Garden State Equality (GSE), New Jersey’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, held the annual Equality Ball Friday night. The event at Asbury Lanes music venue kicked off Jersey Pride weekend for the LGBTQ Jersey Shore community.
With that said, there were a number of honorees at the Ball. Yet, GLAAD Media Institute alumni sparkled with vibrance.
For instance, GLAAD Media Institute alumni from the Prevention Resource Network (PRN) of the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) Community Health Center of Asbury Park won the Equality Ball’s Corporate Responsibility Award for excellence in LGBTQ health resources and care. Additionally, the night’s programming included an address from GLAAD Media Institute alum and Garden State Equality Executive Director Christian Fuscarino. There was even a performance from Jason Rodriguez, an actor from GLAAD award-winning FX drama Pose.
Furthermore, the Jersey Shore music venue opened to a sea of LGBTQ advocates from organizations throughout New Jersey. Some were honorees from GLSEN, fighting to keep LGBTQ youth safe in Jersey schools. Others were from the Jen Love Project, fighting for the tri-state area, formerly-incarcerated LGBTQ community members to come home. All-in-all, advocates filled seats with a passion to keep New Jersey exemplar of LGBTQ equality on a national stage.
With that, Fuscarino acknowledged this in his address.
“Listen, folks, the path to justice may be long, but here in New Jersey we are pulling the arch of the moral universe towards justice with all our might,” Fuscarino said.
Fuscarino and his staff like Deputy Director Brielle Winslow-Majette participated in a GLAAD media training in March. Prevention Resource Network providers joined GSE too. Together, Ethan Dayback, Director of the Trans Empowerment Program, and Cole Zaccaro, Medically-Assisted Treatment Program Manager joined their Jersey Shore neighbors in GLAAD Media Institute’s “Engagement 101: Telling Your Story: Messaging and Media Tools for Today’s Activists” training at GSE headquarters. Advocates learned how to share their stories with audiences who want to learn the facts about LGBTQ people to accelerate acceptance and strengthen equality throughout Asbury Park and the state of New Jersey.
#GLAADinstitute Alum @Fuscarino invited GLAAD to @GSEquality @inAsburyParkNJ to present an Engagement 101 media training with the @PRN_VNA. Together we discussed the state of the Garden State through the lens of media, journalism and policy. https://t.co/nlz5bQ02Lk
— GLAAD (@glaad) March 14, 2023
“Let the power of our collective voice, not in a mere whisper, but a thunderous chorus that echoes across the nation, reach far beyond our state’s border. When other states take away health care for our trans siblings we extend coverage from right here in the Garden State,” Fuscarino continued.
His words were supported by waves of applause.
In April, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order making New Jersey a “safe haven” for transgender people. This executive order ensures that trans people receive health care regardless of if a patient’s legal state bans their healthcare.
New Jersey is also one of 20 states with full LGBTQ protections, and in 2018 became the 11th state in the nation to issue guidance on transgender students to schools intended to promote a safe and successful learning environment.
This track record contextualized the honor that came to the Visiting Nurse Association Community Health Center in Asbury Park. The Award for Corporate Responsibility. The Visiting Nurse Association in Asbury Park has many community programs under the Prevention Resource Network and the Community Health Center. However, all of their programs together provide a stellar precedent for what LGBTQ-informed healthcare looks like, shared Shannon Preston, Director of HIV Community Service of the Prevention Resource Network, in her acceptance speech.
“We have been lucky enough to be able to provide community services to [the LGBTQ] community for a long time,” Preston said. “PRN and the Community Health Center have got 30-plus years in the Asbury Park community.”
Some of these resources include the needle exchange program, PrEP access management, counseling, LGBTQ healthcare and much more.
Without pause, the director teared up with gratitude as she thanked everyone for standing on stage with her. She then gave a special mention about the Prevention Resource Network’s newest program Ethan Dayback’s Trans Empowerment Program.
“Our newest program is the Transgender Empowerment Program. We are the first state to do that,” said Preston as she welcomed Dayback to the podium. “Here he is,” she continued as the GLAAD Media Institute alum walked to Preston’s side for a hug.
“[He’s] saving lives every day,” said Preston. “And since [the program’s] launch in October of last year, we’ve seen over 40 people who have gotten assistance with name changes and other [trans-related healthcare].”
The Garden State Equality Ball honored us with the Corporate Responsibility Award, recognizing our commitment to providing high-quality gender-affirming care to the community, including PrEP counseling and our clean needle exchange program. pic.twitter.com/AE2sVGB9SA
— VNACJ CHC (@VNACJCHC) June 5, 2023
Moreover, Ethan Dayback told GLAAD he is excited to share this award with his comrades at the Prevention Resource Network.
“We help trans kids locate the resources they need from barbers to accessing LGBTQ social spaces like Project REAL. The work we do in New Jersey’s trans community is to provide an axis of health care and harm reduction to ensure our youth are socially, emotionally, and physically empowered. Overall, it’s my goal to create the safety they need to be the outstanding people they already are. For me, that’s what makes this program groundbreaking,” Dayback said.
In the end, Garden State Equality raised over $30,000 to continue the fight for equality. To contribute monetary aid to GSE’s work in maintaining LGBTQ equality in New Jersey click the “donation” button on their website or go to the GSE “Take Action” webpage now.
To learn more about programming at the Prevention Resource Network of the Visiting Nurse Association of Asbury Park go to their website here.