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Pittsburgh Pride, Delta Foundation, and the Bigger Picture

Tomorrow is the culmination of a year’s worth of work for the Delta Foundation. The day will start off quite early- some volunteers beginning almost at the same time the Pride in the Street festivities this evening, end. At the end of Sunday evening, Pittsburgh will have had another fantastic Pride. Pittsburgh will have celebrated, danced, marched, networked, and there was probably some other fun stuff in there too.

I’m an old fart and have been living in Pittsburgh since 1978. Heck I was visiting family here and sneaking into the original Tilden underage well before that. I was dancing at Pegasus before some of the hoards of young people that make up todays Pittsburgh LGBT community had even been conceived. I have seen Pittsburgh Prides for a very long time, and while as a blogger, I have the opportunity, or the obligation to be critical, it also has to be said that we, the Pittsburgh LGBTQ community has so much to be grateful for. A huge part of that is what the series of events it is today.

There are two aspects of 2013 Pride that I want to highlight as being of enormous importance. They are so big, and I’m not sure anyone has really highlighted them as they deserve.

Pride and LGBT(Q) Visibility

I know, Delta doesn’t use the Q, but I’m going to because IT IS a real part of the whole of the community. 

Each year Dealt has made crossroads into different parts of Pittsburgh and increased the overall visibility of Pride.  Pride isn’t just this thing our rainbow community does, but it is an essential part of the heartbeat of the City of Pittsburgh. In past years, this was signage and electronic displays at PNC or UPMC, two of Pittsburgh’s biggest employers. This year, that visibility extended out to Pittsburgh International Airport, where travelers from all over saw a huge banner there in the middle of the terminals. You know the protest saying, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it”? Well this banner is one way to demonstrate that guess what, we aren’t so special anymore. The City is used to us. We are now just another part of the rich tapestry of neighborhoods and people that make up what we call Western PA. Not only is Pittsburgh used to us, but they embrace us and love us and want to show off their pride in us, and pride in the way we are an integral part of the whole.

I love Pittsburgh. I have lived here almost my entire life, and I choose to make this my home because I love Pittsburgh. I want to see the city thrive and sparkle and and be a leader for other cities, as well as being a phenomenal place to live. The visibility efforts, like this banner are steps that help build the LGBTQ community into the very foundation upon which this City is growing and and beginning to truly thrive. We- gays. lesbians, bi, trans, and queers are part of the folks making this such a perfect place to live, work, love and be.

Pride and Public Safety

As thousands make their way downtown this evening or tomorrow, they all have no idea of the many and details efforts that have been made to keep Pride a very open and safe event. Public safety has been a major part of Pride planning every year and this year, I’m sure has been the same. Months ago, I was in a Pittsburgh Police Zone office, talking to the commander, and he remarked how Gary Van Horn had been in to seem him earlier that week. Visibility is not a good thing without safety.

But there is another aspect to safety I want to highlight. This year, for the first time, the acting chief of police will be marching in the Pride march. This is truly huge, and the efforts towards this began two years ago, as Chris Bryan and I began to work with a zone 5 out-of-the-closet officer to increase the appearance of the police at Pride in a supportive way.  And this year, Delta has outdone itself by doing the ground work- building the relationships needed- so that the head of the police department will be there, with the City’s LGBTQ community marching.

It is easy to find people in our community who do not trust or value the police, and it isn’t just Pittsburgh. Truly the police can be implicated as being actors perpetuating bias against our community. Stonewall, the event and subsequent riots that followed in New York City which we commemorate with Pride, was all about a police presence which was not supportive. Even today, an investigation is underway into the NYPD about anti-gay bias.

But we are also seeing an increase in homophobic attacks on members of the LGBTQ community across the globe.  LA, France, England, NYC, and even as close as Columbus OH, targeted attacks are increasing. WE, the LGBTQ community need the police to be there for us, to maintain our safety as we are a part of the whole of the civil society they protect.

No one single act, like police leaders participating in a march, can alone build the trust and mutual support needed between the Pittsburgh Police and the LGBTQ community, but it is no less that a huge step forward towards that ended relationship. The police are demonstrating their commitment to being allies to our community, and that is no small thing. We have a tremendous police force of many women and men who act professionally and do a great job for our city. Not every officer fits that, but when you place the head of the whole police department in such a visible place as the march, it sets a tone that no bias against the gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and queer community will be tolerated.

With any organization, event and endeavor, it is always easy to find things to critique, and that is a meaningful part of expecting change and progress. At the same time, too often there are meaningful and valuable efforts that go un rewarded, and they too must be heralded as a part of that progress. Thanks to the Delta Foundation for their hard work and efforts like these I highlight here.