Zachary Suri, Contributing Photographer

This week marks the official start of Pride New Haven, an annual six-day festival celebrating the LGBTQ+ community in the city. 

Mayor Justin Elicker gathered with community organizations, including the New Haven Pride Center and A Place to Nourish your Health, as well as officials from the New Haven Free Public Library to kick off festivities on Monday. The festival will culminate in the New Haven Pride Parade on Saturday.

Rain pushed the planned flag-raising indoors, where activists, public officials and reporters gathered in the second floor atrium around a podium draped in the pride flag.

“In New Haven, we have always been a community that leans into welcoming and supporting everyone, no matter what you look like, what kind of economic background you had, whether you’re documented or undocumented and, importantly, no matter who you love,” Elicker told the crowd. 

Elicker and other speakers described the rise of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and legislation nationwide as a reason to feel particularly proud of the work of the New Haven Pride Center and other LGBTQ+ community organizations. 

Juancarlos Soto, executive director of the New Haven Pride Center, reminded the audience that even progressive states like Connecticut are not immune to hatred. Soto cited a recent fundraising trip to the state by Republican presidential hopeful and Florida governor Ron DeSantis ’01, who championed anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, which was derided by many as a “don’t say gay” bill.

Elicker echoed these concerns, cautioning against complacency. He named youth homelessness and bullying as two critical issues the LGBTQ+ community in New Haven faces. Nationally, 28 percent of LGBTQ youth reported experiencing homelessness, which is a higher percentage than youth overall, and further, 52 percent of LGBTQ students enrolled in middle or high school reported being bullied compared to roughly 35 percent of all same-aged students, according to the Trevor Project

For Hope Chavez, co-president of the board of the New Haven Pride Center, Pride is more than a call to action. 

“It means belonging. It means safety. It means celebrating with my community,” Chavez told the News. 

Sponsors of this year’s festival include government agencies and nonprofits, like the Connecticut Department of Public Health, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, New England Donor Services, Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective and the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven. A number of local private health care providers are also sponsoring the festivities. 

For Pride New Haven, city officials and community leaders also said that librarians at the NHFPL are doing their part to make LGBTQ+ youth feel safe in the community. Mitchell Library will host a drag story hour on Wednesday, Sept. 20 with LGBTQ+ children’s books performed by local drag artist Tiki Malone.

Sarah Quigley, a children’s librarian at the Mitchell Library, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with community organizers as the mayor spoke before addressing the crowd at City Hall herself. Quigley addressed young New Haveners from the podium, promising that the library will continue to be a safe space for all. Quigley highlighted the importance of a library collection which represents everyone. 

“We’re here for you,” Quigley pledged. “Pride is celebrating everyone for who they are … Personally that’s what I believe in. As an institution that’s what we believe in. It sounds like all of New Haven believes in that too.” 

Chavez encouraged Yalies interested in supporting the New Haven LGBTQ+ community to volunteer at the New Haven Pride Center’s food bank and clothing closet. 

The New Haven Pride Center is located at 84 Orange St.