By Sylvie Griffiths:

Last weekend my family was invited by my former employer to join the festivities for Tampa Pride. Jake, our youngest, was on the float representing HIV care related services in Pinellas County. There were thousands of people in attendance, and it was indeed a beautiful day. And that beauty was found in many places.

Besides the love, acceptance, and inclusion represented by the event, we felt an overwhelming sense of pride. It almost gave me goosebumps. Major for-profit organizations, state and local leadership and several churches and synagogues all participated in the parade. These floats not only represented this celebration of inclusion and diversity, but they also contributed funding. Thousands of attendees, from different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, religions, and gender identities came together to support the LGBTQ community.

As the parent of a child who identifies as transgender, this opportunity for Jake to be a part of such a day was essential to my husband and I. We have mostly experienced open-minded acceptance and support during these times, but there have been some people who do not value our choices regarding this matter. We not only attended as allies but as supporters of our child’s choice of gender expression. Jake had the best day participating in the parade. His smile was seen by many of my co-workers on the float; his enthusiasm was contagious I was told. I think these photos will bring our family joy for years to come.

Besides being participants and spectators in the parade, we met my good friend and his parents. They, of course, fawned all over Jake and asked him how he liked being in the show. My dude is pretty cute. My friend happens to be the young gay man. His parents are his biggest fans; his father had shirts made for the occasion. The shirts read “Proud Mom” and “Proud Dad,” and had a rainbow heart on them additionally. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to be judged for just being yourself. But I have witnessed the opposite; acceptance, and it is beautiful.

I aspire to be like these parents. My friend was raised to be himself, and he is very successful and already owns his own business before the age of 25. I believe because of that love, encouragement, and unwavering acceptance, my friend, has grown into the amazing person that he is today. My husband, after the event concluded, and our weekend settled down, reflected on how beautiful we felt that day. We were elated, entertained, and most importantly proud. I am not the perfect parent; none of us are! And we are hard on ourselves as we attempt to raise decent human beings in a harsh world. But being at that parade gave me so much hope for the world Jake will grow up in. I am proud of all my children. I am proud of their differences. I am pleased with my choices of how to raise them. And we will wait anxiously for next year to attend the parade; Jake is already planning his outfit for the 2019 Tampa Pride parade.

About Sylvie Griffiths:

Sylvie is a happily married mother of four who enjoys writing, people and chocolate.

She is an Evaluation Associate and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Healthcare-Adult Community Concentration, from the University of South Florida. She holds more than ten years of experience in performance assessment and behavioral health services and is currently enrolled as an MBA student at Springfield College, School of Professional and Continuing Studies.