Pridespeak is an initiative conceived of and created by a group of students while woking on their graduate degrees. This project is modeled after the famous Humans of New York blog that details the lives of people living and working in the city of New York, NY. Pridespeak, however, focuses on the lived experiences of LGBTQ people around the country, giving them a proper avenue to tell their story the way it needs to be told.
From their founder, Tara Stetler:
“PrideSpeak was created and is run by three Human Rights Practice MA students (including myself) with the University of Arizona. We started it as a school project back in January, but our semester ended in March and we’re all trying to keep it going because we loved the work so much! We are specifically focused on LGBTQ individuals and always have been. PrideSpeak was created by queer people for queer people”
Here are some examples of the work they are doing:
“I first found joy in my sexual orientation when my family made me go to a LGBTQ support group out in Phoenix called one n ten. I got to socialize and speak to so many gay, lesbian, bi and transgender teens who were going through the same thing that I was going through. It made me realize that I wasn’t alone, and that my support system was even bigger than I imagined. It gave me hope and strength to fight for my own happiness and to be comfortable with myself. It made me come to terms with who I am.”
– Jordan Alan Fritts (call center representative, marketing student, enjoys music festivals, traveling and fine arts)
“One of my most challenging obstacles was my parents being extremely religious and not accepting the fact. I was always told that I should be doing things another way, so I subconsciously always had those thoughts in the back of my head, critiquing myself daily. I had never realized I was so hard on myself, but once I did, and corrected my thoughts to more kind words, a lot of things changed for the better.
Recently, I have never been closer with my parents, and they’ve completely changed their outlook. Once I changed my perspective to understanding my parents place rather than seeing them as an opponent, things healed. I now know my parents ultimately care and want the best for me before I had trouble understanding that.
A favorite memory of mine was when I was in high school. Freshmen year, I remember going to a LGBTQ car wash. It was really nice being around like-minded individuals that stood their ground past judgment. It taught me a lot. They were really proud to be who they were, and that’s not always easy, especially in small town like Yuma at the time.”
Juan Munoz (artist, book worm, loves working-out)
“The day after my 18th birthday, I left for the Army. Iraq was a time where I was very sad in my life, but yet I had a lot of hope. I liked doing my job, and I liked knowing that I was working for someone else.
I actually got caught by the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Once I realized they were going to out-process me, I got left alone. I would go whole days without going to work, and no one questioned me about it. I was like, ‘No, I’m done with this experience. I want to move on.’
So I went traveling. I went hitchhiking from New York to California, Texas included. I have no problem camping out or being homeless for a bit until I find a new path, and that’s what I did. It’s a different set of rules when you’re out there like that. You don’t have to worry about paying your cell phone bill or anything like that. You’re worried about where you’re going to sleep and how you’re going to eat and ‘Was I the nicest person so my karma stays right?’ or ‘How can I help somebody else in my situation?’ It’s really unique. I loved meeting the other hitchhikers. Colter was my first friend in Austin when I was living on the streets. He’s a very relaxed man. He gives people time and the patience to explain themselves. He has no expectations for people – just come as you are.
It made me a stronger person. I know a lot of people in our community don’t like being by themselves, and they don’t understand what it’s like to really enjoy your own company and not be lonely by it. You don’t really meet people that fast. So you hang out a lot by yourself, and you have to have the confidence to keep going and keep yourself smiling and happy and occupied.”
– Sebastian Westfall (Pride St. Louis board member, empath, volunteer, omega-level mutant, hitchhiker, everyday superhero)