Every year I hear at least one person tell me that they are “burned out” on pride celebrations and I’m reminded of all the reasons to keep celebrating pride each and every year. As members of the LGBTQ+ community, we are living in extraordinary times. We are witnessing a civil rights movement that directly impacts each and every one of us and we should be paying close attention. But aside from the political battles going on today, pride month celebrates all of those heroes who came before us and who fought for the gains we enjoy today. The individuals who paved the way for our lives to be a little easier today are too numerous to list here, but let us not ever forget why those parades and festivals happen every year. And it’s not just the riots at the Stonewall Inn that we should remember. LGBTQ+ people have been fighting back for decades in different ways. In fact, it was 50 years ago this year that a lesser known similar riot took place at the Compton Cafeteria in San Francisco’s tenderloin district. People standing up and standing out for who they are fought back.
My police academy students are always a little surprised to learn that local law enforcement was at the heart of where today’s pride celebrations began. Law enforcement has been at the starting point of almost every civil rights movement. As LGBTQ+ members of law enforcement, we have even more reason to take time once a year to celebrate pride so that no one ever forgets those courageous individuals on both sides of our civil rights struggle.
Tragically, much of LGBT history continues to be invisible in high school and college history books. You have to look for it in order to learn, but our history includes much more than the 1969 riot at the Stonewall Inn. In our newest edition of Coming Out From Behind The Badge we’ve included a new chapter on LGBT history relevant to law enforcement. There are many other sources of LGBT history that you can research including classes that are now available at colleges around the country. Learning about some of the heroes who worked to make your life today a little better will certainly inspire you to celebrate pride.
There are many ways to celebrate pride beyond going to a parade or festival. Aside from taking an opportunity to learn about history, go to one of the many LGBT film festivals happening in June. Frameline 40, the largest LGBT film festival, is happening in San Francisco over a two week period in June. As the name suggests, it’s their 40th year. And if you are visiting San Francisco at any time of the year, stop by the GLBT Museum in the Castro. It’s a great place to explore our invisible history. If the big crowds aren’t your thing, host a pride party of your own and share one of the many LGBT themed films out there.
Finally, here is a challenge for those of you in law enforcement this pride season. Find one person you work with who doesn’t know you and share your story. Nothing a politician or legislator can do is more powerful in changing hearts and minds than that of your story. Starting that conversation can be as easy as wearing a rainbow bracelet or pin. Coming out is the powerful action you can take for yourself and to honor those many people who shared there story in times when it was both dangerous and illegal to do so – all so that we, today, can celebrate pride.