Ridgefield mom works to promote inclusivity in LGBTQ+ community, 'to feel like you belong'

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox
Alisa Trachtenberg is the founder of a Ridgefield youth pride group and a driving force in helping young people in the LGBTQ+ community with feelings of acceptance. Monday, December 12, 2022, Ridgefield, Conn.

Alisa Trachtenberg is the founder of a Ridgefield youth pride group and a driving force in helping young people in the LGBTQ+ community with feelings of acceptance. Monday, December 12, 2022, Ridgefield, Conn.

H John Voorhees III/Hearst Connecticut Media

RIDGEFIELD — When her daughter Eva became a member of the trans community at the age of 6, Alisa Trachtenberg realized she wanted to learn more about being trans and decided to educate others about it as well.

Over the years, Trachtenberg became a driving force in making members of the LGBTQ+ community in Ridgefield feel included by creating many initiatives — especially for young people. She is also executive director of Ridgefield CT Pride, a nonprofit organization that celebrates the town’s LGBTQ+ community.   

"Supporting LGBTQ individuals is vital and Ridgefield CT Pride is vital as well. It's really important, making sure there's resources for people," said Trachtenberg, whose daughter is now 17. 

In 2019, Ridgefield CT Pride began holding support groups for teens and young adults as well as for parents. Those groups, which now meet monthly on Zoom, are free and open to anyone in any town.

"I think they've helped to put a number of people at ease — they saw they are not alone. It's like, wait a second, this isn't anything to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. It's OK," Trachtenberg said. 

This year, Trachtenberg began organizing LGTBQ youth meet-ups, which are held in person. Participants do team-building activities, play board games, and enjoy a potluck. All groups are geared for those in middle school through age 21.

"The meet-ups are an opportunity to mix and mingle, build a sense of community and belonging, and to just have fun in a safe environment," said Trachtenberg. "The meet-ups are really like hanging out. The purpose is to socialize, to get to know other people and to feel like you belong."

The meet-ups are geared to make "it feel safer" for LGBTQ+ youth, she said.

"You don't have to worry about being in a place where people are going to judge you based on your sexual orientation or gender identity," said  Trachtenberg, a former French teacher.

In 2019, along with Maureen Tyra, the advisor for the East Ridge Middle School Genders & Sexualities Alliances Club, created Pride in the Park in Ridgefield, a free annual event catering to families that draws hundreds of people annually. It offers activities, crafts, entertainment and informational tables geared toward all ages.  

Additionally, she was responsible for Ridgefield's first Pride flag-raising at Town Hall in June, to commemorate Pride Month. She hopes it will become an annual event.

Also, Trachtenberg said that every week takes a phone call from someone in the Pride community who needs a "listening ear." 

A look toward the future

As Trachtenberg works to achieve tolerance and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community, she plans to have a Pride crosswalk painted in town, hopefully in the spring so it is ready for Pride Month.

Another role Trachtenberg has taken on is as an LGBTQ+ organizer with Congregation Shir Shalom of Westchester and Fairfield counties in Ridgefield.

"The rabbi wants to set up a diversity, equity kind of task force for the temple," she said. "We went to a training session where you look at your policies and procedures and your culture for your organization to try and make sure it's inclusive all around — particularly focusing on LGBTQ but also making sure it's inclusive of all different kinds of people of varying abilities. ... It was really great."

She also plans to work with local schools and businesses in town to encourage belonging and inclusion practices.

Trachtenberg said that her work educates the local community on what it means to be trans as well as how to be comfortable with anyone in the Pride community.

"Ten years ago or more, people didn't even really seem to know all that much what transgender was. They didn't know what that meant. And now people seem to know. A lot of it is education and getting people feeling more comfortable talking about things, is really important," she said.

"Visibility really makes a difference," Trachtenberg said. "For example, we were at the temple originally and Eva transitioned. People ... mentioned that they had a grandchild or a niece, or cousin who kind of seems like our daughter. And then they come in and talk to me and so I share what I know and I share the resources with them."

She said she wants to reassure parents and caregivers of anyone in the LGBTQ+ community that their child can be happy.

"People want to know that it's going to be OK, that there's a future, that they can have a fulfilling and successful life,"  Trachtenberg said. "And with the adults, it's really about helping them understand that part of the struggle that they're facing is overcoming their expectations"

"Sometimes people have difficulty adjusting to the new reality. These support and meet-up groups help both youth and the adults to realize that there's a bright future out there for them and to come to terms with that," she said.