Sayville shows its Pride Day spirit!

Family LGBTQIA+ event unites community

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Roaring colorfully into downtown Sayville and resting in the Common Ground, the 2022 Pride Parade and Picnic was a community, family, and self-awareness event that brought individuals from the hometown and far beyond to gather in celebration of love.

The event was hosted by The Transgender Resource Center of Long Island—established by Mila Madison and Ursula Nigro, who met over 20 years ago as teenagers attending a performing arts high school in Syosset—and aims to provide those vital support systems for the transgender, and more broadly, the LGBT community on Long Island.

“We are about creating a sense of family, building a family, especially where there is not one for an individual,” said Madison, who recalls TRCLI members getting married in her backyard.

Both active members in the Greater Sayville Chamber of Commerce, Madison and Nigro have been leading the Pride presence in Sayville.

Chamber president Eileen Tyznar, who was in attendance and in full, expressive, wholesome support of the parade and LGBTQIA+ community, said, “The parade today was a testament to inclusiveness and diversity in our town. The freedom of all to be able to express themselves brought even more joy to the beautiful day! Thank you to the TRCLI for choosing Sayville again to host the event in Sayville!”

This year was particularly poignant, after last year’s parade was limited to a car parade to comply with pandemic protocols.

“This event was created to give visibility to all members of the LGBTQIA+ community. There are no corporate sponsors; it is a community event funded by community,” said Nigro. “The last two years we hosted a socially distant Pride Ride through the town of Sayville because of COVID. It was so amazing to be able to go back to our original parade down Railroad Avenue and picnic at the Common Ground at Rotary Park. It was a beautiful day full of love, acceptance, and family. We look forward to continuing to celebrating this community for years to come.”

The grand dame of the event was Long Island’s premier drag queen, Annie Manildoo, who performed with poise, pizzazz, and puppets for the families in attendance.

“Sayville Pride was the example of what pride should be; it was a true grassroots movement without being influenced by money or sponsors. I had the honor to march alongside a Stonewall veteran, Rusty Rose, who was one of the people who paved the way for Pride to exist in the first place. The picnic following the march had so many local LGBTQ+ vendors and even more families and young people,” said Manildoo. “I can’t even imagine how much easier things would have been for me when I was younger if I had the opportunity to attend something like this. I felt truly blessed to be able to perform for these kids and young people.”

A raucous after-party ensued, with over 12 drag performers in attendance at the nearby Station Pub. The performers ranged from “new folks just getting their start to seasoned veterans of drag like Porsche. The party went on all night and the bar was packed!” according to Manildoo.

While not yet a physical center—Madison and Nigro are working diligently on opening an actual residence for TRCLI—the organization finds its place in the libraries and LGBT-friendly businesses to set up and provide support groups for transgender individuals or cisgender people looking to learn more about transgender issues.

TRCLI offers a welcoming atmosphere where transgender folk can meet up to feel included when discussing dicey legal questions about how to change your name and/or your gender on state-issued identification, to the most pressing issue for many transgender people, housing.

“Ultimately, we would want to build a housing unit for transgender people in our center,” said Madison. “Housing discrimination is one of the most virulent problems that transgender people face, and it starts with realtors not willing to even show transgender people accommodations, knowing that landlords are not receptive to them.”

Madison and Nigro would both like a permanent home for TRCLI in Sayville, a town they describe as a “special place” where they have held many receptions, including ones at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church for neurodiverse individuals and LGBT people.

“We are always thanked by the community for having a family-friendly event at Pride, which can sometimes feel exclusive of kid-centric activities,” said Nigro.

The TRCLI always organizes for members to attend the Cinderella ball of all Pride events, the New York City Pride Parade, and has brought dozens of members over the past five years to one of the biggest Pride celebrations in the world.

Madison and Nigro acknowledge the transphobic nature unfortunately still found in society, but also stress that a lot of transphobia is rooted in naiveté about the subject, especially for older people.

“The youth are so much better about trans-awareness and trans-acceptance since they have more visible transgender leaders like Jazz Jennings or Laverne Cox, who are not the boogeyman of trans representation in the past,” said Madison.

TRCLI is also progressive in challenging gender norms within the LGBT community, as they have hosted an all-gender drag show and are constantly learning how to phrase gender in language to be inclusive of nonbinary people.

“Coming from New York, I always used to say, ‘You guys,’” said Madison. “But now I understand how that affects and isolates nonbinary people, even if it seemed innocuous.”

“Unfortunately, it’s still not safe for many transgender people to just walk out their door,” added Nigro. “Even something as simple as a beautifully, clearly female-presenting transwoman getting purposely and spitefully misgendered at a bagel store is threatening and alarming of more violence.”

As TRCLI prides itself on being inclusive of all, they welcome volunteers of all backgrounds, especially artists who can donate in terms of photography or graphic design, as they aim to raise visibility of transgender folks as regular people who are simply asking to be treated with respect and dignity.

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