A few weeks ago while I was on the road, I heard the story of a high school graduate who sought the confidential guidance of his pastor before setting off for college last fall.
The young man was from a family of deep faith and he was trying to make sense of the religious teachings of his church, the family values he grew up with, and his own understanding of being gay.
After being away at college for almost a month, the young man got a notice in his mailbox that he had a package waiting for him. He eagerly set off to retrieve it, anticipating a care package from his parents with homemade cookies and other reminders of the family and home life that he missed so much.
When he opened the care package, it instead contained his birth certificate, a handful of pictures from his childhood, a few other mementos, and a note saying “You are not welcome home ever again.”
This story has stayed with me since I first heard it.
As Pride Foundation celebrates our 2015 scholarship recipients at events across the region, this story serves as a profound reminder of why our collective work is so important.
Our scholarship program is about showing students that we care; not just about what they do—their academic success and leadership potential—but about who they are as people.
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we awarded $403,850 to 124 LGBTQ and allied students across the Northwest this year. For many of those 124 students, this is the first time they have been celebrated and honored not in spite of who they are, but because of it.
In many ways, Pride Foundation, for the past 30 years, has been about giving each of us the opportunity to care—each and every day.
And that won’t change when we get the long awaited ruling on marriage equality from the United States Supreme Court. At the end of this month, there is a very good chance that the decision will allow all same-sex couples to marry, regardless of where they live. The ruling will represent one more critical step to full legal equality for our community.
This will be monumental, which we should not lose sight of.
When you live in a place like Seattle or Portland that has comprehensive legal protections, it’s easy to forget how things once were—even just five or ten years ago. A different reality from today seems inconceivable.
This moment has led to a flurry of questions within our community about what’s next, are we done?
Which has led me to wonder:
If you are a 22-year-old African American gay man who lives with the reality that more than one third of your peers are going to become HIV positive, what are you supposed to say?
If you are a transgender person who still cannot get basic, life-saving medical care, what are you supposed to think?
If you are a lesbian teacher who was forced to resign or be fired because your school district doesn’t have legal protections, what are you supposed to do?
If you are a queer youth who is homeless because your family rejected you after you came out, who are you supposed to turn to?
You have heard it over and over again, including from us—the biggest mistake we can make is to believe that a victory in June means we have won and we are done.
I say that not just because there is more work to do. I say that because “our work” as a community will never be done—there is no beginning and end.
Ultimately, our movement is about actively and fully recognizing the humanity and potential in each of us. It is a daily commitment to truly see each other and to hear each other.
Far too many in our community remain invisible and silenced, even when they are sitting or walking next to us.
Pride Foundation’s commitment is to let people know they truly matter. Our promise is not only to support people to dream big, but to ensure they also have the opportunity and resources to live big dreams.
For the past 30 years, we have partnered with organizations and leaders across the Northwest to transform the legal landscape and the services available to our community. That essential work will continue as we ensure that all of us—not just some of us living in certain zip codes with economic means—are protected in the workplace, are safe at school, and have access to quality healthcare and education.
We look forward to partnering with you over the next 30 years.
Kris Hermanns is the Executive Director of Pride Foundation. Email Kris.