CHESHIRE — Fitting in, regardless of your age, cultural background, or sexual orientation, can be hard for some people who feel as if their lifestyle isolates them from others.
Often, those feelings of isolation can be exacerbated when municipalities fail to provide specific resources for those who identify under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. Many towns and communities in Connecticut, and all over the country, recognize the month of June as “Pride Month.” Communities typically hold cultural events, and usually a parade, to honor their LGBTQ+ identifying residents. A few students at Cheshire High School, who are part of the school’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance, have decided to establish a Cheshire LGBTQ+ and Ally network, with the hope of holding Cheshire’s first-ever Pride event during the summer.
Spearheaded by the high school’s GSA co-presidents Felicia Lentini and Mirin Scassellati, the group had originally planned for an inaugural meeting in early March, but had to postpone due to COVID-19 safety precautions.
“We noticed that while there is a friendly LGBTQ+ community at the high school with the GSA, there isn’t really that same community here for adults,” Scassellati said.
“Inclusion is really important, and we want to educate the community about becoming an ally,” Lentini added.
By definition, an “ally” is someone who might not be a member of the LGBTQ+ group, but who offers support and guidance to those who identify. An ally is also someone who might help LGBTQ+ members seek financial assistance, housing, or employment.
One Cheshire High School student who has been involved in the creation of Cheshire’s LGBTQ+ and Ally community group, Jasper Barnhart, remembers adjusting to life in Cheshire when they first moved into town.
“When I first moved here, I had no clue there was an ally community,” Barnhart said. “I felt really out of place and unsafe until I later learned that the community is here — you just need to learn where to look.”
The newly created group aims to teach residents how to actively be allies in their community, and would ultimately like to host a town-wide Pride event in order to show the LGBTQ+ community the town supports them.
“We notice that a lot of the time people are just confused or unsure about what an ally is and why being one is important,” Lentini said. “We want to give people a safe place to ask questions, share their feelings, and talk about the things that are important to them.”
While members are expecting some pushback at the creation of the group and their goal of hosting a Pride event, Scassellati and Lentini have noticed support for the causes.
The group has no date for a first meeting, but is providing updates via their Facebook group, “Cheshire LGBTQ+ and Ally Community.”