2018 Capital Pride Parade (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
Pride celebrations have changed over the years and in many ways that is a good thing even if some have trouble with it. June is Pride month and this year even our disgusting president is getting in on it. It is reported he is the first Republican president to promote Pride month. This after he had taken action to install policies that hurt the LGBTQ community, including banning trans people from the military. I hope the + community doesn’t get taken in by his rhetoric in a tweet.
Each of us should have the opportunity to come out in their own time. But once you are out you need to live your pride each day to make it easier for the next person and the next generations. The LGBTQ community doesn’t always agree on how to do that. Once again there is a divide in the community revolving around whether corporate entities and the police should be able to participate in and help fund our festivals and parades. A very public example of this debate is occurring in New York between the leaders of the official New York City Pride March organized by Heritage of Pride and another group that has gotten a permit to have a counter march they are calling the “Reclaim Pride” march. Both marches will take place on June 30, the same day at the same time, along different routes.
The basic debate as I understand it is the counter march organizers believe that all the corporate involvement in the regular Pride parade dilutes its meaning. In this year’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall they believe in what some have called a ‘back to basics’ Pride parade.
While I can respect the feelings of those who believe corporate floats and police in uniform shouldn’t be part of a Pride parade it seems to me their view goes counter to all we have fought for over the past 50 years since Stonewall. Haven’t we wanted broad-based acceptance and recognition for members of our community? Why is it a bad thing if a corporation is proud to have its LGBTQ employees march openly under their banner in a parade? We want our community to be accepted everywhere. Imagine we now have police departments proud to have their LGBTQ members and other officers who support them march openly and proudly in a Pride parade.
Others object to the military participating in the parades. We fought long and hard to have members of the LGBTQ+ community be able to serve openly in the military. Why would we now not want them to march proudly in their uniforms we worked so long and hard to allow them to wear? I am not blind to the discrimination in our society, and even in our own community, especially toward people of color and women. I understand we must work day in and day out to end it. We must demand our police be appropriately trained and that we diversify our police departments. Too often individual members of the departments allow their racial biases to influence their actions and people of color and transgender individuals among others are threatened and even killed by those who are supposed to be there to protect them. We each must commit to see that end. But I am not sure banning members of police departments who are supportive of LGBTQ rights or are themselves members of the community from our parades helps in that fight.
Yes Pride celebrations have morphed from a small group of out members of the community gathering together, some surreptitiously, to citywide events in places like New York and Washington, D.C. New York Pride and World Pride that is being hosted there are expected to draw up to four million people to their various events from around the world. Yes it’s an economic boon for New York and I think the positive advertisement corporations get by having their employees march under their banners and sponsoring various events is great.
When we needed help fighting anti-gay laws in North Carolina and Indiana among other places we wanted and got the help of the corporate community. They stood with us. Isn’t that what we have fought to have happen for all these years? Those of us who are out need to live our pride every day of the year. We need to urge more and more people to come out and it’s so much easier if they know their neighbors and their employers say “you are welcome here and we support you.”
Whether that employer is corporate, the military or the police department we should want the welcome mat to be out for them at our Pride celebrations.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.