communities

LGBTQ+ Nonprofits in Connecticut: Celebrating and Serving Our Communities By…

September 9, 2022 / Featured Articles

LGBTQ+ Nonprofits in Connecticut:

Celebrating and Serving Our Communities

By Jane Latus

To the young people reading this: would you believe that many adults remember when there was only one organization in Connecticut of, by, and for queer people? 

In the mid-1960s, Canon Clinton Jones of Christ Congregational Church, Hartford, formed a counseling group for gay men, who in turn formed the Kalos Society in 1968. Keith Brown (longtime host of WWUH’s Gay Spirit Radio) helped found the group and chose its name.

“I chose the name to impart the positive values of male-to-male relationships,” Brown explains. In ancient Greece, it was customary for men to give another man a drinking bowl inscribed with the word “kalos” – an adjective meaning all kinds of wonderful.

Brown isn’t surprised that the Kalos Society wasn’t the only organization of its kind for long. It soon morphed from the mainly social group to the advocacy group Kalos Society-Gay Liberation Front. That was soon followed by the pioneering lesbian group, Daughters of Bilitis. Groups had begun in other states. “The movement was already going. It just kicked into a higher gear,” says Brown.

The following are nonprofits serving Connecticut’s LGBTQ+ community. Most were created by community members. Others have expanded to focus on serving LGBTQ+ individuals. This isn’t a complete list of all queer Connecticut organizations, as it doesn’t include primarily social ones. We’ll save those for another list but as a resource, opportunities for participation, and an illustration of how services for our LGBTQ+ communities have grown in the state, this is a good start.

 

Advancing CT Together

(ACT) – Hartford

ACT is the parent agency of AIDS Connecticut, the CT Association for Human Services (CAHS), the CT Center for Harm Reduction, and Connecticut Pride. Their mission is to strengthen and broaden the range of services provided to families throughout the state.

AIDS CT offers services to those living with HIV/AIDS or related health issues, among them: a drop-in wellness center, financial assistance, care aid, and housing assistance.

CAHS offers safe and affordable banking, financial workshops, and free financial coaching to low-income children and families, with the goal of eliminating poverty in Connecticut.

The Center for Harm Reduction conducts syringe swaps, overdose prevention education and sexual health education.

Connecticut Pride is a resource center, connecting the community with available resources.

“Advancing Connecticut Together has launched pride-ct.org as a repository of resources and events focused on the LGBTQA community. We continue to provide HIV and Hep C testing free of charge,” says CEO John Merz.

How to help: Volunteer for events. Donate food, beverages, and raffle prizes for events.  Donate either to the overall organization, the Connecticut AIDS Memorial fund, or the Fried Endowment. Contact: act-ct.org

 

Anchor Health – 

Hamden and Stamford

“Health care for queer people, by queer people.”  That is both Anchor Health’s motto and reality. Its employees care for some 2,500 patients, more than half of whom are transgender or gender nonconforming. Its mission is to provide “groundbreaking, radically inclusive, gender-affirming and sex-positive care.”

Services include primary care, gender and life-affirming medicine, HIV prevention and treatment, STI testing, assistance with name changes and updating identification documents, and a pharmacy. 

“Our website features in-depth accessibility information, helpful FAQs, a timeline of our history, and resources available through our blog. Additionally, we now provide in-house behavioral health services that are trauma-informed and experienced in the unique needs of queer people,” says Michael DeWolfe, head of communications and events.

How to help: Donate, follow on social media, and share resources from their blog, such as Dr. AJ Eckert’s “All about Chest Binding” guide. Contact: anchorhealthct.org

 

Apex Community Care – Danbury, New Milford, Torrington and Waterbury

Apex provides HIV, behavioral health, substance abuse, prevention and harm reduction services, and advocates for people living with HIV/AIDS, mental health and substance abuse disorders, and their loved ones. Apex also promotes education and prevention in the community.

Apex offers HIV, STI, and Hepatitis C testing, Narcan, clean syringes, HIV health care, oral care, financial assistance, transportation, therapy, and support groups.

“Apex Community Care provides all of our services with cultural humility” says Chief Development Officer Jill Schoenfuss. “We are striving to be THE resource for LGBTQ+ education and training for other organizations and businesses within our geographic region of Western/Northwestern Connecticut. We have a broadly diverse staff, who reflect the people we serve, including gay, trans and nonbinary individuals, as well as those of many races and ethnicities and who speak and can provide services in Spanish and other languages.”

How to help: Volunteer or donate. Contact: apexcommunitycarect.org

 

A Place to Nourish your Health – New Haven

APNH provides “high quality, relationship based, holistic care to inspire health and well-being and to empower people at risk of, or impacted by, HIV, substance use, mental illness and related conditions” and “who face stigma or challenges in receiving culturally competent care.”

It provides health and wellness services, case management, behavioral health, nutrition, an emergency food bank, prevention education, free testing and screening, support groups and Dialectical Behavior Therapy. 

It also organizes the annual New Haven Gay Black Pride event, and two fundraising events: Dining Out for Life every April, and The Anniversary Event, with a date TBA this year. 

“APNH has a lot of great programs including our Outreach, Testing and Linkage program that focuses on our young African American and Latinx populations, specifically men who have sex with men (MSM). We also have our Safe Space Program that recently opened up in conjunction with our MPowerment program. This program also focuses on young MSM of color who need a space to go where they can be themselves, get HIV/STI testing services but also engage with their community through drag, outreach, social media and education,” says Nike Jackson, medical case manager.

How to help: Donate, or volunteer at events or in the office. Sought -after volunteers include massage therapists, acupuncturists, outreach and testing volunteers, handy-people to paint and build, and volunteers to staff the reception desk. Contact: apnh.org

 

Circle Care Center – 

Norwalk

Circle Care Center provides LGBTQ+-affirming primary care. It specializes in transgender and gender nonconforming care, HIV prevention and care, mental health, and sexual health. It has an on-site pharmacy. 

The center also works closely with Mid Fairfield AIDS Project and the nearby Triangle Community Center (both also on this list.)

“Circle Care Center is a leading primary care medical practice and sexual health center in Norwalk with new patients coming daily for our services. Our providers have more than 60 years of combined experience in HIV research and treatment. Circle Care Center also has an adjacent nonprofit pharmacy making us the most comprehensive and experienced primary practice for the LGBTQ+ community in the state,” says interim executive director Anthony Crisci.

How to help: Use its services. Circle Care uses revenue generated from its services to give grants to local organizations that provide HIV and other services to the LGBT community. Contact: circlecarecenter.org

 

Connecticut Latinos Achieving Rights & Opportunities (CLARO) – Hartford

CLARO is best known as organizer of the annual Hartford Pride Fest, but it also holds events throughout the year to celebrate the community’s achievements, foster inclusion, educate, and create awareness on issues impacting the community. 

It also publishes Out in CT, an online guide to news and events in the state, as well as stories about the community’s history and culture.

How to help: Volunteer, donate, and shop at CLARO’s online store for Hartford Pride clothing. Contact: Claro CT Latinos on Facebook

 

Connecticut Trans

Advocacy Coalition

This group’s mission is to make Connecticut a safe and tolerant place and to attain all human rights, for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals. In addition to education, advocacy and support efforts, it has held 16 annual Transgender Lives conferences where attendees obtain up-to-date health, legal and other news, as well as the opportunity to network.

“We have brought about major changes here in Connecticut, passing legislation to ban discrimination, to allow birth certificates to be changed, banning Conversion Therapy for minors, and banning Gay and Transgender Panic Defense,” says recently retired president Diana Lombardi. “As part of CTAC I have done training at state agencies, correctional institutes, hospitals, and homeless shelters. We worked to make sure trans seniors are accepted in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. It has been my greatest honor to help the trans population of Connecticut.”

How to help:  Presenters and volunteers are needed for the annual Trans Lives conference. Contact: transadvocacy.org

 

GLSEN Connecticut

This is the Connecticut Chapter of the national organization that fights for all children to have a safe, supportive education, no matter their gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.

The organization bases its programs, advocacy, research and policy work on these four priorities: activating supportive educators; advocating for affirming curriculum; implementing policies that ensure LGBTQ students will thrive, and supporting GSAs. 

How to help: Volunteer or donate. Contact: glsen.org/chapter/connecticut

 

Hartford Gay & Lesbian

Health Collective

Since its 1983 inception, HGLHC has become one of the LGBTQ+ community’s most trusted resources for health care and support, health education and fierce advocacy. 

 “The Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective empowers individuals of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions to lead healthy lives through the provision of health and support services, education and advocacy,” says Kim Adamski, HIV prevention specialist.

The Collective provides dental services, an STD clinic, PrEP, free condoms, HIV testing, and support groups. For those without insurance, services are on a sliding scale. It also provides education to the general community.

HGLHC is especially known for its advocacy and services for those living with HIV and AIDS, including hot meals, a food pantry, connecting people with medical providers, and support groups.

It provides youth scholarships and hosts the annual Queer Prom for high school students.

How to help:  Volunteer or donate. Share their social media posts. Contact: hglhc.org

 

Health Care Advocates International–Stratford

Health Care Advocates International is a public health and advocacy organization serving the LGBTQ+ community and working to end the HIV health crisis, fight stigma and discrimination, and end homelessness through prevention programs, education, advocacy and treatment. It offers comprehensive primary and specialty health care.

“While the medical practice and pharmacy alone are changing lives, HCAI offers additional programs that offer life-saving support in many forms including the Zimbabwe AIDS Project, Youth and Family Program and the HIV Advocates/Stigma Warrior Campaign,” says creative director Thomas Evans.

Trans advocate and life coach Tony Ferraiolo is director of HCAI’s Youth and Families program, which includes workshops, school programs and a binder drive. 

 How to help:  Donate and volunteer, especially for events. Follow on social media and spread the word. Contact: hcaillc.com

 

Jim Collins Foundation

This foundation raises money to fund gender-affirming surgery for those who are unable to pay for it themselves. Founders Tony Ferraiolo and Dru Levasseur explain on the website, “We recognize that for those people who require surgery for a healthy gender transition, lack of access to surgery may result in hopelessness, depression and sometimes suicide.” 

It is named in honor of the late Jim Collins, a social worker, group psychotherapist, clinical instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, and avid ally to the transgender community.

How to help: Donate. The foundation does not have an endowment, so donations are its only means of providing grants. The organization is all-volunteer, so donations go entirely to grant recipients. Contact: jimcollinsfoundation.org

 

Kamora’s Cultural 

Corner–Hartford 

Founder Kamora Herrington describes Kamora’s Cultural corner as a space for people to learn cultural humility: increasing our self-awareness of our biases and perceptions and learning to put them aside in order to engage with and learn from others. Herrington explains on the website, “We approach Cultural Humility through a Black Queer Afrocentric Perspective and create and navigate brave spaces with the intention of building and supporting organic community connections.” 

The organization offers workshops and trainings, supports and celebrates artists, and holds open mics, readings, community conversations, picnics, art bazaars, book discussions and more.  

How to help: “Kamora’s Cultural Corner is currently building our community through a membership drive and we invite our community to join us by either purchasing a membership, supporting us on Patreon, or joining us on a Volunteer Thinking and Doing Day where volunteer hours lead to membership,” says Herrington. Contact: kamorasculturalcorner.com

 

LGBT Aging Advocacy

This coalition of service providers, state agencies and individuals is working to create an open and affirming aging services environment for LGBTQ+ elders in Connecticut.

One of its initiatives is the LGBT Movable Senior Center, now a pilot program in Avon, Bloomfield, Canton, Newington, and Simsbury, that will soon expand throughout the state. The program includes a meal, entertainment, and programming. It provides resources including hookup sites. It is also creating an LGBT Cultural Competency program for its member organizations.

How to help: Donate and spread the word. Contact: lgbtagingcenter.org

 

Lesbian and Gay Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Association (Pride CAPA) – Hartford

This affiliate of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry is dedicated to the mental health needs of young people related to sexual minority issues.

One of its goals is to promote changes within the practice of psychiatry that will improve the mental health of LGBT youth and youths with LGBT parents. Another is advocating for research, and educating providers on topics like teen suicide, families with LGBT parents, and parents of gender nonconforming children. It also advocates for policies that foster the mental health of LGBT youths and their families.

How to help: The organization seeks psychiatrists to mentor new child and adolescent psychiatrists. Contact: pridecapa.org

 

Mid Fairfield AIDS Project–Norwalk 

This organization’s mission is to provide “health, housing and hope” to people living with HIV/AIDS, those suffering with addiction, and the disabled homeless.

MFAP provides medical case management, drug health services, housing, mental health services and prescription assistance.

MFAP works closely with Circle Care Center and Mid Fairfield AIDS Project (also on this list).

How to help: Volunteer and donate. Regular donors are needed to fund the cash prizes for its most popular social event and fundraiser: Gay Bingo. Contact: mfap.org

 

Middlesex Health–Middletown and satellite offices

Middlesex Health’s Center for Gender Medicine and Wellness serves more than 1,200 patients who are transgender, gender nonconforming or gender expansive. In addition to this program, primary care doctors in 12 locations are well-versed in providing respectful, knowledgeable care to trans and nonbinary patients.

Middlesex provides a full array of services for trans and nonbinary patients, including physical therapy, gender confirmation surgery, hormone therapy, voice therapy, behavioral health care, and more.

Recently the program expanded to welcome adolescents, relieving a statewide backlog for young patients who previously had to wait a year or more for a first appointment.

“Middlesex Health is consistently recognized by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation as a LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Leader. The health system supports its LGBTQ+ employees in a variety of ways, and its Center for Gender Medicine and Wellness is committed to providing equitable and inclusive care to individuals who are transgender, gender non-conforming, or gender expansive, as well as excellence in access, services and outcomes,” says public relations director Amanda Falcone.

How to help: Donate. Website: middlesexhealth.org

 

New Haven Pride Center

What doesn’t the New Haven Pride Center do? Its expansive mission is “to provide educational, cultural, and social enrichment to the LGBTQ+ community, its allies, and members, and to make a positive contribution to the entire community of Greater New Haven.” 

This ranges from the daily work of providing support services, to planning the annual Pride New Haven, to hosting the annual Dorothy Awards that honor people who have created positive change for the state’s LGBTQ+ community, to expanding its youth programming. 

“The New Haven Pride Center is one of the leading LGBTQ+ nonprofit agencies in Connecticut and the only organization focused on LGBTQ+ representation in the arts,” says executive director Patrick Dunn. “All of our work centers one or more of our programmatic principals:  creating a safe space for case management and support services; bringing people together for shared social experiences; educational activities, awareness building, and youth empowerment; arts, culture and humanities programming; and advocacy for the community.”

Pride Center’s new youth initiatives include: 

  •   the Connecticut LGBTQ+ Youth Conference, formerly the True Colors Conference, an annual place for middle school and high school age LGBTQ+ youth to learn, laugh, and build community,
  •   the Peer Support Network, a mentorship program that pairs youth with LGBTQ+ mentors to provide year-round support and case management, and 
  •   a new year-round series of youth programming.

How to help: Donate, especially monthly – this provides a reliable steady source for program funding. Volunteers are needed for events and ongoing projects. Mentors are sought for the new youth mentorship program. Contact: newhavenpridecenter.org

 

outCT–New London

First organized in 2013 to plan the New London Pride Festival, the group has expanded to offering an educational series, monthly youth program, drag shows, a film festival, art exhibits and the “BYOD” (bring your own dog) Yappy Hours–all geared toward its mission of “creating a network of people, programs and experiences that celebrate our growing understanding of sexual and gender identities in Southeastern Connecticut.”

Among the organization’s goals are to: “create opportunities for integrating and promoting positive visibility” for the community, and “provide opportunities and venues for people to celebrate their sexual orientations and gender identities.”

Earlier this year, outCT moved into its very first physical office space, in downtown New London–of special importance because of the rapid growth of its youth program.

 How to help: Donate. Check the website for volunteer needs. Contact: outct.org

 

PFLAG

There are 4 PFLAG chapters in the state: Hartford, Norwalk, Southeastern Connecticut and Waterbury. They are affiliates of the national PFLAG organization, which provides support, information and resources to LGBTQ+ people, their families, and allies. It is also an active advocacy group at local, state and national levels. It offers many educational resources online. Many chapters offer youth scholarships.

“PFLAG Hartford provides support for LGBTQ+ folks ages 13+ and for parents and family of LGBTQ+ individuals. On a national level, PFLAG is fighting the wave of anti-LGBT legislation and your PFLAG Hartford chapter is working hard to keep making Connecticut more and more inclusive and affirming,” says Hartford chapter president Mark Pixley.

How to help: Visit your local chapter’s website, or attend meetings, to learn how to support their work or volunteer. Donate. pflag.org

 

Q+

Q+ is a youth-led organization focused on filling the gaps in queer youth programming statewide. It holds open mics, supports school GSAs, provides social support and training, and is continually expanding its programming. Its overall goal is “to create space for queer youth to be authentically and entirely themselves.”

The group runs weekly online teen support groups, online game nights, and in-person youth groups Friday nights in West Hartford. It also holds online open mics. 

Staff members offer consultations and visits to GSAs, and staff trainings.

“We’re currently running our summer program, which is an educational program focused on social justice and youth advocacy. I’m hoping to launch a similar school year program in the fall, which is also when we will be expanding the in-person social and support programs we offer! Our online support group and game night and in-person social programs are all going strong,” says executive director and founder Mel Cordner.

How to help: Donate. Volunteer, including to organize fundraisers. Spread the word about their programs and resources. Contact: qplusct.org

Queer Unity Empowerment Support Team (Quest)—Waterbury

This community collaborative aims to “create healthy, inclusive, and safe spaces for members of the LGBT+ community, and their allies, in the Greater Waterbury area, fostering meaningful relationships, learning and joy.”

It also strives to educate the public on matters important to the community; act as a liaison to the youth development, medical and mental health fields; and advocate for the community’s socio-political needs.

In 2018, it produced an LGBTQ Youth Needs Assessment for the region. It provides training and workshops for schools and organizations. It holds youth meetups, and many social events including a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening and Ride With Pride.

How to help: See the website for current needs. Website: questct.com

 

Stonewall Speakers

This is an all-volunteer speakers’ bureau, telling the LGBTQ+ communities’ many stories, one at a time. Speaking engagements usually include one or two speakers and include personal life stories. Volunteers speak at schools, workplaces and for civic organizations. 

Their goal: “to eliminate hate and promote understanding.” It was originally named “Speak! Out!” when formed in 1988 after two teenagers beat and murdered 33-year-old gay man Richard Riehl of Wethersfield.

“We continue to speak either in person or via Zoom (virtual engagements in June had us speak to two out-of-state corporations whose DEI leaders had us speak to over 120 employees between the two speaking engagements).  June, Pride Month, as you can imagine was a busy month for us.  Not only did we speak a record 16 times, but we had booths at 3 pride events,” says president Lynn Discenza.

How to help: Donate. “We also invite anyone who is part of the LGBTQ+ community and are open to sharing their story to contact us if they are interested in becoming a Stonewall Speaker,” says Discenza.

Contact: stonewallspeakers.org

 

Triangle Community Center–Norwalk 

This organization provides a wide variety of services and support. It offers counseling and case management for medical and mental health, housing, employment and addiction. It provides workshops, speakers and training to students statewide. It has a service line people can call 24/7 for help. The center has one very booked calendar, with more than 25 groups including social, peer support, wellness, youth and recovery. 

It also organizes Pride in the Park and is the umbrella organizer of Bethel Pride, Darien Pride, Easton Pride and Westport Pride.

It works closely with Care Circle Center and Mid Fairfield AIDS Project (both also on this list.)

“Triangle Community Center is Fairfield County’s leading provider of programming and resources to nurture growth and connection within the LGBTQ+ community. Our team of highly trained client advocates assists community members with social service navigation, food, drop-in services, document updates, healthcare navigation, and housing navigation. TCC also offers counselling and case management offered on site for all in the LGBTQ+ community,” says Sydney Henck, director of programming.

How to help: Donate so that programming remains free and open to the community. Attend events and programs. Contact: ctpridecenter.org

 

The Wheeler Clinic–Bristol, New Hartford, New Britain, Plainville and Waterbury

“Wheeler offers LGBTQIA + responsive, affirming, integrated primary and behavioral health care services. Programs are guided by an LGBTQIA+ Advisory Board and include Walk With Me, a specialized outpatient treatment track for LGBTQ+-identifying people of all ages who are seeking therapeutic and/or peer support to address their specific needs; LGBTQ+ support groups for parents, family members, young adults, and adolescents; and medical screening and treatment. Wheeler also is a statewide leader in foster care and welcomes the LGBTQIA+ community’s commitment to providing safe, loving households for youth in the foster care system,” says Joanne Janes, associate director of communications

How to help: Donate.             Become a foster parent. Contact: wheelerclinic.org

 

Youth Continuum

New Haven

Youth Continuum provides shelter, basic needs and support services to neglected, at-risk, abused, runaway and homeless youth. In Connecticut, comparable to national numbers, an astonishing 25-30 percent of homeless young adults are LGBTQ+. In fact, queer young adults are the sole exception to Connecticut’s otherwise consistently declining rate of homelessness.

Youth Continuum is the largest provider to homeless youth and runs New Haven’s only drop-in center for young homeless adults. The organization also provides many services designed to help gain self-sufficiency. 

“Over the last year, YC has obtained two new federal grants to serve homeless youth. One is a street outreach program which allows us to expand our outreach efforts to identify homeless or trafficked youth. The other is a transitional living program, creating 12 new beds for literally homeless youth ages 18-24, as well as youth who are fleeing intimate partner violence or at imminent risk is homelessness,” reports CEO Paul Kosowsky.

It works with Health Care Advocates International (also on this list) to train its staff to work in the best way with LGBTQ youth. 

How to help: Donate. Contact: youthcontinuum.org

 

YWCA New Britain 

House of Teens (HOT)

This after school program offers a safe, comfortable, and positive place for female identifying and nonbinary youths ages 13-19. Each month features an advocacy focus based on the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion. Every June features a Rainbow Fest.

HOT includes a variety of activities focusing on healthy lifestyles, accomplishing personal goals,   gaining self-confidence, and exploring future careers.

The Y’s Sexual Assault Crisis Services also has a dedicated LBGTQ+ advocate on staff for support and services.

How to help: Donate items for their main fundraiser in November (gift cards, gift baskets, etc.} They need a printer (gently used or new). Donate healthy snacks and beverages, art supplies, and toiletries like deodorant, soap and shampoo. Contact: ywcanb.org

 

These organizations, and many more, contribute to the quality of life for all LGBTQ+ people in Connecticut. We applaud them. 

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