It doesn’t take long after meeting Pride Foundation Idaho Scholar Josh Parrish that you begin to realize that he has a thing for collecting stickers—all sharing the common theme of creating LGBTQ equality.
The stickers blanket Josh’s laptop: Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Transgender Equality, It Gets Better, and two related to projects he works on while attending American University in Washington, D.C.—the Safe Space Sticker Program, where he helps train students and faculty about LGBTQ-related issues, and Red is in the Rainbow, a student-led advocacy group campaigning for the repeal of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 1983 policy banning men who’ve had sex with other men from donating blood.
At only 18, Josh has already accomplished much, including founding the first Gay-Straight Alliance club at his high school in Nampa, Idaho, interning at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington, D.C., and working with AU’s GLBTA Resource Center. This is the second year in a row he’s been awarded Pride Foundation scholarships, and he’s currently working during the summer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho as part of the Pride Foundation Fellowship Program, which seeks to cultivate leaders and strengthen the Northwest LGBTQ community.
“Having a Pride Fellow in our office is an exciting opportunity for us to advance LGBT equality in our state,” said Monica Hopkins, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho. “Pride Foundation should be commended for supporting and sustaining LGBT leadership development through programs like this. The caliber of leadership developed and organizational capacity supported is integral in advancing justice and equality.”
“Since the moment Josh showed up in our office, he jumped in to do whatever needed to be done—from creating a Statue of Liberty costume for the Boise Pride Parade to meeting with religious leaders, building partnerships with the religious community,” she said. “Josh is an incredible asset to our team. His knowledge of the issues we are working on combined with his willingness to work independently and think creatively have helped us build our network of non-traditional coalition partners. By the time he returns to school at American University, he will have helped us create an LGBT non-discrimination toolkit to educate the public and train leaders in advancing equality for all Idahoans.”
“My passion is equality,” said Josh, a political science major at AU minoring in French with aspirations to travel to experience and continue learning from other cultures. “Discrimination, hate and prejudice don’t serve a purpose in society. I want to change people’s minds.”
He’s off to a promising start, beginning with his mother, Deana, a single mother who Josh came out to as a gay man at 15. The road to educate his mother that his sexual orientation is not a choice was a rocky and emotional journey, he said, but “she’s an advocate now, and that has given me a lot of hope.”
Steve Martin is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Idaho. Email Steve.