Senseless tragedy struck Orlando before the sun rose for day two of pride festivities in the nation’s capital on Sunday. Temperatures hit the 90s, but thoughts of the victims and their families and friends hung over the capital and reminded everyone that pride is not just a celebration, but a powerful statement.
“Not living in fear is a form of activism,” Bob the Drag Queen tweeted after performing Sunday in front of the U.S. Capitol. “Celebrate pride,” he told the crowd while onstage. “Do not let something scare you because if you don’t go out, they fucking won.”
Washingtonians observed a moment of silence from the main stage and Charlie Puth dedicated his live performance of “One Call Away” to Orlando. Meghan Trainor, holding a rainbow scarf in one hand and an HRC flag in the other, also dedicated her show to the lives lost.
Though sadness hit hard, love and support were strong throughout the city and fear didn’t hold the community back from celebrating progress made.
TV personality Ross Mathews was in town to celebrate marriage equality, a cultural shift that had not occurred when he marched in the Capital Pride Parade just a year prior.
Texas couple George Carrancho and Sean Franklin were partners for eight years before Mathews married them on a float in the middle of last year's parade. “This was before marriage equality was the law of the land,” he said. “We basically drove past the Supreme Court while they were making the decision. It was a really phenomenal ceremony.”
Before Mathews helped assemble the gay couple's families in the nation's capital for the ceremony, he had been speaking out for marriage equality for 10 years. “I just hoped that in my lifetime that we would achieve that,” he said.
While the law of the land has legalized same-sex love, the violence in Orlando is a testament to the hurdles that still remain for the LGBTQ community to live out and proud. “We should be very proud about how far we've come,” Mathews said. “The cultural shift that has happened in the last 10 years— specifically in the last year in a half— is unbelievable, but of course, there is still work to be done.”
Kim Davis gained fans for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Kentucky, and a transphobic “bathroom” battle between the U.S. Department of Justice and Republican North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is being waged. But Mathews, along with the couple he married last year, celebrated their one-year marriage anniversary by marching in Saturday’s parade with a message they hope will change hearts and minds.
Marriott Rewards' #LoveTravels campaign brought together more than 3,500 people from nearly 100 different countries to create expressions of love for the LGBT community. The collaborative art installation was available for all to see, including submissions from LGBT advocate and TLC’s I am Jazz star Jazz Jennings and well-known LGBT YouTubers.
Love Travels installation
“Listen, I have like two talents: one of them is making chicken quesadillas and the other one is hosting TV shows,” Mathews said of his submission. “I'm not exactly the best painter in the world, but I'm proud of what I made.” His partner, stylist Salvador Camarena, got into the fun too. “He might have even incorporated glitter into his,” Mathews said. “Nothing says #LoveTravels like glitter.”
Marriott Rewards also donated $25,000 to Casa Ruby, a local organization that provides services to D.C.’s homeless LGBT youth. “Even though people may not always embrace us [transgender people], they do know that we exist and they do know that we are a big part of this amazing city,” said Ruby Corado, the organization’s executive director.
Ross Mathews, Ruby Corado, and Laverne Cox
“I think that people's minds are opened the second they meet someone and know someone who is LGBTQ,” Mathews said. “We just need to continue having conversations, continue talking to people, continue meeting people. That's what #LoveTravels is about … owning who you are, owning love and sharing love with people all over the world as you travel. I truly think that's how the culture shifts.”
There are many conversations about transgender issues to be had in the year to come, with the DOJ suing North Carolina over its “bathroom law,” as well as jointly releasing guidance with the Department of Education for educators to accommodate transgender students.
“You see people who didn't even know someone who is transgender now knowing transgender people, knowing their stories,” Mathews said.
Laverne Cox introduced many Americans to their first transgender storyline in her mainstream role in Netflix's original comedic crime drama series Orange is the New Black. She was in D.C. to help Matthews unveil the art installation on Friday. She also spent the previous day on the Hill and at the White House for the President's LGBT Pride Reception.
“There is nobody like President Obama, and being at the Pride Reception at the White House for the last one that he will host as president was emotional,” Cox said. “It was amazing to be in that space and to hear him speak.”
She and several Democratic members of Congress gathered to speak in support of the LGBT Data Inclusion Act, which Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva proposed last month. The legislation would require federal surveys to ask voluntary questions about Americans’ sexual orientations and gender identities.
“Our national census does not include trans people, and when you’re not included, when you’re not counted, you’re often disregarded,” Cox said. “Stigmas around trans people that are continually being perpetuated could partially be eliminated if we had actual comprehensive data about who trans people are.”
Mathews said trans kids all over the world can point to Cox as an example of being happy and LGBT, a queer role model that didn’t exist in the media landscape when he was growing up in a farm town in the 80s.
“As a black, transgender woman being proud of every aspect of who I am, these intersectional identities … my big hands, my big feet, my deep voice, my height, my wide shoulders, all of those things that make me noticeably trans; trans is beautiful,” Cox said.
Watch Mathews and Cox below: