(From The Campus Lantern – October 17, 2013)
The Connecticut Forum held a panel entitled “Being Gay: The Personal & Political, Struggles & Triumphs” on Saturday, October 5, 2013. The Connecticut Forum is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1992. Four times a year Connecticut Forums are held at the Bushnell Theater in Hartford, Connecticut. The forums are generally “live, unscripted panel discussions among renowned experts and celebrities” (www.ctforum.org).
The panel opened with an introduction by Richard Sugarman, the founding president of the Connecticut Forum and Doris Sugarman, the executive director (www.hartfordinformer.com). After the warm introduction, a short but emotional video of people from the LGBT community sharing their coming out stories was shown. After the video, the panelists were welcomed to the stage.
Every speaker on the panel identified as gay. Washington Post Opinion Writer and Editorial Board Member and MSNBC Contributor, Jonathan Capehart was the moderator of the Forum. For the first half of the panel, Capehart directed conversational questions to the three panelists. The panelists were Martina Navratilova (tennis player and first active athlete to come out), Dan Savage (author of Savage Love and founder of the It Gets Better Project) and Bishop Gene Robinson (first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church). Questions were asked about the panelists’ coming out stories, how religion affects peoples’ views of homosexuality, and progress of gay rights and the gay community (www.ctforum.org).
During the second half of the panel, questions that were written down by audience members were answered by the panelists. Although the topic discussed was a very serious one, all of the panelists were humorous and positive vibes were flowing throughout the Bushnell. One question that was brought up was whether “gaydar, where you can spot another gay person,” is real or not. Bishop Gene Robinson joked, “It’s real, and it’s about 70% accurate.” Dan Savage added that there has been actual research done on “gaydar” and that it is a real thing.
The panel closed with Hartford’s mayor, Pedro E. Segarra, giving the city’s keys to each of the panelists (www.hartfordinformer.com).
According to the Connecticut Forum’s website, their mission statement is “to encourage the free and active exchange of ideas in Forums that inform, challenge, entertain, inspire and build bridges among all people and organizations in our community.” Both past and future forum topics support this mission statement. Past topics include “A Meaningful Life: Getting to What Really Matters” (March 7, 2013); “Our Fragile Earth: Looking for Answers To Sustain the Planet” (Saturday, May 5, 2012); “What Is The American Family?” (February 16, 2001); and “Straight Talk and Honest Answers About AIDS” (February 6, 1993)
Upcoming panels for this year are “Big Thinkers: Who knows where a conversation will take you?” (Thursday, November 21, 2013), which will feature Malcolm Gladwell (journalist and author) and Douglas Brinkley (historian), “two heavyweight thinkers,” having an unscripted talk in front of the entire crowd at the Bushnell; “An Honest Look at Mental Illness: Perceptions and Realities” (Friday, March 7, 2014), which will be a conversation with Andrew Solomon, author, journalist, psychologist and mental health advocate; and “Nerd Fest: Why Nerds Rule the World” (Saturday, May 3, 2014), with Adam Savage (host of the television show Mythbusters) and Aisha Tyler (actress, comedian, podcaster and gamer) leading a discussion on technology, comics, and television shows. Tickets for upcoming events can be purchased on the Connecticut Forum’s website, http://www.ctforum.org.