By Joe Borders
Marriage and Family Therapist
Police Will Be Marching In Uniform At Sacramento Pride!
Why A Lot Of People Are Angry About This!
I’ve been watching the news unfolding over the last couple of weeks regarding police presence at this year’s Sacramento Pride. Recently (on the 6th), the Sacramento LGBT Community Center announced that they would allow police to participate in Sac Pride and march in uniform. Lots of people have been pissed about this. I’ve talked with several people over the last couple of days who have not understood why people are so upset. Here’s the deal:
- Pride originated as a protest against police brutality towards the LGBTQ community.
- Some in the LGBTQ community are rightfully afraid of police! Especially trans people of color.
- Pride is supposed to be our safe place, for members of the LGBTQ community to come together in a show of solidarity against a world that largely rejects us.
What’s Going On
As far as I can tell, police have always been involved in Sacramento Pride. As is to be expected, anytime there is a large gathering of people, the city needs to manage security and safety. This issue is about them actually participating in the event while in uniform.
Last year the Sacramento Police Department agreed not to participate in Sacramento Pride. At the time, this came only a couple of months after the police shooting of Stephon Clark in his grandparents’ yard. The reasoning behind this decision was that many people in the LGBTQ community might rightfully feel angered by or fearful by the presence of police in uniform.
This issue was brought up again this year, and last week, the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, which is responsible for organizing Sacramento Pride put out an announcement that said that police would only be welcome to participate in the event if they were not in uniform. In a facebook post, they said
“To honor the pain and marginalization of community members who have been harmed by police violence, we have asked Sacramento Police not to participate in uniform for the 50th anniversary of Stonewall,”
This was met with approval by many in the LGBTQ community. However, just yesterday, the Sacramento LGBT Community Center put out another announcement that reversed their prior decision, saying that they would now allow for police to participate in uniform. They couched this in an explanation that the police department had agreed to create an LGBTQ liaison in its outreach unit, to create an “LGBT community advisory committee”, and to work with the LGBT center to co-create a new training program that “elevates the voices of marginalized LGBTQ community members and discusses the role of implicit bias,”
There has been a lot of talk in the community about all of this over the past week. There has even been some talk of corruption at the highest levels of the Sacramento LGBT Community Center. Two days before the announcement of welcoming uniformed officers to Sacramento Pride, The Sacramento City Counsel advanced a budget that included $750,000 to go towards the Sacramento LGBT Community Center.
There has been backlash from many community organizations in response to all of this. Even the LGBT Community Center itself has voiced discontent with its board of directors! Just yesterday, many of the employees at the Sacramento LGBT Community Center put out a notice demanding the resignation of their own board members.
In addition to this response by many who work at the LGBT community center, yesterday The Lavender Library officially announced its withdrawal from participation in this year’s pride. Instead they are hosting a protest event that is scheduled to overlap the two days of Sac Pride.
The Gender Health Center has also voiced their discontent with the choice to allow uniformed officers to march this year:
Why People Are So Upset About All Of This
The Origin of Pride
The first Pride event was the direct result of police brutality on members of the LGBTQ community! In fact, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots: The events that lead to the very first pride. The Stonewall Riots started on June 28th 1969. At that point in time it was very much illegal for people to be LGBT, and people in the LGBT community were routinely subjected to police raids where they were beaten and jailed simply for congregating with members of their community and/or not dressing in “gender appropriate attire”. The Stonewall riots marked the beginning of the LGBT community’s resistance to this and the foundation of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.
In light of this, many see the idea of police marching at Pride as….very wrong. Pride originated as a push back against police brutality. To many, inviting police to openly participate in Pride feels like inviting the proverbial wolf to the sheep party…even if we assume that they’re kind, good natured wolves, the sheep still have reason to not want them there.
History of Violence Against The LGBTQ Community
The LGBTQ community has been subject to an extensive history of violence and police brutality. Violence upon trans people, especially those of color is so common that we have to have an annual trans day of remembrance for all those lost to violence each year!
Some of the concerns raised by members of the community have been that many people are rightfully fearful and distrustful of police. You’d like to think that things have changed and people should feel more comfortable with the police than they did in the days of Stonewall, but you have to keep in mind that our city was where Stephon Clark was killed!…just a little over a year ago!
Members of the LGBTQ community are legitimate and valid in their fears of police! Having them march in uniform feels scary, unsafe, and almost like its forgiving/glossing over the transgressions of the past!
Pride is Ours!
There are very few places in the world where members of the LGBTQ community can get together with each other, feel accepted, be themselves, and truly celebrate who they are. Pride is not a political forum to force the easing of historical tensions between the community and police. Pride is something that is truly cherished by many members of the LGBTQ community and people really look forward to it. For cis-het people, I often make the comparison of it being like that convention you go to where you get to be around a bunch of people who are into the same thing. You feel comfortable there and like you can truly let loose and be yourself.
All of this comes at the same time that people in Boston are considering having an annual straight pride day. I’ve heard a couple of people make statements along the line of “straight pride day is no different than 363 other days in the year where its totally cool and accepted to be straight.” Let us have this one day! If we don’t feel comfortable with police marching in our day, let it go!
An End Note
I don’t get to go to pride this year because I have a newborn at home and many doctors are advising parents to stay away from crowds for 3 months after a baby is born….because of the threat of measles. In a way I’m glad I’m not going. I hope every one stays safe and has a happy pride! In my worst fears I imagine police marching in the parade with blue lives matter banners and people rioting. I don’t think that’s going to happen, but I know tensions will be high. Stay safe! If you’re an ally, be there for your LGBTQ loved ones! Share this article with people so they know whats up!
About the Author
Joe Borders is a non-binary/genderqueer, pansexual marriage and family therapist located in Roseville and Sacramento. His pronouns are he, him, his. Joe is primarily a sex positive gender therapist, but also specializes in working with couples, teens, addiction, and the LGBTQ community. He is also the owner and founder of SacWellness. You can find out more about him by visiting his sacwellness listing or by visiting his website: therapy and counseling in Roseville and Sacramento