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Join us for a special PRIDE edition of our Panels & Conversations series! All panels will be streamed virtually on Facebook & YouTube and will be archived on our YouTube channel. 

The New Haven Pride Center’s Panels & Conversations Series was created in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic as a virtual town hall space for the community to come together, share ideas, and explore the issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community. Above all, this series aims to explore the issues, experiences, and perspectives that are not being adequately addressed in the broader LGBTQ+ community. Through this intersectional work, the Center strives to elevate the voices of the most marginalized and raise awareness around issues and experiences that often go overlooked.

Thank You to Our Sponsors
Youth & Politics

September 12 | 3:00p

Oftentimes young folks are erased from discussions concerning politics and social change. What that leads to is a continued disconnection between policymakers and the folks on the ground who live out the direct result of their often inept decisions. Join us for a panel discussion that centers the lived experiences of young people and their expert solutions on the very topics that are important to all people, no matter if they can vote or not.

Black Queer Feminism

September 13 | 12:00p

This in-depth panel and discussion centers Black queer feminist voices throughout Connecticut. We will discuss BQF with a focus on Connecticut, the drawbacks and advantages of living in Connecticut, and the intersections between race, patriarchy, religion, small business ownership, healing, social justice organizing, and so much more. 

Queer & Disabled Pt. 2

September 13 | 3:00p

One of the most marginalized sub-groups within the LGBTQ+ community is queer individuals with disabilities. Because of the historically underground nature of the LGBTQ+ community, a large number of our gathering spaces, events, and activities remain inaccessible. What does this mean for disabled LGBTQ+ individuals who want to access our community’s support, resources, or art? How does one connect with a community if they can rarely be a part of it? Hear from advocates and individuals with lived experiences as we strategize together about how we change this. 

How to be a Better Anti-Racist Ally in the LGBTQIA+ Community

September 14 | 12:00p

Those of us within the LGBTQ+ community experience oppression on a consistent basis. Activism within our community looks like fighting for our liberties while healing from the trauma of having them consistently stripped away. As we strengthen and heal as a community, our job is to understand what equity is and how to obtain it for non-white LGBTQ+ individuals who are impacted by systemic racism in addition to anti-queer sentiment. Join us as we discuss ways to be active participants in the fight for queer racial equity.

“Fat” is Not a Bad Word

September 14 | 3:00p

Fatness: What once was revered as a sign of wealth and prosperity is now something we are taught to be ashamed of. However, for as long as people in larger bodies have been discriminated against, they have also fought back. From the 1967 Central Park “Fat-In” demonstration to the public figures who are unapologetically owning and loving their bodies, the movement still lives on today. What caused the societal shift towards the hatred of fat bodies? Where does the ideal body image come from? And how do we dismantle the Eurocentric standards of beauty that are so globally prevalent? Join us for a conversation with some of the body positive activists that are working towards a world that holds space for all kinds of bodies.

Queer Geek Culture

September 15 | 12:00p

The connection between the queer community and geek/nerd culture is undeniable. From TikTok trends and streaming platforms to gaming and cosplay, queer folks often connect with each other and build community over the internet and at conventions. Join us for a panel that explores the power of these connections, and learn how and why queer folks find sanctuary and creative inspiration in nerd/geek culture. This panel will include perspectives from Akira AK, Luna Gemini, and Mia E Z’Lay.

Queer Elders

September 15 | 3:00p

Our queer elders have so much to offer our community, but are too often left out of the conversation. Join us as we talk with a few of our local elders to hear about their experiences growing up, the ongoing fight for our community, and their hopes for the future. Panelists and moderator to be announced.


September 16 | 3:00p

Transphobia has permeated lesbian communities for as long as lesbians and trans women have existed, and we see examples of this in media, culture, and history. Transfemme lesbians are sometimes not aware they can exist because society has yet to dissect the delicate line between gender and sexuality. We do, however, understand that there is strength in numbers and that finding community is healing. In this panel discussion, we’ll be speaking with transfemme lesbians on their life experience as a marginalized group while arguing that exclusion is indeed harmful. Our hope is to cultivate an inviting space for folks to listen, learn, and share. 

Rainbow Capitalism

September 16 | 12:00p

In recent years, we’ve been hearing a lot of talk about “Rainbow Capitalism.” This topic of conversation typically happens around June during Pride month, but what exactly is Rainbow Capitalism and what does it have to do with the LGBTQ+ community? Join us for a panel where we’ll be answering this exact question and critiquing facets of our society that exploit queer culture. 

Meet Our Speakers

Dave John Cruz-Bustamante (they/he), Moderator of Youth & Politics

Dave is the descendant of Ecuadorian farmers and professionals and a proud, queer child of working-class immigrants. They are a socialist cultural practitioner and community organizer in New Haven, Connecticut. Dave is also serving on the New Haven Board of Education as a student representative from 2022-2024.

Taylin Santiago (she/her), Youth & Politics

Taylin, 21, is currently a senior at the University of Connecticut. She has been organizing around education and Black issues in the United States since she was 14 years old.

Clèo Devina (she/her), Youth & Politics, Black Queer Feminism

Clèo Devina is a Black trans woman born and raised in the Bronx, NY. She is an activist, poet, and community organizer. She found her love for advocacy and poetry in high school attending school in Waterbury, CT. She began organizing students of all backgrounds and creeds as a junior in High school. Advocating for the dismantling of the school to prison pipeline and bringing about awareness on trans and other queers issues. Recently she’s founded the Instagram account devinastory where she shares her experiences in the world through poetry. She shares her raw and unfiltered truth about finding love, womanhood, and sometimes the simplicities or the difficulties of everyday life.

Mariah M. Roque (she/they), Youth & Politics

Mariah is a 16 year-old queer Puerto Rican and aspiring activist who was raised in New Haven. Their drive for social justice was inspired by the strong Latina women in their life. She is a Junior at a Tech School and leads a club dedicated to diversity and inclusion.

Sun Queen (she/her), Moderator of Black Queer Feminism
Sun Queen is a native of New Haven, where she currently lives. She is a Black queer woman whose passion, love, and activism are born out of her journey of self-exploration. Sun Queen is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter New Haven, established in 2015. Sun is a poet, an artist, and an inspirational messenger. Sun Queen published her first poetry collection in a book entitled It Happened Within The Sun (2019). Her second book is entitled Let Your Light Shine Through: An Affirmation Journal (2021).
ala ochumare (they/she), Black Queer Feminism, How to Be a Better Anti-Racist Ally in the LGBTQ+ Community

ala’s first and most beloved label is that of mother. ala describes herself as a change-making, hood healing, liberation seeking, divination practicing person committed to creating Black Centered Spaces of liberation and joy, who wakes up every day and chooses to be a pro black, pro nap, pro-queer community co-creator. ala is one of the founding members and Principal Organizer of New Haven’s chapter of Black Lives Matter. She is also one of the creators and facilitators of Marsha P. Johnson Black and Brown Queer Camp also created and facilitated by Alyssa Marie Cajigas Rivera Ortiz. In addition to her work as Director of Youth Services at the New Haven Pride Center, ala is an anti-bias and anti- racist Life Coach, Consultant, and founder of Liberating Us. Liberating Us has a central focus on healing, decolonization, abolition, and transformational justice. Part of that work was the creation and community offering of “ABAR 4 you,” a series of abolitionist, anti-bias, and anti-racist workshops, trainings, and consultation guides that shed light on our socialization into the systemic institutions of Racism, Capitalism, Patriarchy, Anti- blackness and, most importantly to ala, our collective transformation out of and the undoing of these systems.

ala is a graduate of the 2018 BOLD AMANDLA cohort, the CEIO Organizer’s Path, The City of New Haven Democracy School, and the Yale University and Southern Connecticut State University’s C.A.R.E. New Haven Health Leader program. ala is a recipient of the 2021 New Haven Pride Center’s Lion Award for service to her community, The 2021 Southern Connecticut State University Women and Gender Studies Conference’s Ingrid Washinawatok El-Issa Service Award, and The 2021 Southern Connecticut State University President’s Medal.

Alyssa Marie Cajigas Rivera Ortiz (she/her), Black Queer Feminism

Prior to coming to the New Haven Pride Center, Alyssa was the Director of Organizing for the Citywide Youth Coalition Inc. Alyssa is a Strategy Council Member for the Perrin Family Foundation. She has also previously interned for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, with them they successfully launched the state’s first queer camp specifically for youth of color. For Alyssa the camp is more than just a program, it’s providing a space she always wished to have offered to her. Alyssa has been a community organizer for the past seven years she has worked on issues like LGBTQ+ rights, juvenile justice reform and the miseducation of our education system, among many other issues. In total, Alyssa is a true organizer and leader in the state of Connecticut who exudes the spirit of a new generation of youth that are politically conscious and personally committed to improving the community for the better.

Finn Lockwood (they/them), Moderator of "Fat" is Not a Bad Word

Finn (they/them) is a trans and non-binary artist, activist, and lifelong resident of Connecticut. Having lived and worked all over the state, you may know them from their work as a hairstylist, tattoo artist, and/or event coordinator. Since diving into the New Haven arts community in 2018, Finn has found a passion for bringing people together and creating uplifting and inclusive environments all over the state. They are very excited to join the New Haven Pride Center and look forward to their new role as the Trans Program Curator!

Erycka Ortiz (she/her), "Fat" is Not a Bad Word

An experienced organizer, Erycka previously worked alongside Black and Brown youth harmed by the school-to-prison pipeline and as a community liaison to build public health. An experienced public speaker, Erycka has also educated audiences about decentering gender and the politics of trans allyship, co-facilitated leadership trainings for youth, and developed and executed campaigns to center youth leadership at local and statewide levels. Erycka is a graduate of New London High School and of organizing trainings from BOLD, SOUL, and The Funder’s Collaborative on Youth Organizing. She is passionate about the livelihoods of those who are the most vulnerable and impacted by policing and all its forms. She now joins the Pride center as our Youth Services Coordinator! Erycka is Sag sun, Pisces moon, and Gemini rising! She loves plants and cooking.

M Reim Ifrach (they/them), "Fat" is Not a Bad Word

M is a fat, genderqueer artist and art therapist whose art and work revolves around body justice, fat activism, & eating disorder treatment equity access.

Val Ruby-Omen (she/her), "Fat" is Not a Bad Word

Val Ruby-Omen is an artist by trade and by nature. This is her second year as Assistant Producer of New Haven Pride and she looks forward to showcasing even more of the vibrant and diverse talents of the local LGBTQ+ community which she calls her home.

Val is heavily involved in the local arts scene, co-producing statewide events as part of The Frankenstein Twins, as well as producing arts events for Bridgeport Art Trail and Greater Bridgeport Pride. Her goal is to continually create spaces where people can gather in sharing art and culture, especially for alternative and underrepresented communities throughout Connecticut.

Val is also a published illustrator, having worked with clients such as musician Kishi Bashi and fashion designer NAKIMULI. She is currently collaborating with author Patrick Scalisi on a fully illustrated field guide called “Connecticut Cryptids,” which is scheduled to release in January 2023.

Juanita Sunday (she/her), Queer Geek Culture

Juanita Sunday is a independent curator when she’s not working as a producer for the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. She is a self-proclaimed Blerd with a love for Harry Potter, Star Wars, spoken word, and anything fantasy or sci-fi. Juanita is new into the cosplaying world and excited to continue diving into the craft. In her curatorial work, Juanita is currently exploring Afrofuturism and the Black Speculative Arts movement and will be opening her 4th exhibition next year titled “6th Dimension”. She is fiercely passionate about creating space for Black and Black queer artists to thrive.

Mia E Z'Lay (she/her), Queer Geek Culture

She’s campy and Kooky, Thicc and Spooky, A tiny waist and a subtle face! Her comedy and beauty is only outmatched by her unhealthy amount of unpaid parking tickets!

Luna Asakura (she/he/they), Queer Geek Culture
Samson Rutkin (he/him), Queer Geek Culture

Samson Rutkin started his nerd-centric career back in 2016, with his first “We The Heroes Ball” in NYC (as a part of the “New York Comic Con: Presents” slate of city-wide programming) – a queer fundraiser, giving the space for nerdy-queer artists (singers, drag performers, burlesque performers, etc.) to express their favorite fandoms, while raising money for local queer organizations. Throughout the years, he has expanded this venture (while working his full time jobs at various places – American Express, Katon Direct, and Clarion Events) to CT (while also running the show in NYC), with the proceeds benefitting the New Haven Pride Center.

However, the personal and professional finally intersected in early 2022, when he became the marketing manager for LeftField Media (a division of Clarion Events, where he was a Sr. Marketing Coordinator from 2019 – 2022). LeftField Media manages Awesome Con (Washington DC), Rose City Comic Con (Portland, OR), Anime NYC (New York, NY), and Anime Frontier (Fort Worth, TX). Though his experience, he has had the opportunity to work with brands, celebrities, and influencers from the worlds of comics, sci-fi, anime, and more. In the future, he looks to continue his work with the “We The Heroes Ball” alongside his role at LeftField Media.

Karleigh Webb (she/her), How to be A Better Anti-Racist Ally in the LGBTQ+ Community, Moderator of Transbians

Karleigh Webb wears a lot of hats. This out transgender woman has worked as a reporter, anchor, sportscaster and videographer, and for nearly 20 years as a TV network producer. In addition to being a dynamic, versatile journalist, she’s an activist and advocate for intersectional justice across her work and in her life. And that’s nothing new.

For years, Webb has served as a tireless advocate for trans rights, workers’ rights and healthcare care for all. She describes herself as “unapologetically Black and trans,” and “a weekend athlete who is sometimes antisocial, always antiracist, always antifascist.”

As a local organizer, hers is a strident voice for peace at home and abroad, mainly through her affiliation with the Party for Socialism and Liberation of Connecticut.

She’s now in her 28th year as a journalist, currently working as a writer/contributor for the LGBTQ sports site Webb also hosts Instagram Live events and The Trans Sporter Room podcast, each powered by Outsports, where she interviews key figures from around the world, and applies her many skills to build championship coverage of out athletes.

When she’s not in front of a microphone, web cam and keyboard, Webb takes calls as a staff operator for Trans Lifeline, North America’s only 24-hour crisis line that was started and staffed by transgender people.

In addition, Webb is an avid triathlete, marathoner, and cyclist, equally at home on a field playing softball or football.

In the last three years, she’s found new avenues of expression: Webb has become an accomplished spoken word poet, performed in an annual ensemble production of “The Vagina Monologues” as well as appeared as a dancer and performer in the Elm City Dance Collective series “Trans Body” since 2019.

Akweley Mazarae Lartey (he/him), Moderator of How to Be A Better Anti-Racist Ally in the LGBTQ+ Community

Akweley Mazarae is a second-generation Ghanaian and African American genderfluid philly boul studying Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University. He writes about the intersections of his identities as a Black, African, queer, genderqueer, and disabled person on his thinkspace, idkjustwordsysmeen, where he also posts curated playlists. At Yale, he is extensively involved in LGBTQ+ community spaces, advocating for inclusivity for BIPOC and low-income community members in particular. He is super excited to be moderating this conversation on Anti-racism, as he personally understands how important of an issue this is in the LGBTQ spaces.

Kai Van Vlack (she/her), Transbians

Kai Van Vlack is a musician, organizer, and educator. She is the Programs and Sponsorship Manager at RIOT RI, an artist in residence at the Dirt Palace, and a member of the band Trophy Hunt. She aims to share her experience and perspective as a gay Quechua woman at the intersection of working class, punk, and queer history and use it as a framework for empowerment, community building, and action.

Adinah Kaplan-Stone (she/her), Transbians

Adinah Kaplan-Stone is a queer transgender woman and full-time student majoring in social work with the purpose of advocating for homeless transgender youth and incarcerated adults. Her current focus is the ways in which language informs subject formation and how it can be used as a world building tool of liberatory praxis for all marginalized peoples.

Azula Luz (she/her), Transbians

Azula Luz (she/her) is a queer transfemme artist and musician from New Haven, CT. She is a full-time student majoring in printing making at SCSU, though her art practice encompasses many mediums. In addition to her art, Azula spends her time reading, cooking with her partner and cats, and going to therapy. Azula is currently an intern at New Haven Pride Center assisting with the center’s PRIDE festivities.

Dominic Warshaw, Moderator of Rainbow Capitalism
Saša Garnes (she/they), Rainbow Capitalism

Saša Is a black trans woman from New Haven interested in art and community organizing. In her artistic practice she tends to focus on ink and digital illustration and performance art.

Andy Mincey (they/them), Rainbow Capitalism

Andy Mincey moonlights as a small indie shop at Queerly Departed, a pin patch and art store. They also daylight as a Sociologist developing client management systems for nonprofits, which happens to be relevant to this story.

They opened Queerly Departed in 2019 alongside their two partners Jackson Walters and Mortimer Darcy in an attempt to broaden the network of merchandise made for queers. They now are doing events and haunting graveyards along the Northeast.

When not working, they all spend their time inflicting suffering and torment on their dogs, even if one of them is a cat.

Jason P. Hayes (he/him), Rainbow Capitalism

Jason Hayes is a Celebrity hair, wig & makeup artist working in the mediums of film, television and theater. He is a two-time Drama Desk Nominee and the Creative Director for PRIDEFUL, a non-gender specific color cosmetic and bath line launching in the US & Canada in Oct 2022. Hayes has spent the last 25 plus years working with celebrities such as RuPaul, Debra Messing, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Toni Colette, Harvey Fierstein, Jennifer Hudson, Paul Rudd, Meghan Fox, Liza Minelli, Felicity Huffman, Antonio Banderas & Josh Lucas to name just a few. His credits include TV shows and films such as 30 Rock, SNL, Smash, Hostages, Mysteries of Laura, as well as the HMU designer for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular for 10 years.

Hayes is also the creator and founder of DISARM HATE, the only national march on Washington after the murders at PULSE in Orlando.

Hayes has taken his level of activism and his love for his community to the mass retail market with the launch of PRIDEFUL in October 2022.