Celebrating Pride Month in CapNY: 3 Leaders Who Make it Happen

Pride Month is recognized around the world, to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community. It takes place every June, in honor of the historic June 1969 Stonewall Uprising, which helped kickstart the Gay Rights Movement. It’s a month not just to celebrate, but to remember, to honor, to raise awareness, and to support.

This June, there were dozens of Pride events across CapNY to celebrate and support our LGBTQIA+ communities.


OutHudson, a nonprofit organization serving the LGBTQIA+ community of Columbia County, hosted 11 other Pride events, including a poolside celebration at The Maker Hotel, and Trixie’s Drag Extravaganza at Hudson Brewing Co. They also co-hosted a Pride Can Launch at Nine Pin Cider Works, with portions of profits going towards the organization. 

The Pride Center of the Capital Region

The Pride Center of the Capital Region, a nonprofit organization based in Albany, put on their annual Capital Pride Parade through downtown Albany and Festival in Washington Park, which featured food, vendors, live music and performances like Pussycat Dolls’ Carmit Bachar and iHeartRadio Music Award Nominee JORDY.

Cafe Euphoria

Cafe Euphoria, a Trans and Gender Nonconforming worker-owned cafe, coworking space, and curated thrifted clothing store in Troy, held an array of pride focused events including open mics, dance nights, drag show brunches, and LGBTQ budgeting workshops. They also served as food vendors at Pride events like Capital Pride Parade and Festival and Say it Loud! Black and Latin@ Gay Pride.

In Our Own Voices, Inc.

In Our Own Voices Inc., an organization based in Albany that serves the needs of LGBTQIA+ POC, held their annual Say It Loud! Black and Latin@ Gay Pride event in Washington Park, as well as other several Pride events across Albany, including a performance by AJA Lebeija from Rupaul’s Drag Race, at the gay bar and dance club Waterwork’s Pub.

Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Easton Mountain Retreat Center in Greenwich, NY, hosted a Pride Splash weekend for GBTQ men, featuring workshops, reiki, yoga, hiking, dancing, and lounging in their pool, hot tub and sauna.

Pride Parade

The Individuals Who Helped Make it Happen

None of the Pride celebrations would have happened without dedicated individuals who helped bring them together. We spoke with three individuals who helped make events like these happen, and continue to support the LGBTQIA+ community throughout the year. 

Nathaniel Gray, Executive Director at the Pride Center for the Capital Region
Nathaniel Gray, Executive Director at the Pride Center for the Capital Region

Nathaniel Gray grew up in southern Ohio and moved to NYC at 19. Gray moved to CapNY in 2019, and recently purchased a home in the hamlet of Glenmont, where he enjoys the newfound space and garden, to escape from the day.

Why is Pride month special to you? 

As a month, it is really a placeholder for our Civil Rights movement. June is Pride month because of the Stonewall Riots in late June of 1969. The first pride “parade” was a freedom march for “gay liberation.” The month of June is a lasting reminder, and encouragement, that there is still work to be done for true equity in society.

How are you involved in Pride across CapNY?

The Pride Center of the Capital Region hosts the largest Pride event north of New York City, and each year it grows. This year’s event, held on June 12th, drew crowds larger than previous years when we know our numbers were around 30,000 people. These folks come and celebrate themselves and the people they love, one of the most important things we can do in the LGBTQ+ community. The Pride Center also helped organize an historic number of Pride Flag Raisings in the Capital Region this year, with plans on even more next year. 

Why are you passionate about what you do?

I started getting bullied for being effeminate in 2nd grade; I was 7-years-old the first time someone called me a fa**ot. The most recent time? Four weeks ago. This is my life, and I’m not going to rest in my work, nor is the Pride Center, until this region is safe and affirming for everyone. The person who shouted that word at me last month probably doesn’t know that there are many in my community that would hear something like that, and potentially end their life. This is not acceptable in 2022 to me, nor should it be to anyone. When I got my Master’s degree in Social Work in New York City, my professional focus was on LGBTQ+ homeless youth. Something about working with kids who risked everything to come out and be authentically themselves, only to become homeless and experience untold abuse, sexual assault, trafficking, and other horrible things, fundamentally changes me. It was a curtain I could not “unlook” behind. Once I knew about their experiences, and that it is all born from hate and ignorance, I also knew I had to do something about it. 

Osun Zotique, OutHudson Executive Director
Osun Zotique, OutHudson Executive Director

Osun Zotique moved to CapNY in 2015, and lives in Hudson. Zotique is the Executive Director of OutHudson, and recently ran for office in the Congressional Primary to represent New York’s 19th District, making them the first openly transgender non-binary individual to run for federal elected office. 

Why is Pride month special to you? 

Pride Month is special to me because I realize that it’s something we still actually really need. We really need that continuous work of individual and community self acceptance. In spite of any advances that we have made, which we certainly have seen basic civil and human rights for our gender identity and sexual orientation, that process of self-acceptance is ongoing, and it’s a lifelong and evolving journey for every human being on this planet. Actually, whether they identify as LGBTQIA+ or not, the fact of the matter is that we all have something to learn about our humanity vis-a-vis our gender and sexuality. 

How are you involved in Pride across CapNY?

I took over the directorship of OutHudson and brought back the parade and festivities after the pandemic. I also recently ran for elected office in the United States Congress. NY’s 17th congressional district, and was the first transgender, non-binary person to do so. And it’s been a very exciting journey and a very privileged platform to try to speak to everything that’s going on for all of us who are living, working and potentially struggling to make ends meet at this community and state, both LGBTQIA+ and also our straight allies. 

Why are you passionate about what you do?

I’m passionate about doing what I do because I actually moved to the state of New York when I was 18, and the environment where I grew up was not particularly accepting. So for me, it’s really important to help continue creating the environment that I would like to be part of and a space where queer ingenuity and creativity can flourish. Both my own, but also the folks around me and my neighbors and friends and the people who we support.

Atsushi Akera, Co-founder of Cafe Euphoria and Board of Directors at the Pride Center of the Capital Region
Atsushi Akera, Co-founder of Cafe Euphoria and Board of Director at the Pride Center of the Capital Region

Atsushi Akera grew up in East Lansing, Michigan, and moved to the Capital Region in 1999, when she was hired as a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Akera has been a professor at RPI in the field of science and technology studies for the last 23 years, and is retiring this month. She lives in Troy and is the co-founder and General Manager of Cafe Euphoria, as well as a board member at the Pride Center of the Capital Region. 

Why is Pride month special to you? 

That’s a big question, given Roe V Wade, and everything that’s happened. I’m on the board of directors of the Pride Center for the Capital Region. Many of us are afraid that once the conservatives get that kind of momentum, they’re going to go after other things, including gay marriage. And so it’s a time for the community to band together. Pride Month is so important because it brings the entire community together. I think segments of our community have felt that they’ve won the victories that needed to be won, and had gotten to the point where activism and change wasn’t very high on their agenda. And so this year’s Pride events have been so important in reestablishing the notion that we still have a really important role to play in giving support to those who are otherwise oppressed and discriminated against in our society. 

How are you involved in Pride across CapNY?

I’m on the board of the Pride Center of the Capital Region, and I oftentimes volunteer for the Pride events with the Pride Center, as well as serve as an ally and supporter for the Say it Loud! Black and Latino Pride event. But the ways in which I was involved this year, was more focused on the launching of Cafe Euphoria. So as a consequence, most of my new duties had to do with the cafe. We had a presence at the Pride events, taking part as a food vendor, selling vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian fare. Cafe Euphoria also had eight different events of our own throughout the month. 

Why are you passionate about what you do?

Because it’s necessary. It’s so necessary. Going into the pandemic, mental health rates were in excess of 50% among the transgender community. Suicide rates were one of the highest. Gender remains one of the strongest constructs in our society, along with race, so there’s all kinds of problems that many members of our community face. There are many people who are supportive, but job loss remains a major issue within our community. And that’s why Cafe Euphoria is built around creating jobs for, and a safe space for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals. We are very much a trans visibility project. We created a business model very specifically on the idea that there are people out there who want to support us, and are willing to pay slightly above market rate for food, and then those resources turn into real assets for the trans and gender nonconforming folks who work here.

So it goes a step beyond just a safe space, it creates jobs. And then beyond a restaurant and creating jobs, we have a curated thrift, we have event space, a co-working space, and we have a lounge, as well as two private offices. We have a curated thrift so that if you’re transgender, and you’re totally scared of going to Target to shop in the women’s section for the first time, you can instead come here, to a space where you know that everybody’s going to be supportive of whatever choices you make.

To learn more about the CapNY LGBTQ+ community, resources, events & more, click here!

Written by: Victoria Diana

Victoria Diana is a writer, director, and stand-up comedian born and based in Schenectady, NY.