By Virginia Kluiters

This year, Pride got political. Parade attendees at the 2018 NYC Pride March didn’t just march—they marched more loudly and boldly than before, asserting that their presences were in defiance of the country’s current climate. Men openly declared themselves feminists; trans and cis women walked the streets topless. The theme was, “I exist, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.”

Pride-goers always love having their photos taken, after all, why else spend hours bedazzling your body, getting the perfect glittery eye, and squeezing into spandex? Even so, there was an energy that hadn’t been there in years before—some people we spoke to were hesitant to self-identify and sometimes, to open up at all. And why wouldn’t they be? The LGBTQIA+ community has been under attack this past year.

Now more than ever, it’s essential to come together and include everyone, not just those who identify with the binary. Why Women talked to queer people at NYC Pride about why inclusion is important and why they celebrate love. Meet 10 Pride marchers who believe in creating space in the community not just for one, but for all, so everyone feels equally protected and respected.

Mercury, pansexual, trans nonbinary, they pronouns

Why Women: Why everyone?

Mercury: Personally, I’m actually non-binary, so I go by they/them pronouns. But, the LGBT community is made for people who weren’t accepted in “normal” society. And, basically there’s so many more genders and sexualities, and it’s important to embrace everything because people belong here. They should know that they can be accepted as being themselves.

Alexandra, bisexual, she pronouns. “I currently identify as a woman, and I’m also a cis female. I do, however, sometimes still have feelings of gender fluidity, but I don’t believe my identity as a girl will change again.”

Why Women: Why everyone?

Alexandra: In the past, I’ve identified as gender fluid and non-binary, and so finding the LGBT community at such a young age really helped me figure it all out and made me so proud of myself, and it just helped me a lot.

Brittany, bisexual, she pronouns, and Steven, he pronouns

Why Women: Why everyone?

Brittany: Pride is important because everyone should be accepted, and everyone should feel that they have a voice and that they can live their lives freely as they see fit, because we can’t put burdens on other people. It’s your life to live, how do you even have time to judge?

Steven: Well, Pride is important, and it’s important to be inclusive because it represents and speaks to what to be proud of in each person—that creativity, that special thing, that something that goes unnoticed but is there inside of us. We all have that, so it’s good to be inclusive.

Elias, he pronouns

Why Women: Why everyone?

 Elias: To me, Pride is about there being no rules, everyone coming together, all genders, races, all interpretations of gender, and you look around the streets today, and it’s literally the opposite of the people who are in power and what they want the world to look like—a bunch of dehydrated old, white men who represent the rich. And so Pride, to me, represents a vision of what our world could be, and the best way to love each other is to fight for each other I think. I’m in a socialist, feminist organization because I think we need to think about revolution and fight for it so that we can have a world that looks like Pride every day.

Maya, she pronouns. “It’s a spectrum,” she says of her more fluid identity. (Maya left, with Sierra and Allison, she pronouns.)

Why Women: Why everyone? Why love?

Maya: Who are we to judge? Who are we to say who people can love and what they can do with their lives?

Chris, gay, he pronouns, and Johnny, gay, he pronouns

Why Women: Why love?

Chris: We are supported by our community, and what are we if not our community, and if we can’t love one another, then how do we get any of those other types of love?

Johnny: There’s nothing better than love, whether it’s the love we share as friends, or the love I share with my husband, or the love you have for the community as a whole. Love makes everything better. Love for me makes life worth living. So, I think that this all-inclusive love—letting you be who you want to be and letting you love who you want to love—I don’t know what the big deal is, because to me, it spells instant happiness. So, I think that we all could learn a lesson to let everyone be and love who they want to love.

Chris: Lift each other up!

Juliet, no pronoun preference, and Sasha, he pronouns

Why Women: Why love?

Juliet: I’m Juliet Germanotta, and love is for everyone! Oh, and fuck Donald Trump!

Sasha: Yes, love is for everyone! Live your truth and be happy, regardless of what anyone says or thinks.

Virginia Kluiters is an award-winning photographer and copywriter based in NYC. Her passions are visual and written communication. Over the years, she’s worked with many fashion, beauty, and lifestyle brands to produce evocative and effective marketing copy and visuals. Her photography has been exhibited internationally and included in publications such as Dodho Magazine and the LensCulture Portrait Awards. Her written work has appeared in Prairie Margins, Colonnades, Huffington Post, and Verge Creative Group. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

This article originally appeared on The Why Women Project.