June, Pride Month, is a time of sunshine and warmth, of celebration and community—a time of freedom of expression, unity, and safety.
That is what I saw throughout Pride month, beginning with a scholar celebration in Kennewick, where I was joined by scholars from Pasco, Airway Heights, Seattle, and even Enterprise, Oregon. I then attended Pride celebrations in Pasco, Yakima, Wenatchee, and Walla Walla.
I spent an amazing and heartwarming afternoon with some of our Pride Foundation Visionaries, including some who, 35 plus years ago, gathered in a back yard in north Seattle when they saw a need for a community to come together, to see each other, to support each other, and to celebrate each other.
I ended my month with Trans Pride in Seattle. I think there were more people at that single event than there were at all the other events I attended, combined, and the sense of celebration and pride was undeniable and took my breath away.
In Yakima and Wenatchee, I had the pleasure of calling a few Pride Foundation Scholars to the Pride stage, in their home communities, to award their certificate and scholar medallions.
In Wenatchee, two young people approached my table and we talked more about scholarships, although these two would just be starting high school next year. “It’s never too early to start thinking about applying,” I told them. They took some stickers, buttons, smiled, and left.
Moments later, they returned. One of them, a young middle school student of color, gave me a fist bump, and commented on how nice it was to see ‘another’ Trans woman—on stage, in public, in her community—and she offered me her thanks. I offered her a hug, let her know how happy I was that she was there on this day, and thanked her for her courage.
Soon after, off to my left, the protesters and abolitionists arrived—one literally on his soapbox with a bullhorn, another with a graphic poster. Almost immediately, a line of youth began to form, many holding large flags up to block their view, chanting and singing songs of love to drown out the hate spewing from the bullhorn.
Standing right beside the soapbox was that same young trans woman of color I’d spoken to earlier, letting him know exactly what she thought—and I wish I could have heard exactly what she was saying.
50 years before this, June, 1969, two other trans women of color, Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, let their voices be heard as well, as the police were raiding the only place they felt safe, the Stonewall Inn. A brick or a bottle thrown that night set the Stonewall Riots in motion and a year later became the foundation for the first Pride march.
It’s now September, and the windows and light posts on Main Street are now bare of Pride Flags. The corporate commercials showing loving same sex couples are gone, images of famous trans and gender diverse people are no longer aired, the celebrations are over—and at Pride Foundation, grant season is well under way.
Although I still hold the memory of that young woman in Wenatchee back in June—the strength and courage I saw in her much like the courage of Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera 50 years ago—I find myself feeling fear for her also, as the celebrations fade and I see the ongoing disproportionate violence against Trans women of color.
Pride events look very different than they once did and yet, this June brought so many incredible examples of the connections between our past and our present—between those who sparked our modern LGBTQ+ movement, and those who are driving our movement forward today.
And as I read grant applications from organizations working to end LGBTQ+ youth homelessness, increase youth leadership opportunities, support our most marginalized youth, our rural youth and youth of color, I am so inspired. I am inspired by all of the groups and organizations across the Northwest committed to advancing equity in so many ways.
I think of every dollar donated every year, every scholarship and grant awarded every year… every “brick” building a stronger, embracing, increasingly safer foundation for this young woman to stand firmly upon, with confidence, support, and 50 years of history.
Tylene Carnell is Pride Foundation’s Regional Philanthropy Officer in Central and Eastern Washington.