Begun in 2022, Riverside LGBTQ+ Pride has honored individuals and organizations that have made positive contributions towards the advancement of LGBTQ+ equality and advocacy in the Inland Empire region.

2023 Recipients

Barry and Jo Ann Rayshel

Barry and Jo Ann Rayshel are known for their steadfast support of the LGBTQ community in Riverside and the Inland Empire by running PFLAG Riverside for over twenty years. When their child came out in the Summer of 1996 they wanted to know what organization could help them in not only better understanding their newly out son but also an avenue where they could be of service to the LGBTQ community. Their son suggested PFLAG, the nations first and largest organization uniting parents, families and allies to create an equitable and inclusive world for the LGBTQ community.

Jo Ann and Barry have been involved in the Riverside LGBTQ community in many capacities since 2000 and do all that they can to provide guidance and support for the many calls they receive on a daily basis.

The Kiwanis LGBT+ Club of Southern California

The Kiwanis LGBT+ Club of Southern California is a local service organization comprised of a variety of individuals who believe in taking a leadership role in helping LGBT+ Youth and enhancing the community in which we live. Whenever there is a need in the community, they step in and support in any way they can. The club has planned Pride events in Hemet, where the need is great but the community hasn't been completely supportive. They've helped provide T-shirts to a local GSA club to promote themselves to new members. Their club puts together back to school backpacks and winter backpacks for homeless/foster LGBTQ+ youth. They even have a binder program that provides binders to transgender and non-binary youth.

LGBTQ+ Association for Student Success and Equity (LASSE)

In 2020, a group of fierce and dedicated individuals came together to form the LGBTQ+ Association for Student Success and Equity (LASSE), a community of classified staff, teachers, and students united in their mission to advocate for and support the vibrant and diverse LGBT student population at their school. This group hit the ground running, tirelessly working to address critical issues facing the Riverside City College campus including pushing for more inclusive name and gender-changing policies for transgender students, recognizing the barriers that such students face when navigating a system that fails to accommodate their identities. They created a space that not only provides a safe haven for students to talk about issues they face on campus but also serves as a place to hang out and build connections with other students, a second home.

2022 Recipients

Michelle Williamson

Mama Michelle is a mother to all at VIP. She shows love, compassion, and support to all those who come to her and has been a role model in many young peoples lives within the LGBTQ community. She hosted a beginner drag night at VIP before the pandemic, to support those young LGBTQ+ people in their endeavors to be true to themselves and live their life. Mama Michelle is, personally, someone who has helped me through difficult and dark times, when I once had thoughts that maybe life wasn’t worth it. She may not realize just how deeply she has affected people, and I hope that someday she does, whether it’s at random or through recognition. It’s not just that mama supports and shows the community love though, she has raised her entire family to do so. Papa Steve and Mama Michelle have raised an amazing family that treats people of LGBTQ community with respect and love.

La Sierra University PRISM

PRISM’s campus advisor wrote: the PRISM officers are deserving of the Riverside Pride award because they thrived in the face of religious adversity. PRISM is a student-created and managed LGBTQ+ organization on the La Sierra campus, which is a Seventh-day Adventist university. The officers are and/or were Cameron Martinez, Jesus Noriega, Chloe Gabriel, Julio Rubio, and Alessandra Ramos. I cannot think of a better group of individuals to receive this award. They are truly an inspiring group, and I'm proud to know them. The PRISM officers lobbied for equality and equity on a campus that claims to be liberal. The group received pushback, though, and their voices were sometimes ignored. However, that did not discourage them– it empowered them.

The PRISM officers brought topics to light the conservative campus would have rather kept in the dark. They bravely called out bullies in authority positions, and they taught the campus community valuable lessons based on LGBTQ+ experiences. For instance, they tackled the issue of instructors refusing to use gender-affirming pronouns and new names during classroom instruction. Additionally, they discussed the safety needs of transitioning students living on campus, as well as the necessity of all-gender bathroom access. Besides taking on the campus, PRISM took to the community and participated in a fashion fundraiser benefitting True Colors LGBTQ Homeless Youth Foundation. They also arranged a community food drive sponsored by IEHP. All in all, they opened the eyes of many individuals. However, the lasting impact is the one left on their own cohort. They challenged the beliefs of their fellow students, many of which were raised in conservative homes where LGBTQ+ persons were demonized. I truly believe they laid the groundwork for a more accepting campus community. Their work will not be forgotten.

Toi Thibodeaux

Toi’s impact on the LGBTQ+ community is felt both professionally and personally. She has served as the Assistant Director for the LGBT Resource Center at UC Riverside since 2008, and she is the current co-chair for the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on LGBT Students, Faculty & Staff. Toi is role model for queer students of color on the UCR campus; she established BlaqOUT, a discussion group for LGBTQ+ students who are Black, African American, or of African descent. Toi also organizes donations for students in need and helps ensure that all students have access to the help, guidance, and care they need. Toi’s kindness, selflessness, and drive make her more than a leader and a mentor, she inspires others to make the community a better place. Toi’s nominators described her as a lighthouse for queer youth who feel lost. Toi isn’t just a leader in this community, she makes leaders and inspires advocates.