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Ten Questions with Dorothy Awards Honorees Paul Kuehn and George Appleby

Paul Kuehn and George Appleby have, through decades of community volunteerism and service, helped to establish key organizations within New Haven: George with his involvement in AIDS Project New Haven, and Paul with the Connecticut Gay Men’s Chorus, and both with the New Haven Pride Center. They’ve both worked hard for the community for decades, and in our final honoree interview for 2017, former Pride Center co-president Thomas Donato talks about how things have changed over the years and where more work is needed.

  1. You both contributed to the beginnings of the New Haven Pride Center; tell us a little bit about those earlier days. New Haven’s LGBT community was very alive in the 1990’s with gay bars for men and women, sporting events, choruses for men and women. Some people were active volunteers at AIDS Project New Haven, people participated in Pride events in Hartford, and many people in the community had dinner parties with close friends. The Center started as a place where people could come who didn’t necessarily have a connection to any of the established activities, who were looking to meet new friends or reestablish connections with friends from their past. Facebook wasn’t an option back then, so it gave our community a place where people could network and it also gave people a safe place where people could come out. 
  2. What is one of your favorite memories from the early New Haven Pride Center days? The Center was and still is so strong because of the hard-working and dedicated people who volunteer many hours to make this place a solid organization in our community.  It was always very exciting to hear when someone came into the Center looking for a place to network and they were willing to host a new group and give opportunities for people to come to the Center.  On a personal note, we held our Civil Union in 2005 at the Center and it couldn’t have been a better place to celebrate a highlight of our lives together. 
  3. How has the New Haven LGBT community changed in the last three decades? The LGBT community all over the world has seen many changes over the past three decades. Many outstanding joys were celebrated, such as the right to marry the person we choose regardless of our sexual orientation and the repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy so the women and men in our military no longer had to hide who they were to serve our country. The devastation by AIDS in our communities in the 80’s and 90’s was softened by the amazing strides we made in the health fields so now many of our brothers and sisters who are infected are living full productive lives. These positive changes took the work of many people working together and always continuing to fight for our rights to make these changes happen. The fight continues today and will continue into our future as long as bigotry, homophobia and sexism is out there. We certainly saw during the most recent elections that we must be strong to continue to work for peace for all. 
  4. What are some of the biggest issues facing the LGBT community in 2017? Bigotry, homophobia and sexism are still out there. In addition, we need to address gender equality and make sure we sustain our political and social gains. Many of our legislators out there are fighting with us and fighting for us, but there is a large community who do not. We need to continue to be strong in our fight. We don’t need special rights, we just need equal rights so all people are treated equally. 
  5. Do you see anything positive about the current political climate? Political action in any area of our lives serves as a great resource for training to pursue many other issues. 
  6. Where are some of your favorite places to travel? Australia was one of the most enjoyable trips we had because we were there for an extended period of time while George was on sabbatical. How can you not love Paris? Machu Picchu, Egypt and India all had an exotic flare to them we really enjoyed. The few times we stayed at our time share on Mykonos were great trips to find true tranquility and relaxation. 
  7. George – Describe Paul in three words. Paul – Describe George in three words. Paul and George say about each other: he is brilliant, integrity-driven and loyal. 
  8. What is the secret to sustaining your long-term relationship? Staying connected to one another’s interests and concerns. 
  9. Who would play each of you in the movie about your lives? We’re not sure who would be in the movie, but we’re thinking the movie would be Oscar worthy.
  10. What is your hope for the New Haven LGBT community over the next five years? To keep the many contributions of the Center in the forefront of New Haven’s attention.
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