Celebration, Changemaking, and Queer Unity
On March 12th, 2022, the New Haven Pride Center (NHPC) hosted the 19th Annual Dorothy Awards, a ceremony designed to honor LGBTQ+ (queer) citizens of Connecticut whose work has positively impacted the state. After last year’s virtual ceremony, the in-person Dorothy Awards epitomized the resilience of the queer community as well as the importance of coming together to celebrate accomplishments both large and small. Hosted at the John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts at Southern Connecticut State University, the evening included a dinner sponsored by a variety of local New Haven restaurants, nearly twenty musical and drag performances, as well as speeches describing the political and social justice advocacy happening throughout Connecticut.
Anchored by the comedic stylings of Kiki Lucia, also known as Executive Director Patrick Dunn of the NHPC, the Dorothy Awards proceeded with the pomp and circumstance deserved of such great leaders. Notably, Roxxxy Andrews, a drag performer who rose to fame on the fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, kicked off the show with an upbeat dance number. Staff from the NHPC also showed out in force, with team members from many different roles taking the stage to introduce performances and award winners. The amount of shared stage time highlights the non-linear hierarchy of the NHPC and, by extension, the nature of the awardees’ activism; only by coming together, and sharing the limelight, can real change occur.
Many of the speakers echoed that sentiment in their acceptance speeches. Dave Cruz-Bustamante, the sixteen-year-old recipient of the Rising Star Award, spoke at length about the intersection of queer liberation and racial justice. John and Luis Pepe, proud owners of The Chez Est in Hartford, then underscored the many forms of family that supported them, and their business, through the pandemic. Kamora Le’Ella Herrington, founder of Kamora’s Cultural Corner, furthered such intersectional sentiments by calling for everyone in the audience to lean into conflict as a radical act of love. Similarly, Jaime Myers-McPhail, an organizer at New Haven Rising, discussed the importance of actively holding powerful individuals, and organizations, accountable for their impact on local communities. The ceremony concluded with an award for Dr. AJ Eckert, who serves as the Medical Director of Anchor Health’s Gender & Life-Affirming Medicine Program. More on all of the honorees from the Dorothy Awards can be found here.
The 17th Annual Dorothy Awards occurred in 2020, just a few days before the initial COVID-19 lockdown. After two difficult years, the opportunity to reunite in-person generates an optimistic image for the future while offering a much needed respite for a community drastically impacted by the pandemic. As the 2022 legislative session takes place, and anti-trans bills arise across the United States, the NHPC created space for many struggling individuals to find joy however possible. The LGBTQ+ Nutmeggers recognized this year provide a symbol of queer visibility, determination, and courage from every corner of the state. Despite immense hardship, the 19th Annual Dorothy Awards showcased the unfailing pluck and creativity of the queer community, an enduring beacon of hope during troubled times.
William Ollayos (he/him/his) serves as a Policy Fellow with the General Assembly’s Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity & Opportunity (CWCSEO). He works professionally with the Office of Residential Life at Wesleyan University. Find William on Twitter via @WBOllayos.