*This piece was originally published by our friends at Grantmakers of Oregon and Southwest Washington (GOSW) and has been published again here with permission.
Pride month is always an interesting time of year working at an LGBTQ+ community foundation. It is a time of celebration, joy, connection, and remembrance for our community, and also the time when LGBTQ+ folks are most recognized and highlighted. This visibility is critical for our community—as it is in all of the months that have been designated to center different communities who have been pushed to the margins.
For many of us, Pride month is a time of joy, connection, and remembrance of our history, and an opportunity to celebrate all the beautiful, fabulous parts of who we are that have been so often targeted, criminalized, and discriminated against. It is a manifestation of the resilience and tenacity LGBTQ+ people have had to develop over decades and centuries of fighting to be loved, included, and affirmed as our whole selves.
It is a tender and sometimes painful reminder of how far we’ve come together, but also of how far we have to go before we truly belong and get to be our whole selves in all the communities we call home. The past 5 years have been an especially stark reminder of just how tenuous our progress truly has been.
As many people now know, Pride month did not start as a parade. It started as an uprising against the violence of the police against our community, trying to prevent us from gathering in the small spaces our community had carved out for ourselves in a world full of brutal discrimination and rejection. It was started by Black and brown trans women like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who are the too often unnamed early leaders of the modern LGBTQ+ movement—activists who sought liberation by fighting against incarceration and criminalization of sex workers, and community builders who started one of the first shelters for LGBTQ+ young people experiencing homelessness.
Support for this early work to support LGBTQ+ people came directly from our community itself, who had long taken care of one another when we knew nobody else would.
Pride Foundation was founded in 1985 during both crisis and profound opportunity—during heartbreaking times when our government was targeting and rejecting people living with HIV and AIDS, but also during a time when movements for LGBTQ+ liberation were gaining momentum. We were founded as a regional organization spanning Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska, with the belief that LGBTQ+ people should be able to be our full selves, in all of our identities, in all the places we call home—in big cities, small towns, and vast rural communities.
This was also a time when LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS organizations began to emerge, and Pride Foundation became a stable source of funding for them—and sadly one of the only sources of funding. Our first grants back then totaled $7,150 to 13 organizations. This past year, we awarded more than $1.5 million to over a 100 organizations.
While that growth is phenomenal, we know that it is not nearly enough, and that the community groups and organizations we have been supporting for years are still being limited in their growth and impact because we are still one of the only foundations who will invest in their work. LGBTQ+ organizations still only receive $0.28 for every $100 invested by philanthropy, despite LGBTQ+ people, and BIPOC LGBTQ+ people in particular, experiencing the most disproportionate impact across nearly every social indicator.
A critical part of the Pride Foundation’s work is to advocate within our sector of philanthropy for our community. To elevate the work and organizations that have been building what we need to keep our community safe and supported on shoestring budgets and with their own resources, and urge our philanthropic community to invest in their brilliance, or to partner with us to ensure resourcing of these groups can grow.
Last year, during another time of crisis, we were heartened to see our partners in philanthropy here in the Northwest show up for LGBTQ+ communities, with many foundations supporting Pride Foundation’s efforts to move resources to our grantee partners through our Crisis Community Care Fund. This support meant we could nearly triple our investments to these critical groups last year, and provide more and larger grants to groups that have long been under-resourced.
The brilliance, tenacity, and resilience of LGBTQ+ communities is clear from the decades of work to build safety and support networks for ourselves and our community, and while Pride month is a time to reflect and celebrate on this work specifically, the opportunity to support this work and our community exists year-round.
We hope that we can continue working with all of our partners in philanthropy to continue to shift our practices and priorities to invest in equity, justice, and true systems change work that creates a world where everyone in our communities can be our whole selves, in all the places we call home.
Katie Carter is Pride Foundation CEO.