Op-Ed

In response to the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando; the deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota; and the deaths of five police officers in Dallas, Men of All Colors Together-Philadelphia felt compelled to release our thoughts on these tragedies that affected all Americans: gay or straight; black, white or Latino; police or non-police.

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On Sunday, Philly Pride was aware of the unfolding of events in Orlando, but certainly none of the specifics. Our volunteers and coordinators were on the street as early as 5:30 a.m. and continued our PrideDay parade and festival with an overwhelming presence from the Philadelphia Police Department, unaware of the grisly details that would emerge over the next several days.

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Last week, in response to a derisory letter from the board of the Liberty City Democratic Club (LCDC), a meandering change.org petition concocted by one of said board members that garnered only 350 signatures, and the divisive rhetoric of fringe activists, the Philadelphia chapter of the Gay Officer Action League (GOAL) nobly removed themselves from serving as Grand Marshals of this year’s Pride parade. As much as their withdrawal reflected GOAL’s standing as understanding and responsive member of Philadelphia’s LGBTQ community, their decision was also a disappointment for many.

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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.

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*The below letter was sent to Philadelphia City Council on behalf of Philadelphia Family Pride, Equality Pennsylvania, William Way LGBT Community Center and Philadelphia FIGHT in support of the Sugary Drinks Tax.

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Any inmate who has taken a trip to Philadelphia’s State Road House of Corrections knows exactly what the terms “pumpkin patch” or “pumpkin suits” mean: They refer to the orange jumpsuits all inmates are required to wear, and when all of us are gathered together on a cell block, we look like a pumpkin patch. My soul flinches when I hear people talk about the popular Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” because, on the show, prison looks exciting, adventurous and integrated. However, if you ask any African-American who has been to a correctional facility in the United States, orange has always been black.

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