Our Collective Strength

As we begin celebrating Pride Foundation’s 30th year, I cannot help but reflect on the paradox of our current landscape.

Right now, over 70% of the U.S. population lives in a state where it is legal for LGBTQ couples to marry—with the Supreme Court set to make a decision on marriage equality this summer. The shift happened rapidly—seemingly overnight—positively impacting the lives of thousands of people across the country.

Yet even when we make significant advancements toward legal equality, this doesn’t always translate into improvements in people’s daily lived experiences. Attempts to undermine Alabama’s recent marriage equality ruling—with Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore urging state probate judges to defy the federal court ruling and refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples—is a good example of this.

We are not immune to these challenges in the Northwest either. In fact, just last month I was given another startling and disappointing reminder of the ongoing discrimination that many LGBTQ people face in their home towns. The Idaho Statesman—the largest newspaper in Idaho, with a circulation of over 45,000 people daily—included an anti-LGBT sticker advertisement on the front page of every print version of their paper.

The advertisement was against the “Add the Words” bill in Idaho, which would protect LGBTQ Idahoans from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Yet perhaps even more harmful was that the ad directed readers to a website filled with hateful and derogatory language that paints our community as less than human, perverted, and immoral.

When reading the website—which was no easy feat, I assure you—I was immediately reminded of the pain and stigma that surrounded our community during the onset of the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s. The harmful way that language was used to degrade LGBTQ people and instill fear. At the time, the overarching narrative was that we could somehow be ignored, even discarded; that our lives weren’t worth saving or worth living.

These circumstances are what led to Pride Foundation’s founding. Thirty years ago—in 1985—we opened our doors as a way to offer compassion and hope for our community. Our founders had a vision: to provide a safe place for supporters of LGBTQ equality to invest in a brighter future.

With all the fear and uncertainty that surrounded our lives in the mid-80s, Pride Foundation provided a concrete way for people to come together and care for each other. Throughout our history, we have remained committed to making investments in HIV prevention efforts and supporting organizations that provide critical resources, support, and compassion to those living with HIV and AIDS.

In honor of our 30th anniversary, we want to reconnect with those early years of our work and the strength and resilience of our community. That’s why we wanted to give you the opportunity to learn more about the incredible progress that’s been made to combat HIV/AIDS since the mid-80s, what life was like during the early years of the crisis, and what the work will look like moving forward.

These stories were told from three different and unique perspectives—an organization that was one of Pride Foundation’s first grantees and is still on the front lines of HIV/AIDS service delivery and prevention, a current scholar who hopes to work with people living with HIV/AIDS in rural communities, and a Pride Foundation board member and leader in the field of HIV/AIDS research.

Throughout 2015—because we know that just one day or evening focused on this important milestone isn’t enough—we will celebrate the victories our community has made over the last 30 years, acknowledging the leaders and organizations that have played a role in building our movement for lasting equality.

Throughout the year we will provide our supporters the opportunity not only to reflect on where we’ve been, but also to focus on where we’re going.

As the landscape around us continues to shift, one thing remains constant—the importance of extending our forward progress to everyone in our community. While we continue our work toward LGBTQ equality, it is critical that we focus our efforts on ensuring that all of us have the same opportunity to live openly and safely.

This means a shared commitment to addressing growing disparities within our community, and reducing barriers faced by LGBTQ youth, people of color, transgender people, elders, and those living in rural areas.

The recent incident with the Idaho Statesman is a good example of why this is so important. We know that changing culture, along with people’s hearts and minds, is slow and sometimes painful work. That is why we need to continue sharing our stories, building community, and elevating the experiences that often go untold.

However, if the articles above show anything, it’s the collective strength we have when we come together with a common purpose and goal. When I think back on what life was like for our community at the height of the AIDS epidemic compared to how things are now, the change is palpable.

We have gotten to this moment because LGBTQ people have insisted that we be seen and heard. Throughout our anniversary year, we will continue to remind you of the tenacity and spirit of our community. It is because of our shared history—not in spite of it—that I hold even greater aspirations for our future and the incredible progress we can make together.

The work ahead will be hard, but you will never hear us say that something can’t be done or won’t happen. Over the past three decades we have already proven that the improbable is possible, and can even become our reality. I know that by joining together, we can galvanize the energy and momentum needed for the next 30 years of our work.

Thank you for being a part of the Pride Foundation family. We couldn’t do this critical work without you.

Kris Hermanns is Pride Foundation’s Executive Director. Email Kris.

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