I was appalled and embarrassed to read that activists had bullied our gay and transgender police officers into stepping down from their formal role as grand marshals of Philly Pride. After the Greater Philadelphia Gay Officer Action League was invited to lead the parade, a Change.org petition circulated protesting the “impact” that inviting the group will have on the “accessibility and safety” at Pride — as if the gay and trans cops are going to drop their banners and start bashing skulls. Because we all know that simply being a police officer means you can never be trusted not to commit arbitrary acts of violence. The Liberty City LGBT Democrats piled on: due to the “important conversation” going on about police violence, “the invitation to GOAL sends the wrong message.” I’m sure Liberty City Democrats did feel quite “important” chiming in on this “conversation,” though it’s clear that they’ve drawn a conclusion on the matter far and away from that of most LGBT people in the city — and probably not even representative of most LGBT Democrats, a group of which I am not a part.
With threats of “action” if the protestors’ demands weren’t met, organizers of the parade heard the message loud and clear: Get in line or we’ll shut down your parade, just like we did in Boston and Chicago last year. The members of GOAL acted with total integrity and stepped down from the honor of leading the parade, saying “GOAL will not accept this honor until the community, loudly and proudly, decides we have earned it.” That seems like a call to action if I’ve ever seen one.
This round of “activism” should not be viewed as speaking for the majority, or even a plurality of the LGBT community, but rather as an action foisted onto us by a very vocal, very radical minority of fringe activists. I’d wager that the majority of LGBT people have a deep respect for our gay and transgender police officers, who not only risk their lives to protect us on a daily basis, but risk their livelihoods to be out and make change in a historically unfriendly institution. The result of their work for our community speaks for itself: Every police cadet is now subject to LGBT training, including on trans issues. The protestors said it was “privileged and isolated” to invite the cops, but it seems obvious how privileged and isolated it is to spit in the face of people making real change for gay and trans people in our city, all the while loudly proclaiming yourselves the inheritors of Stonewall. That protest, correctly cited as a riot against police, occurred in a completely different paradigm in which gay and trans people could not only not be out, we couldn’t go out in public for fear of legalized retribution. Viewing Stonewall as simply an anti-police protest projects our modern political discourse onto a radically different (and worse) social and legal atmosphere, and it is upon this alter of reimagined history that our gay and trans police officers have now been sacrificed.
What our community really needs is hate-crimes legislation, and comprehensive LGBT nondiscrimination at a statewide level. To do so, we’ll need to build and expand on our constituencies. This infighting sends a message that gay and trans rights are only for the radical, anti-police left, and thus does the opposite of getting us towards our goals. The rioters at Stonewall didn’t have the luxury of rejecting allies, because gay and trans people didn’t have allies — not in either political party.
Pride is a time to celebrate our community and its accomplishments. In 2016, we’re diverse and we’re mundane; we’re radical and we’re mainstream; and we’re inclusive of all walks of life. From the trans women who set off Stonewall to the conservative lawyer who helped bring about nationwide same-sex marriage, we all have our place in the festivities.
May we have courage to come out not only as gay and transgender, but for what’s decent and right. By cowing to fringe groups who want heads to roll, we’ve let down our brave gay and trans police officers. Happy Pride, officers – and, next year may we be better stewards to you who serve and protect us.
Albert Eisenberg is the Communications Lead for the Republican Party of Philadelphia, and has worked to bring Republicans onboard with LGBT rights during numerous statewide nondiscrimination campaigns.