Growing up gay in the rural Midwest, moving through adolescence and into early adulthood, I, like so many others, saw the world around me as complicated, different, and sometimes even, unsafe.
I have vivid memories of my childhood—of the moments, experiences, and relationships that defined my early years and shaped me into who I am today.
We all have these stories. They’re what connect us to our loved ones and our communities. They help us make sense of the world and our place in it. And most importantly, they teach us—about ourselves and each other.
For all these reasons and more, I am thrilled to announce that in our 30th year, Pride Foundation will be partnering with StoryCorps—an organization dedicated to providing people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of their lives.
As StoryCorps documents the oral history of the LGBTQ community across the country through their OutLoud Initiative, we are celebrating three decades of inspiring hope across the Northwest. Through this partnership, we have an incredible opportunity to capture and document the rich oral history of LGBTQ people throughout our region—elevating the stories and experiences that often go untold.
Our work with StoryCorps will include two components: an OutLoud Interview Collection Trip to Billings, Montana in early May and participation in StoryCorps’ Mobile Tour in Seattle in August (with one day reserved specifically for Pride Foundation).
Given the rich organizing work happening in Billings, Montana around their local non-discrimination ordinance and the upsetting loss the community faced when the ordinance was voted down last August, we thought this would be a key moment to gather and archive the experiences of the Billings LGBTQ community.
LGBTQ community members from Billings and Seattle will join with loved ones to share their stories and reflect on their past, and we will be able to use their experiences, insights, and wisdom to chart a new course forward, together. All of the interviews will be archived at the Library of Congress, documenting our regional movement for equality for generations to come.
By centering this work on those that remain marginalized within our community—including homeless LGBTQ youth, people of color, transgender people, elders, and those living in rural areas—we will capture a diverse and holistic snapshot of what life is like for LGBTQ people across the Northwest.
Sharing stories has been a critical component of our movement’s success and progress to date and is ultimately how we change hearts and minds. What does it feel like for a transgender woman in Billings to drive hundreds of miles to see a doctor that treats her with care and compassion? For a homeless LGBTQ teen to find shelter at night? For a queer man of color to simultaneously grapple with discrimination and prejudice based on the color of his skin and his sexual orientation? For an elderly lesbian woman to have to go back in the closet because she fears being mistreated at her nursing home?
These are the stories that we need to hear and share. They are stories of struggle and triumph. Of courage and love. And they’re the story of our community.
That’s why this collaboration with StoryCorps is a perfect way for Pride Foundation to give back to our community during our 30th anniversary. It allows us to celebrate our shared history—including the leaders and organizations that have gotten us to where we are today—while also looking toward the future.
We look forward to sharing them with you.
Kris Hermanns is Pride Foundation’s Executive Director. Email Kris.