Remaining United as a Community and a Movement
I’m troubled by fractures I’m witnessing in the LGBT community where groups are pitting one against the other to the extent we are excluding groups from participating in events like pride. In the last six months, I’ve seen examples of LGBT law enforcement officers specifically targeted and deliberately excluded from participating in LGBT community events because another LGBT group claims discomfort or dissatisfaction with law enforcement – not the individual officers being excluded, just generally with law enforcement. And I’m hearing more threats from anarchist-type extremist groups who wish to disrupt pride parades this year if law enforcement participates in the event. That’s right, these groups don’t even want other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, who happen to be law enforcement officers, marching because they somehow pose a threat.
The very reason we have pride celebrations today is to mark the occasion of several notable conflicts between police and the LGBT community. Some of these conflicts, such as the Compton Cafeteria riots and Stonewall riots were exceptionally violent, but they caused a shift to happen. The created change that today includes LGBT people serving in the rank and file in law enforcement. Straight allies in law enforcement work to support the community and have, for more than a decade, marched together with the community in pride parades across the country. In those early years, we were screaming for acceptance, support, and respectful treatment by police. We worked to build a relationship and the police worked with our community. It’s unacceptable that a small minority voice who has a beef with police would be able to exclude members of the LGBT community from participating in our community event.
Look, these are challenging times. There are wide ranging opinions and beliefs about law enforcement, but exclusion is not the answer to fixing these problems or to building community. I’ve said many times that you can’t have it both ways – wanting a relationship and trust, but not wanting participation by police in community events – especially when those participating are also members of the community. Aside from the obvious hypocrisy, it’s not in our interest as a community to fragment. We need EVERYONE, including allies, to be with us in our fight for equality and to stand against the challenges we face to our civil rights. The very last thing we need to have happen in our community is to break apart, to lesson our numbers, or to become any less visible than we have been. In fact, the opposite needs to happen. We need to become more united, more visible, and recruit additional allies.
To those who reject corporate sponsorship and participation in pride celebration, I say don’t be a fool. The money sponsors bring to the event pays for the permits, venues, and our ability to be seen and to share our message with the world. The visibility corporate contingents bring to a parade shows the strength and commitment of our allies. This is what we were craving in the early years and what we desperately need to continue our fight. We cannot do it alone and any extremist group that thinks we don’t need the involvement of large organizations and corporate funding is naive. Every gain we’ve realized over the last 8 years has happened in part because of strong support from allies and corporate America. United with our allies we must remain.
The anarchists and extremists who advocate exclusion and disruption of pride events are working against the movement and our community. They seek to harm, not help. In fact, I question the motivation of these groups and suspect they create disruption for the sake of doing it and for whatever personal gain and satisfaction it might bring to the individuals involved. I doubt it reflects at all their commitment to the movement as a whole. Disrupting or stopping a pride parade is not an effective way to address grievances with law enforcement. It will only alienate our own community and those who stand with us.
I call upon all LGBT organizations, large and small, to stand together and to reject the efforts of any group to exclude law enforcement or other LGBT people from participating in community events like pride. LGBT organizations needs to take a stand and condemn obstructionist behaviors. We must reject fragmentation and we must stay focused on achieving our goals for civil rights and equality.