Gay hiking

As a black gay man Connecticut embraced me all

This Pride month, I am reminded once again why, proudly gay, proudly black, I decided to make my life in Connecticut.

Yes, Connecticut.

The state captured my heart when I landed here in 2005 for college, three years before it became the second state to legalize same-sex marriage. Over the past 17 years, the state has strengthened protections and rights for diverse members of the LGBTQ+ community, including trans people, youth, and same-sex parents. It’s not something I take for granted, especially when so many states are still actively working to silence us.

These policies have helped foster an extremely vibrant LGBTQ+ community with fierce allies, many of whom are coming of age and making Connecticut an even more vibrant cultural hotspot.

There are dozens of arts organizations like Real Art Ways and Hygienic Art dedicated to centering diverse artists and stories, an eclectic music scene with local and national artists (check out Pratt St. in Hartford), LGBTQ+ bars and nightlife like Chez Est (a personal favourite), an increasingly popular drag scene, and some seriously awesome theaters. There are also hundreds of miles of hiking trails with vineyards and breweries along the way (thanks to Priam Vineyards), sporting events, casinos, the coastline with adorable little towns (hi, Mystic!) and urban centers like Manchester where I live with my partner (the main pub is a must visit).

And don’t get me started on the foodie scene. If you haven’t posed in the bathtub ball pit at The Place 2 Be in West Hartford, have you even lived?

If you think popular cities like Portland, Oregon, DC and Fort. Lauderdale has a monopoly on gay entertainment, you are wrong.

Connecticut has often been thought of as a drive-thru state – the way to get from point A to point B. But what I’ve found is that it’s the best of both worlds: bustling city life (Hartford, New Haven, New London and Norwalk are my favorites) with an easy escape to nature, where I don’t need to tone down my glow. It has all the authenticity of New England without the crowds and some of the nicest people I have ever met. As a great traveler living in my body, I know this combination is rare.

Businesses and organizations across the state, including the aerospace manufacturer where I work, are doing more than just decorating with rainbow ornaments to support the LGBTQ+ community — they’re doing everything they can to let everyone know that are welcome. The excitement centered around Pride – what it truly stands for – extends beyond the month of June.

So as I scroll through photos from the start of the month at Middletown PrideFest, one of the biggest of Connecticut’s 25+ Pride festivals from June through September, I’m overwhelmed and proud to call the state my home.

And as I plan my summer stays at the many LGBTQ+-friendly small businesses, hotels, and events across the state, I’m reminded that I don’t have to go far to live my best life.

We all deserve that sense of belonging. This proud month and every month I’m happy to say I’ve found mine. I hope you too.

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Fred Langford is a Manchester, Connecticut resident, consummate professional, avid traveler, and proud member of the LGBTQ+ community.

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