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Meet Michael Morand, Dorothy Awards Honoree

Published Feb 1, 2010

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Michael Morand
Michael Morand is Associate Vice President of Yale University for New Haven and State Affairs. In 1989, he was elected as Alderman in New Haven, the first openly gay person elected to public office in Connecticut. As alderman, Michael mobilized an effort to pass a lesbian and gay civil rights ordinance in 1990. In 1993, he and other community leaders put forward a domestic partnership ordinance that lost by one vote after heated debate and ugly tactics by opponents. That defeat, while disheartening, spurred activists to rally and found the New Haven Gay and Lesbian Community Center. Michael is a proud longtime resident of New Haven, with his partner, Frank Mitchell. For our final "Better Know a Dorothy Awards Honoree" segment this year, NHPC Co-President Thomas Donato asked Michael a few questions.

Q. As Associate VP of Yale University for New Haven and State Affairs, how do you describe your impact on the LGBT community?

A. I’m proud to be part of an institution that affirms and supports its LGBT students, staff, faculty, and alumni/ae and that is a growing center of scholarship for and about LGBT history, theory, and people.  I’m likewise glad we are able to support community efforts like the Pride Center, CABO, True Colors, and others, as well as to make campus events and resources available to our neighbors.

Q. As Connecticut's first openly gay elected official, did you realize the path you were trailblazing?

A. Well, I was following the path blazed by many others and doing my little bit to clear the way for others to follow.  It was nice to be a link in the chain and a brick in the foundation.  I’m proudest of helping lead a grassroots effort in my first year as alderman where the City passed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  That effort, which passed without a negative vote at the Board of Alders, came from a true grassroots mobilization and was itself a brick in the foundation of building the successful statewide effort for inclusion of gays and lesbians.  Having been recognized with other elected officials by the Victory Fund at the 1993 March on Washington, I am delighted by how many more places, near and far have elected lesbian and gay city and state officials and members of congress since then.  It could always go faster (and should), but we good folks are winning and the tide of history is ours to ride.  Houston, we have a solution.

Q. Who is your personal LGBT icon?

A. Bayard Rustin. Del Martin. Harvey Milk. Phyllis Lyon. Jimmy Baldwin. Audre Lord. Leif Mitchell.  Dena Castricone.  The Imperial Sovereign Court.  The straight men and women of the African National Congress who supported their gay sisters and brothers in the struggle and enshrined lesbian and gay equality in the new South African constitution after apartheid. And, especially, the unsung young gay men and lesbians in developing countries around the globe who are coming out and standing up and struggling for a more just and open world. Mostly, though, William Frank Mitchell, then, now, and always.

Q. Do you have a favorite LGBT movie?

A. The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, the documentary, especially the hope speech that reminds us our work now and always must be for the young people out there in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias of the world.  I’ll admit a close second is the interactive version of Mommie Dearest hosted by Hedda Lettuce.

Q. What are some of your favorite things to do around New Haven?

A. Do you have ten hours to listen and 100 pages I can fill up??? Well, some favorite things are eating @ Miya’s, Claire’s, Yale College dining halls, Caseus, 116 Crown Street; coffee at Blue State, Willoughby’s, or Jenelle’s; tea at the Lizzie; shows at the Rep, Cabaret, Shubert, Long Wharf; walking around the Knights of Columbus Museum, Grove Street Cemetery, Fargeorge Nature Preserve, the gallery at Rudolph Hall, YUAG, the Center for British Art; shopping at Fashionista, Raggs, and Enson’s; hanging at the public library; introducing New Haven neighbors the amazing people and places of Yale and introducing Yalies to the amazing and people and places of our university’s hometown...among a few other things, with apologies to the few hundred places I forgot to mention.

Q. Do you Facebook? Do you Twitter?

A. 90% of life is showing up, the other 10% is Facebooking about it.  I signed up for Twitter way early on – but remain a mere voyeur following others and have never posted there…yet. (As you can tell, I have difficulty answering things in 140 characters or less :)

Q. How have you seen LGBT life in the New Haven and surrounding areas change over the last twenty years?

A. It wasn’t so bad back then and it’s gotten better and better.  Thanks to the Anne Stanbacks, Mike Lawlors, and so many others in our freedom movement, known and unknown, we all enjoy amazing normality.  The work is far from done, but the pace and scope of progress is astonishing and inspiring.  Particularly heartening is the fact that the cultural and political landscape is more inviting and culturally diverse.  And as for the part of Connecticut known as Yale, gay really is the new normal.  All in all, whether we are nutmeggers, New Haveners, Yalies, or some combination of the three, we are a rather fortunate crew of queers round here.

Q. As an executive council member of two groups and board member of five local groups, how do you balance your time?

A. Sleep really is quite overrated, so I don’t overdo it.  Poorly run meetings that drag on are inexcusable, so I avoid them.  A wonderful set of colleagues at work and around town make things doable – and enjoyable, so I rely on and support them.  Eudora, Firefox, and the iPhone are delights, so I love them.

Q. In your mind, what is the most important issue facing GLBT persons in Connecticut today, and what can we do to overcome that issue?

A. Locally, making sure that young people have safety and freedom to come out and be themselves, especially in our cities and in communities where there may not be as much safe harbor.  Globally, remembering that most LGBT folks around the nation and, especially, around the world don’t have the freedom we have – and they deserve what we have, so we should not rest in comfort, but fight and support the work to make sure our sisters and brothers in Appalachian Kentucky and Malawi and Utah and Riyadh and Alabama and Morogoro can be as free as we are.

Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?

A. New Haven.  It all happens here.

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