What Pride means to you often depends on where you grew up, how your friends and family reacted to your coming out, what your current socio-economic status is, what your race is, and where you are in the world. It can be how you see yourself as part of, or not part of, the LGBTQ+ community.
For many, Pride is now a big party celebrating acceptance by the at-large community. They watch or march in the parade and celebrate where the LGBTQ+ community is today. Many march under the banner of their employers celebrating the recognition and acceptance they have received from them. Others march with groups they support such as PFLAG, GLAAD, the Trevor Project, Whitman-Walker Health, or the Stein Democratic Club. There are politicians who march to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community and others who march with their church or synagogue to show how welcomed they are.
It is important for everyone to understand while we have come a long way we still have a long way to go for full acceptance in our society. We must also recognize many members of our community have yet to feel the love or acceptance. For people of color, two-spirit, transgender and others, acceptance has not reached the level it has for gays and lesbians who are born to white privilege.
Last year the Pride parade was stopped a number of times by a group calling itself No Justice No Pride. They claim to be “a collective of organizers and activists from across the District of Columbia who exist to end the LGBT movement’s complicity with systems of oppression that further marginalize queer and trans individuals. Our members are black, brown, queer, trans, gender nonconforming, bisexual, indigenous, two-spirit, formerly incarcerated, disabled, white allies and together we recognize that there can be no Pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.” So their method of protesting and calling attention to their issues was to try to ruin the day for everyone else. I question whether it worked for them.
They threaten to do the same thing this year. But this year they can no longer make the claim they did last year when they said “For years, Capital Pride has ignored the concerns of queer, trans, Black, Latinx, and Two-Spirit communities in D.C. regarding its complicity with entities that harm LGBTQ2S people. Since March 2017, No Justice No Pride has been working to ensure that Capital Pride addresses our concerns, but time and time again we have been dismissed.”
This year they have not been dismissed. They were invited to every meeting of Capital Pride. The president of Capital Pride is African American; trans and other members of the group were offered seats on the board. The chief of police in D.C. offered to meet with them and they turned down a meeting.
So this year we must question what their real motive is and whether it is simply more publicity for the few leaders of the group. No Justice No Pride has yet to show it represents anyone other than themselves. D.C. has for years had an award-winning MPD Liaison Unit to the community. They are widely respected and their sergeant is a transgender woman. Demanding they be excluded from the parade or telling them they can’t wear the uniform is nonsense. It accomplishes nothing.
I support actions to make life better for the groups they claim to represent. As a white queer who was closeted until the age of 34, I can never fully know what life is like for someone who isn’t granted white privilege by society as I have been. But I can be supportive of their efforts and recognize my privilege also comes with a responsibility to help end racism and the structural racism in our society.
I hope the group takes a long look at what their efforts last year accomplished. What strides did they make and what changed for the people they represent? It is fine to blame others for not listening or doing anything; but every activist leader, no matter what issue they are fighting for, also has a responsibility to look at themselves and to change their tactics if the ones they are using aren’t benefitting the people they claim to be fighting for.
I don’t know what the group calling themselves No Justice No Pride will do this year but I hope they will realize ruining the day for thousands of others is not the way to get what they want for the people they claim to represent. They may find instead of protesting and trying to stop the parade that if they marched in it they would have hundreds marching with them and will find they are cheered. Maybe they should hand out flyers along the parade route to thousands explaining what they stand for and educating people who till now don’t recognize many of the valid points they are making. They could find that a more productive way of moving forward the goal of equal justice for all.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.