It’s Pride weekend here in the San Francisco Bay Area and in other major cities around the country including Chicago and New York. It’s an exciting time with many fun events, parades, and festivals. It’s cause for celebration, parties, and flying rainbow flags everywhere. The President, Speaker of the House, and many other supportive politicians at the state and local level signed proclamations, posted personal messages of congratulations on YouTube, and waved at cheering crowds in parades from Market Street to Greenwich Village. For those of us under 60, it’s pretty easy to look beyond the origins of our Pride celebrations and to forget that our cause for celebrating started with a violent confrontation with police. In fact, it was one of many violent confrontations with police that happened in cities all over the country. The cause of the conflict? The very basic desire to be “out” at a bar as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgender. It’s easy to get wrapped up complaining about all of the rights we still don’t have today while forgetting about the changes have come about because of the personal courage those who came before demonstrated by standing up for the basic right to be “out” in public. The reality is that despite what we still need to accomplish, we have much to be proud of and much to celebrate thanks to those pioneers who gave us the reason to march in a Pride parade.
In law enforcement, we seem to be lagging behind the rest of society in our acceptance of LGBT co-workers. In fact, the homophobia in law enforcement resembles the kinds of childish bullying found in many high schools around the country. This homophobia is keeping a vast majority of LGBT law enforcement officers from being “out” on the job. But again, let’s not forget how far we have come as evidenced by the 14th LGBT Conference for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Professionals taking place this weekend in Chicago, hosted by the Chicago Gay Officers’ Action League. No, there is no typo there… it is the fourteenth! annual conference. There are LGBT law enforcement associations how on both coasts and sprinkled around the country in places you might least expect them to be including Iowa and Alabama. More and more, law enforcement professionals, who happen to be LGBT, are coming out and in doing so are changing the hearts and minds of their colleagues. This too is cause for much celebration.
This coming Wednesday, I have the distinct honor of being the keynote speaker the first multi-agency pride celebration of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, DEA, GSA, and FBI in San Francisco. This even won’t take place off site in some hidden location, but rather in Courtroom 5 of the Phillip Burton Federal Building. 300 people are expected to attend. The fact that this many employees will be coming together and openly celebrating pride in who they are is evidence and reason to be proud.
You know, you don’t have to wait until June each year to celebrate Pride. Celebrate the unique person you are every day. But this weekend as you are marching and partying, take an extra moment to remember all of those people who helped you get here today including those in your life who you know as well as those pioneers you may not have ever met.