Many people have had friends who have died before their time. Circumstances are sometimes murky, but in some of those cases, people tragically took their own lives. Those of us in the queer community are hit particularly hard by this. I know that, among my own circle of friends, the death of Pup Phoenix (Seattle Daddy’s Boy 2014, a popular figure in the queer and leather communities) was a terrible and unexpected loss, as we struggle to find meaning and move forward in a positive way from these tragedies in our community.
Seattleite Judd Shapiro decided to do something about it, forming a local nonprofit 501c3 (recently incorporated) organization called Pride Lives, dedicated to suicide prevention in the LGBTQ community. I spoke to Judd about his work and the impetus for creating this organization.
“When I moved to Seattle in 2014, I saw members of this community had fallen victim to suicide,” he explained. “When that happened, we would mourn together, share our memories, and then go back to business as usual until we lost someone else. That just isn’t good enough. I felt that we can and should do more. I formed Pride Lives so that others in that situation could easily find resources to get the help they need.”
He explained that he had personally attempted suicide in 2002, and felt that resources and support for him at the time were scarce and difficult to find.
Pride Lives’ mission is to serve communities affected by suicide in the spirit of building bridges that span divisions and support empathy. The corporation’s officers and volunteers work to strengthen ties in the LGBTQ community, bring an end to suicide in the community; support survivors, their families, and friends, and educate the public in an effort to improve communication and end social stigmas.
“Pride Lives is different from other Seattle organizations in that we do not have members,” Judd mentioned. “We have a Board of Directors who plan and guide the efforts of the organization and its events and we have volunteers who join us in our efforts. Anyone who shares our goals of suicide prevention can be part of Pride Lives. The individuals who became the Board of Directors were either members of one or more existing Seattle LGBTQ organizations or close friends. Each of us has committed to running Pride Lives for the benefit of the community and independently of other groups.”
“We were born from the local leather organizations,” he noted, “but we are here to serve any LGBTQ individuals or families who are affected by suicidal thoughts, attempts, or the loss of loved ones. As we continue to grow, we hope to do more each year to deliver on that vision and promise.”
Last November, Pride Lives did a suicide prevention walk, going from business to business and handing out materials.
“People were incredibly receptive,” he indicated. “I found a number of like-minded individuals who wanted to jump right in, advise, donate time, and help build those initial efforts. On the day of the event itself, 25 volunteers marched in the pouring rain and distributed our postcards and posters to 22 businesses across Capitol Hill.”
Judd added, “While I learned not to book an outdoor event in Seattle in November, I also learned how much we can accomplish with the right people and a good idea.”
This year’s Pride Lives Walk will be held Saturday, September 17, just a few weeks away.
“When the Pride Lives Board held our rehearsal walk to visit businesses as a small group, we found a good number of last year’s businesses still have our posters or postcards on display!” he exclaimed. “We also recruited 17 brand new business partners who want to see us during our event. It’s shaping up to be a great second year.”
“We hope that anyone affected by suicide will use our materials and efforts to get the help they need,” Judd said. “We also hope that anyone passionate about this issue will join us as we move forward.”
“If you are reading this, you are Pride Lives.”