Government

Fair Lawn Holds its First-Ever LGBTQ Event 

377bd6e4d356533d8f14_ac856e3868a2906ef602_LGBTQ_boro_hall.jpg
Fair Lawn Mayor Kurt Peluso speaks at LGBTQ event. Credits: Lianna Albrizio
356772d2e080d059d21f_7354208a4c8f785b3561_LGBTQ_boy.jpg
Jacob Reiffe at Fair Lawn's LGBTQ event. Credits: Lianna Albrizio
dfddf6c84d35271794d3_LGBTQ_crowd.jpg
02392c2fc817eb5bab0b_d60494ce155b3ef8a9a3_LGBTQ_Cutrone.jpg
Councilwoman Cristina Cutrone talks about the many efforts being made for LGBTQ equality since the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Credits: Lianna Albrizio
9b9eee030a9b5bba39c5_99baa124338b16f368bc_LGBTQ_it_takes.jpg
ab536389c25208083ff1_LGBTQ_flag.jpg
74225b6596ac7e5f4153_3954204011feb8b34e7b_LGBTQ_love.jpg
f383663c3110ab39867f_LGBTQ_shirt.jpg
16520b1474436bdc0fca_e07cda96a8371169a6b7_LGBTQ_wong.jpg
377bd6e4d356533d8f14_ac856e3868a2906ef602_LGBTQ_boro_hall.jpg

FAIR LAWN, NJ – Bravery never seemed to resonate so loudly in the heart of Fair Lawn as on the balmy evening of June 19 when roughly five dozen residents gathered on the front lawn of Borough Hall to ring in the town’s first-ever Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning (LGBTQ) event.

While a little late in the month to be celebrating Pride Month, one of the keynote speakers, Anna Wong, would agree that it's better late than never. Wong, 34, a New York City native who recently relocated to the area with her wife, Lexa, was 19 when she came out as lesbian. Then a Queens Borough resident, Wong, a first-generation Chinese-American and co-founder of NJ5 Coalition, it was at age 21 when she says she “found her community.” But, she added, 21 “is late for a lot of people.”

“Some people don’t make it to see 21. I grew up in New York City, I didn’t live in fear every day,” she mused while standing casually beside the podium to address the crowd filled with families and their children and dignitaries which included Assemblywoman Lisa Swain, Freeholder David Ganz, representatives from Congressman Josh Gottheimer’s office and Fair Lawn council members. 

Sign Up for E-News

Wong said of the 1.6 million young people who are homeless, 40 percent of them comprise the LGBTQ community. 

“When you put a flag up like this, it means a lot for the young people growing up in a town like Fair Lawn where they don’t have necessarily an outlet or visibility of other people who may look like me … This flag is more than just a flag. It’s an act of love. It’s an extension of acceptance. So when you put something like this out here for everyone to see, it gives people hope.”

It certainly brought hope to Jacob Reiffe. The 12-year-old borough resident spoke before the crowd in honor of his transgender sister.

“My name is Jacob. And I am the proud brother of a brave young sister who happens to be transgender,” he told the crowd in a sweet-sounding voice, his gentle eyes beneath blue framed glasses with his strawberry blond hair styled in an edgy cut. “Being transgender is just a small part of who she is. But it is not easy, and it is not a choice. My sister is a girl and always had been. We just didn’t know it right away.”

Jacob said his reason for his presence at the event was to inform the community of transgender people’s existence in all communities and their dire need of acceptance.

“Some transgender people are too afraid to be out because they have concerns about their safety,” he said to a riveted, concerned crowd. “I am glad to see so many of you here today. The world is changing, and that means my sister has a better chance of living the life she’s supposed to lead without the fear of discrimination.”

If there’s anyone thankful for the world becoming a more accepting society it’s Dan Donatacci – a Fair Lawn High School alumnus invited by Women of Action leader Jaymie Gerard and event organizer – who didn’t experience this kind of support when he was going to school in the 1990s, a “difficult and liberating time to be gay,” he said.

“It would have been 20 years next year since I took my boyfriend to the Fair Lawn High School prom. Try to start a Gay-Straight Alliance at the school – tried,” he said. 

Donatacci said he was bullied at that time and was forced to handle situations in his own “colorful way.”

Waving a copy of a Record article that a friend had dug up for him from two decades ago, the newspaper wrote about Donatacci being the first to bring a same-sex date to the prom.

That time in his life wasn’t the easiest for him, as he recalled receiving hate mail and death threats and was even told by police to wear a bullet-proof vest beneath his gown at graduation.

During this time of being "hopeful and embattled," he teamed up with PFlag, an organization established in 1972 and the country’s first that boasts the biggest to unit families and allies with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, to speak at local high schools to raise LGBTQ awareness. He soon left the borough to pursue a career in poetry and the arts and was pleasantly surprised to return to his stomping grounds to see a different kind of town that is more tolerable and that returning was both an “uplifting and joyful experience.”

At the event, the Women of Action had a map of Fair Lawn on which residents signed their name in all the colors of the rainbow while a little girl held up a sign that read, “It Takes Courage to Grow Up and Be Who You Really Are.”

“I’m so glad to see this kind of effort being made for the LGBTQ community here,” he said before tickling the crowd with an original poem about gay liberation. “I hope it not only continues but increases in the future.”

It’s certainly a start. Fair Lawn Mayor Kurt Perluso called Fair Lawn “a community that’s very focused on recognizing our diversity and celebrating it.” EJ Beverly, another keynote speaker who has been out as a proud gay man for 24 years and is a member of the borough's Stigma-Free Committee, said he's seen changes he didn’t see as a closeted teen.

“Being in the closet was a very painful and lonely experience,” he recalled. "Living in fear that someone might discover my secret and that I didn’t belong. But when I finally came out at 25 years old I was welcomed by the LGBT community with open arms and love, and for that I am eternally grateful.”

Beverly noted the many accomplishments that have been made on a national scale which include striving for equality such as the ending of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the military and the Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage. But despite these victories, Beverly noted the tragedies that still exist today such as the Pulse nightclub massacre in Miami, Florida two years ago.

“As we proceed in our ongoing efforts for equality, we must never forget those we have lost to senseless hatred and violence,” he said. “The LGBT community continues to fight for equality in other states that do not have some of the same protections that we enjoy here in New Jersey. There are still several states where you can be fired from employment, denied housing and denied the right to adopt just for being gay. I am grateful to be a Fair Lawn resident where I feel absolutely comfortable being myself.”

In the true spirit of speaking out, Fair Lawn’s Samantha Long rounded off that message performing an impassioned version of Sarah Bareille’s smash hit “Brave:” You can be amazing/You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug/You can be the outcast or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love/Or you can start speaking up...

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Fair Lawn/Glen Rock

Glen Rock Police Blotter - July 23, 2018

July 23, 2018

During the period between July 16 to July 22, 2018 members of the GRPD handled 281 calls for service, the highlights of which included:

July 18 - 4:08 PM –  The owner of a rental home on Ferndale Avenue reported that an antique safe was missing from the property after his prior tenant moved out. The former tenant, who now resides out of state, claimed not to be in possession of ...

Glen Rock Police Blotter - July 16

During the period between July 9 and July 15, 2018 members of the GRPD handled 255 calls for service, the highlights of which included:

July 9 -10:35 AM – During the course of a motor vehicle stop, P.O. Tarantino arrested a 34-year-old male out of Newark, NJ on an outstanding Passaic County warrant for unpaid child support. The male was transported to the Passaic County Jail and turned ...

Conversations with Joan Herrmann: When Men Suffer from Impotence, What Happens to their Female Partners?

Most women, when they're young, believe men are the ones regularly seeking sexual intimacy. That's why later in life, for some male/female relationships, it becomes quite a surprise when it's the woman who is more interested than the man.

Below, Joan taps into her bevvy of experts for answers.

"Intimacy involves feelings of emotional closeness and connectedness with another ...

Summer Storm Checklist

New Jersey gets its share of severe weather – and those closest to the coast are particularly vulnerable to hurricanes and high winds. Here are some things you can do to help improve the safety of your family and home before a storm hits:

·       Be informed. Find out where the nearest shelter is, and map out different routes you can take ...

Sparta Kiwanis Helps Fund Quinlan's Hero Club Endowment for Child Grief Counseling

July 21, 2018

SPARTA, NJ — The Hero Club at the Joseph T. Quinlan Bereavement Center is one step closer to reality having received a donation from the Sparta Kiwanis. John Quinlan, Director of the Karen Ann Quinlan Hospice foundation, presented the program to the club at their meeting at Homers restaurant. 

Kiwanis member Frank Cannistra introduced Quinlan and Diane Sebzda, Director of ...

Rutgers Hikes Tuition, Student Fees for 2018-2019 Academic Year

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Rutgers University Board of Governors today approved a 2.3 percent hike in tuition and fees, as well as increases for dorm rooms and meals, for the 2018-2019 academic year.

The increase now brings the annual cost for undergraduate students to $14,975, which is $337 more than this past school year.

Student housing will increase 1.9 percent, and ...

Belmar Parasail: Soar Into Summer with a High-Flying Adventure Along the Beachfront

July 14, 2018

BELMAR, NJ — As Belmar finally basks in picture-perfect weather, it may be time to check off a summer activity on your bucket list. And for many, parasailing is one of those “must-do” experiences.

At Belmar Parasail, the season is in full swing, offering boat trips from the Belmar Manutti Marina to the beachfront where passengers are lifted 500 feet above the Atlantic Ocean ...

Morristown Happenings: Things to Do in Morristown This Weekend; July 14 - 15

MORRISTOWN, NJ - Jump for joy....it's the weekend! Don't let Friday the 13th scare you away, there are lots of fun things to do in and around town this weekend! Have a great weekend everyone!

Saturday July 14

Tri harder Triathlon; Ginty Pool and Ginty Field; 8:30am

25th Annual George Gramby Softball Game; Cauldwell Playground; 9am

Urban Farm Stand is Open; 14 ...

Murphy Administration Takes Action to Help Smokers Quit

July 16, 2018

Eliminates Prior Approval for Medicaid Tobacco Cessation Medications; Counseling Options to be Expanded

TRENTON, NJ – The Murphy administration on July 16 announced new steps to help New Jersey Medicaid recipients quit using tobacco by making it easier to receive tobacco cessation medications and counseling.

“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease ...

Glen Rock Green Team Hosts "Plastic Ocean" Movie Screening July 31

GLEN ROCK, NJ - The Glen Rock Green Team Interns will be hosting a movie screening of the documentary “Plastic Ocean”  on July 31 at 7:30 p.m. in the Borough Hall Council Chambers. Refreshments and food will be provided before the movie and a question and answer session will take place after the movie.

This life changing documentary is about the growing amounts ...

Take the 2018 TAPinto Reader Survey

How often do you read TAPinto?  Have you downloaded the TAPinto APP?  These are a few of the questions for readers in our 2018 TAPinto Reader Survey.

We want to hear from you!

The survey will take less than five minutes to complete and will help TAPinto better serve you. 

Take the 2018 TAPinto Reader Survey.

Thank you.  We appreciate your support and ...