NORWALK, Conn. -- The drafting of Michael Sam as the first openly gay player in the NFL was seen as a historic moment by the Triangle Community Center in Norwalk.
"It sends a strong message to young adults," said Anthony Crisci, executive director of the Triangle Community Center, the only organization focused exclusively on the LGBT community in Fairfield County.
"It gives them a new dream, and a sense that if they want to pursue a career in professional sports, they can do it, and their affiliation is not something that's going to hold them back."
Sam was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round. A couple of days later his jersey was the No. 2-selling jersey from the draft, according to NFLShop.com. He made headlines after news outlets showed footage of him celebrating the draft by kissing his boyfriend.
"For a lot of people it might be shocking to see a gay couple kissing," Crisci said. "To an LGBT person who sees that raw footage, that's just what it's like being a person, whether gay or straight. It's a major moment with a loved one. From my perspective, there's nothing controversial about it."
The Triangle Community Center is on West Avenue in Norwalk. The center was founded in 1990 and provides support groups and services to help with problems such as homelessness, mental health issues, substance abuse, isolation and depression, as well as social events and activities such as community yoga and tai chi.
The center hosts three youth groups, and recently launched a group for seniors. Crisci said that seniors in the LGBT community face a lot of unique issues.
"When people enter end-of-life care of assisted living or a nursing home, it can be challenging to do that and be open. A lot of seniors end up going back in the closet."
There are about 50,000 people who identify as LGBT living in Fairfield County, Crisci said. As one of the states where same-sex marriage is legal, Connecticut is respectful of the LGBT community.
"It's rare that the community faces major instances of discrimination, bias or hate. It's a very welcoming place," Crisci said.
The Triangle Community Center will be hosting a Pride in the Park event at Mathews Park in Norwalk on June 14 from noon to 5 p.m. Crisci said that it will be the first time the center hosts a Pride festival on public property. The event will be family friendly and open to everyone who wishes to attend, and will feature food vendors, local merchants, a family picnic area and a small stage with local artists performing throughout the day.
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