Rainbow Breakfast Shines Light on CCSU LGBTQ Achievements


Isabella Chan

Pat Bingham, Rainbow Award recipient, and Elizabeth Mendes were both awarded scholarships during the ceremony.

Isabella Chan and Julia Conant

Ten years after the making of Central Connecticut’s LGBT Center, community members gathered for the third annual Rainbow Breakfast social, which was held on National Coming Out Day. The event honored faculty and students within the LGBTQ community at CCSU who have been known to make strong efforts on and off-campus.

Those awarded included Psychology Science Chair Carolyn R. Fallahi, senior psychology major Pat Bingham and junior pre-social work major Amara Osorio. Along with them, keynote speaker Carolyn Gabel-Brett was honored the Community Award and Director of the LGBT Center William J. Mann was given a recognition award. Students Elizabeth Mendes and Bingham were awarded the Richard S. Spada & Robert D. Childers Scholarship.

President Dr. Zulma Toro opened the breakfast with strong hopes to make CCSU more inclusive and diverse for the future based on the plans she hopes to initiate.

“The challenges that we have faced on this campus over the last year remind us that we still have some work to do. But we are heading [towards a] very good direction based on the response to those challenges and broad support for the changes we have already made and plan to implement in the future,” Dr. Toro stated.

One of those changes being the new Interim Director of Equity and Inclusion, Dr. Nancy “Rusty” Barcelo.

Barcelo, who strongly identifies herself as a “Chicano lesbiana”, shares Dr. Toro’s high ambition for coming times for the campus. Already, she feels as though she has found the campus to be “a safe place” for all, especially after attending the Rainbow Breakfast.

“This breakfast reminds me that from the very beginning our work has been self-reflective, self-interrogating at its very core. We have challenged not only traditional academic paradigms and institutional systems of racism, sexism and homophobia but also ourselves and our differences,” Barcelo stated.

“All of this has served to strengthen our resolve to continue moving toward the center of the academy. I hope and I promise the Office of Equity and Inclusion will be a major part of helping to continue that path forward on behalf of this gathering, as well as others,” Barcelo continued.

Several of those in attendance shared their personal experiences of coming-out and the difficulties faced due to the limited knowledge coupled with the lack of discussion on LGBTQ lifestyles. The speakers included, CSCU President Mark Ojakian, Director of Student Affairs Michael Jasek, Director of the LGBT Center William Mann, Professor Dusty Rader and history major Anastasia Marco.

Marco and Rader emphasized that transgender people are often hidden in many media platforms, thus making coming-out harder than needed.

“Language is cognition; if you don’t have the words to think about something how can you actually think about it? If you don’t know gay exists can you really know you’re gay in the first place?” Marco, a polyamorous transgender lesbian, stated.

Marco said that being at Central has improved her life for the better, and turned her into a different person.

“Being at Central has been revolutionary for me,” Marco said. “It’s allowed me to be a stronger, better person and have a more fulfilling life.”

“I’m here but there are so many other people behind me who didn’t make it. What could we do at the university and as people in order to support people who really do need it?” she continued.

Rader also notes that his coming-out story as being one of the “lucky ones,” and works actively as an educator helping those struggling with their identity to feel accepted by being an example in the community.

“Every time I meet people and do an introduction I say ‘I am transgender,'” Rader stated. “I don’t want people to think that’s something to be ashamed of or something that shouldn’t be talked about. There’s a respectful way of talking about it, the easiest way to talk about it is to be respectful. The identity itself is not something to be ashamed of.”

As an educator, Rader is open about his identity with his students, helping those facing similar situations as he did to find safe spaces to rely on.

“When you meet someone who is not like yourself, you start with respect, start with love and start by listening,” Rader added.

Keynote speaker Gable-Brett has fought for LGBT and female rights for roughly 40 years. She has taken part in several social justice movements and projects, including co-founding the first feminist bookstore in Hartford in 1983, The Reader’s Feast.

“We organized and included different strategies to win these important pieces of legislation with both inside and outside work,” Gable-Brett said. “Some of us used direct action and twice interrupted a speech by the governor and threw banners from the balcony.”

Gable-Brett was cut off after that statement by an unprompted round of applause from the audience, in which many showing that her acts of rebellion in the name of rights have not gone unappreciated.

Although the main purpose of the Rainbow Breakfast was to put focus on LGBT rights and struggles, Gable-Brett also brought attention to America’s current political climate crisis.

“How could we slide back from progress that we thought we were making and creating into a place of impeachment and division in this country?” Gable-Brett questioned. “Our democracy and our constitution are under attack by greed and corruption. The economic gap is widening. Homophobia, sexism, racism and antisemitism are instruments of our administration.”

However, she left listeners with a beacon of hope by stating, “It is only by working together that social change can really happen. Seeing you all here gives me hope.”