Before the start of the Capital Pride Parade on June 10, the Capital Pride Alliance kicked off the celebrations with a press conference that encouraged the crowd to enjoy themselves and take pride in their identities, while also reminding them to use their voices to evoke change.
“Remember these words, peace, love and revolution,” emphasized Earline Budd, who spoke during the conference.
Budd is a longtime resident of D.C., founder of Transgender Health Empowerment, and an early historical leader and advocate for Black trans women. She was also celebrated during the Pride festivities and received a Capital Pride Super-Hero Award, representing recognition for her tireless efforts in serving the Black trans community. Well known for being outspoken and unapologetic about her stance with the LGBTQ+ community since the late 80s, Budd began fighting against bans on crossdressing, and has been a leader in the community ever since.
“Pride means hope, pride means change,” proclaimed Adm. Rachel L. Levine, MD, HHS, assistant secretary for Health and the highest-ranking openly transgender government official in U.S. history.
Levine is known for utilizing her position and visibility to point out various inequalities within the health care system, serving as a role model for the LGBTQ+ community. Levine is also known for helping shape policy on HIV/AIDS, the opioid epidemic and immunizations, and works toward continuing to tackle the LGBTQ+ community’s challenges with having adequate access to health care.
Q&A with Ashley Smith
Ashley Smith, president of the Board of Directors for Capital Pride Alliance, shared more insight on challenges the local LGBTQ+ community is facing. Smith has been working with the Capital Pride Alliance Board since 2016 and has an extensive history of fighting for LGBTQ+ equality.
He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and was previously on the Board of Directors for The DC Center.
(This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)
MS: How will the alliance help fight against the introduction of bills restricting LGBTQ+ Rights?
AS: Well it has recently come out that there are over 500 bills restricting LGBTQ+ rights. But the alliance believes it is important to educate the community about what these cases are and in what ways these bills may affect their lives. Bringing people into the conversation and utilizing celebrations like Pride allows us that space and time. On Sunday, when we do the festival, we will have people who have specific knowledge and experience with these issues and who can share this information with our community. Since we don’t necessarily have control over certain decisions, we can help with the educational process.
MS: How does the alliance plan to address the HRC’s (Human Rights Campaign) official declaration of a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people, in response to the current political climate?
AS: What HRC did I totally understand and I don’t disagree with the concept. The key here is that we have to constantly be aware of our surroundings at all times, no matter who we are. That’s number one. Number two, with all the legislation that is taking place around the country at this point, it does make it a bit more difficult to feel comfortable during Pride celebrations. But what we do is work with the local authorities to consistently try to provide spaces where everybody is going to be safe and take the proper precautions. We do daily briefings, which we have done consistently for a month now, and have meetings with the right people who adequately surveil, to protect the community from what may be coming.
MS: What tangible goals does the alliance plan to initiate in the future to better serve the LGBTQ+ community overall?
AS: As you may already know or have heard, we will be leading World Pride in a couple of years, so we are working to create spaces and have an open dialogue about several different topic matters that are going to impact the LGBTQ+ community here locally and internationally. So, our goal is to find out how to best create a safe space for everyone, how we start to learn from our brothers and sisters around the globe, to see what it is that they are doing in certain spaces that we need to be aware of and how we can help them and vice versa. And then also, how do we go about creating knowledge spaces for people to know more and to be able to become activists in their own right to be engaged in this community in a way that everyone can appreciate, to share knowledge, to collaborate, and fight against the things that are going against us.