Pride 365

So I’ve been thinking about this post all month, and to be honest, just haven’t had the time to gather my thoughts and write them down.

June is a big month for the folks at the First Responder Resiliency Project. It is, simultaneously, Men’s Mental Health month, PTSD Awareness month, and Pride month. The first two may seem obvious, as we are an organization focused on first responder mental health and resiliency, and bringing awareness to PTSD/PTSI and other occupational stress injuries is a big part of that. And it goes without saying, that men still struggle to acknowledge and talk about their feelings and experiences, and that we have a long way to go before both men’s mental health, and awareness and support around PTSD and other OSI get to the place they need to be. And these things are incredibly important. But honestly, our support of these things are just one of the more public faces of who we are, and what we are trying to do.

June is the month where companies and organizations seemingly the world over adopt a rainbow version of their logo, ostensibly in hopes of convincing folks that they are indeed a progressive and supportive place where folks within the 2SLGBTQ+ community are valued, and queer folks are on the forefront of their minds for something other than their purchasing power. And I’m going to let you in on a secret, for so many businesses and organizations, it is just that, a marketing ploy to get you to spend your money. Money that an unfortunate number of these companies proceed turn around and spend on things like supporting people or parties who are straight up lobbying against the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

So at this point, you might be saying “umm I am looking at your rainbow logo right now… what makes you different than the organizations you just described?” And the answer is this: @frrp is a Pride 365 organization. Not just for the month of June. Not just to convince folks to spend their money. Every day, of every year, we are committed to serving first responders with intersecting identities. Identities which are often also barriers to their success in these roles, and a significant contributor to the moral injury, and sanctuary trauma, they experience from within them. This often comes from the very people they are told are their “family” and that they are supposed to trust, sometimes quite literally, with their lives.

This is near and dear to our hearts, as three out of the five directors who sit on the @frrp board are part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. So we speak from a place of first hand experience with how intersecting identities such as this play into people’s overall experience as first responders. People who know me personally may have heard me say that it is important that we, as first responders, represent the communities we serve. And contrary to what sometimes seems like the popular belief, we don’t serve communities made up exclusively of straight, cis, white, men. So supporting folks who may not fit into some, or any of the aforementioned categories, is integral to what we do.

I also want to take a moment to acknowledge that things are, slowly, getting better for first responders who are outside of that straight/cis/white/male “classic definition” that comes to mind for many people when they think of anyone in a uniform. But let me tell you, I can personally attest that we still have a LONG way to go. And @frrp is committed to doing what we can to help, not just in June, but every day.

I imagine that many of the folks reading this have learned that we are putting on a fundraising event this September, @nightfallyeg. And now those folks may be wondering, what that event has to do with this novel of a post. Recently, I met with another first responder who has a wildly successful first responder focused event that they put on every year to raise money… and they raise a lot of money. This person graciously agreed to meet with me, talk to me about their experiences getting their now annual event up and running, and share some tips and tricks.

So when I met with this person I told them about our vision for the event. To raise awareness about mental health and first responders, with a dinner, therapy dogs, s’mores on the patio, speakers, and a drag queen for the host. Now let me be clear, I honestly believe this person had the success of our event in mind, but as I was describing our vision, they were nodding along, seemingly in agreement with everything being described. Until I got to the drag queen. Instantly, their nodding stopped. Not only stopped, but like cartoon noise car screeching to a stop, stopped.

Being a trained investigator, I noticed this seemingly abrupt change, and asked them about it. Their answer was simple: “Some people aren’t going to like that there is a drag queen as part of the event, and they won’t come as a result. Maybe it’s something you should reconsider”.

I’m not sure what cartoon noise would be the most appropriate to convey the look on their face when I replied with “Good. I don’t want those people at the event, and I don’t want their money” but trust me, it would be a soundtrack worthy one. They looked flabbergasted. They probably WERE flabbergasted.

I mean, I had just finished explaining how @frrp was a largely self funded passion project born out of my love of the outdoors, and my honest belief that there was something that happened to people generally, and first responders specifically, when they were in the outdoors and away from everything that had become our day to day normal, things that are often the very antithesis of “normal”. And that although I could never explain exactly what it was, or how it worked, that there were now people way smarter than me conducting peer reviewed research on this very thing… and it was all showing that what I always knew in my heart was in fact, true.

So if all of that was true, and that I’d been funding @frrp nearly exclusively myself, picking up equipment here and there when I had the means (and the deal was right), how could I be so sure that I wanted to make a decision so controversial as to have a drag queen host the event? Especially if doing so was likely going to make certain folks who might otherwise pay to attend not only not come, but likely boycott the organization?

I will tell you how, because the answer is simple. I would rather continue to fund @frrp on my own, even if it takes years longer, and additional thousands of dollars from my own pocket, than sell out on my beliefs and take money from people, or organizations, who would not support people I love, simply because of who they are.

So based on all of that, I wanted to explain to anyone reading this, that the rainbow version of our logo doesn’t just exist to play the pride month game. It exists because we exist as 2SLGBTQ+ folks, both within the world, but also within first responder, military, veteran, and public safety roles. And that our experiences, both good and bad, allow us to show up for others on their worst days, and understand things from a perspective that the person we’re showing up for may not believe was possible.

And for anyone who got to the bottom of this, as a thank you for reading, I want to offer you 20% off all of the pride (rainbow) merchandise in our online store with the code HAPPYPRIDE. For folks who’ve visited our store before, you may notice we have even got some new pride swag just added as well. So if you want to help me fund these adventures and get some cool stuff out of it, take a look at our shop. And if you think that an event focused on first responder mental health with with a dinner, therapy dogs, s’mores on the patio, speakers, and a drag queen sound like something you might want to attend, check it out at for tickets, sponsorship opportunities, and more information. And from all of us as at @frrp, Happy Pride everyone.