LGBTQ+ PRIDE typically is celebrated during the month of June. Of course, COVID-19 in 2020 really put a damper on many of the festivities and 2021, while slightly more ambitious, still offered fewer in-person events and many virtual opportunities to acknowledge PRIDE.

You may have heard or read the saying, “the first Pride was a riot.” It all started with the Stonewall Uprising in New York City on June 28, 1969. Following a police invasion of a gay club located in Greenwich Village, riots and protests ensued throughout the city. Many of the folks at Stonewall were drag queens or gay men of color.

At that time, in New York City, “masquerading” as a member of the opposite sex was a crime.

Although transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson didn't arrive to the bar until the rioting had started, many credit Johnson for throwing the first brick or shot glass that sparked the riots. Decades later, Johnson and other Black and Latinx transgender women are now being recognized and hailed.

Another transgender women involved was Sylvia Rivera, an activist and self-professed drag queen. Rivera fought for transgender rights alongside Johnson, co-creating STAR, the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, to help homeless LGBTQ youth.

As the mom of a trans man, I remember the first time my son asked to attend a PRIDE event. I didn’t understand the importance of the request — nor did I feel comfortable attending. My husband stepped up and off they went. This was eight years ago. While the experience was affirming for my son, the event itself had very little trans representation. My husband did come home sporting a sticker that said, “my son is trans.” My heart burst wide open when I saw that. Said sticker lived on our refrigerator for the next couple of years.

Now, of course, I am one of those parade-marching, flag-waving activists. Why? Because I want to celebrate this amazing community. I want people to know that I am proud of my child, I am proud of the work I do, I am proud to represent parents all over who love unconditionally.

However, PRIDE month is just a fraction of the calendar. What happens the other eleven months out of the year?

Big retailers, major brands and social media influencers expend significant resources touting messages of pride and selling themed merch. Many in the community question the authenticity of brands who put rainbows on products and create special displays and marketing efforts.

Do these same companies have DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) policies? Do they offer trans-related healthcare? Are the safe places for a transgender person to work? If a company cannot check those boxes, then I would question the motives for celebrating PRIDE.

On the flipside, there are major brands who support organizations like Stand with Trans and have a culture and mission that represents and embraces diversity. For the trans community, those who do show their genuine support are gold. So, it’s not about the t-shirt or sneakers or cookies but about what the company represents at its core.

I encourage you to patronize supportive businesses year round. And find ways to support the LGTBQ+ community beyond PRIDE season. You can volunteer, donate, share information, sit on a board of a nonprofit, have meaningful conversations, and above all, accept differences without conditions.