Homeless for nine years starting at age 14, later fired from his job for beginning his gender transition, Jack Knoxville has witnessed dramatic change in how the U.S. transgender population is treated.

That change is apparent from when he began his own identity journey in 2002, but became especially evident after he ran for political office in 2015, and then kicked off the Trans Empowerment Project with a clothing swap a year later. 

So there is cause to celebrate this Pride Month.

But there is also a need to continue to press forward to support a population that Knoxville notes was, not so long ago, “essentially invisible,” even as gay rights increased nationwide. 

Pride Month began after the Stonewall Riots, a series of gay liberation protests in 1969, and has since spread outside the United States.

In honor of Pride Month, The Rockefeller Foundation made donations to seven organizations defending the rights of lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, plus (LGBTQIA+), including the Appalachian Community Fund’s LGBTQ Fund. That Fund, which strongly champions grassroots and community activism, has helped finance Knoxville’s group. 

The Trans Empowerment Project, a nonprofit founded in Knoxville, TN., and now based in Jacksonville, N.C., has reached a community of about 25,000 and provided direct aid to some 2,500—including food, clothing, emergency transportation, self-defense kits, Hormone Replacement Therapy support, and inmate commissary funds, for the trans and non-binary population. 

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