TAMPA, Fla. — On both sides of the Bay, city leaders held flag-raising ceremonies to celebrate the start of Pride Month. While there’s increased visibility, LGBTQ advocates said there’s still a way to go toward progress and inclusivity.
“Come out and celebrate in June, but it’s every day. 365,” LGBTQ Consumer Advocate with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nathan Bruemmer said. “When we have to recognize that folks are being bullied, folks are being erased, if community members are mocking members of the LGBT community, we’ve got to stand up for each other, show each other respect day in and day out.”
Gallup’s latest update from this past February found the percentage of U.S. adults who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or something other than heterosexual has increased to a new high of 7.1%, which is double the percentage from 2012 when Gallup first measured it.
“We’re building a world in which people feel safer to be themselves and to express themselves,” Regional Development Officer at Equality Florida Nicholas Machuca said. “These people aren’t coming out of nowhere. They already exist, and our task is to make society better and healthier so that they can feel safe and happy coming out.”
“Visibility is I think complicated for a lot members of the LGBTQ community," Bruemmer said. "We see visibility of parts of the community. We don’t always see all members of the community, so we don’t see our trans members represented. We don’t see our black and brown and queer folks represented. All the activities, all the work that we do, we do that in coalition with a number of organizations, and we have to recognize that those needs are different. We may be seeing different health disparities. We may be seeing different economic disparities.”
Advocates also said progress isn’t finished yet.
“Right now, we’re seeing a lot of backlash, more so than the progress right here in Florida, but our role is to turn the tide toward the progress side,” Machuca said.
This Pride Month, advocates hope people continue to be an ally by lifting up LGBTQ voices.
“We’ve all got to step up and celebrate and recognize that we’re one community. Unity’s in that word. Let’s come on out and show each other some unity and some love,” said Bruemmer.