The apology from James P. O’Neill was long overdue, and it sounded sincere.
After days of “straight pride” and other confounding, stupid and vile incidents at the start of this historic LGBT Pride month, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the present New York police commissioner finally struck the right note towards the LGBT community.
O’Neill, the present police commissioner, said Thursday, “I think it would be irresponsible to go through World Pride month and not speak of the events at the Stonewall Inn in June of 1969. What happened should not have happened.
“The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple. The actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize. I vow to the LGBTQ community that this would never happen in the NYPD in 2019. We have, and we do, embrace all New Yorkers.”
As reported in The New York Times, the auditorium applauded his remarks.
“As New Yorkers, we’re honored to be the first American city to ever host World Pride,” O’Neill added. “More than three million people from around the globe will be here to take part in this month-long celebration, and it is our job to keep every single one of them safe, and to make sure they feel safe, too—and nobody does that better than the NYPD.”
It was an apology that took 50 years to come—a case of absurdly better late than never—but it was welcome. O’Neill also announced the formation of the Lavender Alliance, seeking to include LGBTQ businesses in the city’s counter-terrorism liaison between police and commercial operators.
In his words O’Neill was seeking to reaffirm the NYPD’s commitment to LGBT people, and also, presumably, to the many LGBT NYPD officers who march in the city's main Pride parade. The presence of those police, and the presence of so many police on the ground, is one factor that has led to a rebel Pride march this year.
As reported by The Daily Beast, the Queer Liberation March will also take place on Sunday June 30. There will always, for some parts of the LGBT community, be a general mistrust of the police. That mistrust is rooted in the harshly experienced past: from Stonewall itself to entrapment, to the lack of proper investigation into anti-LGBT crimes, and general police homophobia, many police forces—not just in New York—have had much negative history to make up for.
O’Neill’s statement is a strong one in the line it intends to draw; LGBT activists will seek to hold him, and the NYPD, to his word.
O'Neill's apology had another layer: it was, after all, for a series of events and actions in 1969 that ultimately ignited a vigorous civil-rights movement that had been set in motion (it should never be forgotten) by Frank Kameny and the brave Mattachine campaigners of the 1950s; a civil-rights movement that has helped galvanize legal and social change, that has saved countless sanities and lives, and that has brought happiness, pride, and strength.
What Stonewall birthed is to be celebrated and congratulated. If it hadn’t have happened, perhaps another totemic gasket would have blown. For what the Stonewall demonstrators did, and what they inspired, LGBT people today have so much to be grateful for.
Indeed, Pride month should be focused on that. But this Pride month has begun on a magnificently awful set of notes. First, there is the gaslighting madness of Boston's planned ‘Straight Pride March,’ which is sadly no joke, but rather a piece of vicious homophobic trolling.
Even if its creators weren’t “members of a far-right organization with a penchant for anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric,” as Will Sommer in The Daily Beast reported, the idea itself is based on a by-now familiar grievance.
That grievance is, in supporters of Straight Pride terms: LGBT people, you’ve gotten too uppity. Why can’t you be satisfied with what you’ve got? Like, we don’t want to kill you. Isn't that good enough? Why should you have a ‘Pride’ event, and we can’t?
It gets exhausting for LGBT people to keep having to repeat this, but we clearly do need Pride; indeed we need it, and all the businesses who make rainbow-colored millions off it, to be on side every day because our slim set of rights and protections are under attack every day.
There are specific laws against LGBT people. There are specific rights and protections that straight people have that LGBT people do not, hence the effort to pass the Equality Act to at least give us that.
Instead, the Trump and Pence administration have made it brutally clear they wish to expunge LGBT rights and protections. Their headline efforts—like the ban on transgender people serving in the military—have bloomed alongside a multitude of other actions.
The administration is proudly aligned with the idea that “religious liberty” should be the ultimate, legally-protected opt-out card for anyone wishing to deny LGBT people and couples the goods and services they are seeking to buy or use. President Trump’s Pride well-wishes of last week were cloud cuckoo-land absurd.
The last few days have also seen the completely bizarre justifications of YouTube, as to why it will effectively allow the homophobic, racist abuse of Vox journalist Carlos Maza to continue.
Three black transgender women have been murdered in Dallas in the last eight months. The body of the latest woman, Chynal Lindsey, was discovered on June 1.
Today, Thursday, a Detroit man was charged with killing three people—two gay men and a transgender woman—allegedly because they were LGBTQ, reported the Detroit Free Press.
In Britain, Ann Widdecombe, a vicious Tory dinosaur turned Brexit Party politician—who has long turned her narrow-minded, judgmental tirades into a pantomime routine—held forth on television about why “The fact that we think it is now quite impossible for people to switch sexuality doesn’t mean that science might not be able to produce an answer at some stage.”
Widdecombe compounded her offensive idiocy by using gender transition as a comparison to prove her point.
On his visit to the U.K., Trump added to the Pride month poison by lying, or simply being ignorant, about the reality of gender transition when he claimed to Piers Morgan that, in regards the ban on trans people in the military, “The operation is $200,000, $250,000. And getting the operation, the recovery period is long, and they have to take large amounts of drugs after that.”
LGBT campaigners, experts, even the Department of Defense, say the figures and the scenarios Trump laid out are untrue; Trump’s ban appears to be based—surprise, surprise—on misinformation and prejudice.
And this is just a random sampling of anti-LGBT stupidity and bigotry in two countries; Pride is also a month to remember the countries in the world where you can be killed, tortured, or imprisoned for being LGBT.
The shame of this month is the practical lack of engagement by the Trump administration with LGBT rights, in America and abroad.
And that is why the admission by Commissioner O’Neill on Thursday afternoon is so important. So far this Pride month, LGBT people have been reminded, in the worst possible ways, of the need for a Pride month in the first place.
Homophobia is not only present in law-making, and in those attacking LGBT people online. But now, with the Straight Pride March in Boston, homophobia is being marketed as an act of wink-wink humor; a great big raspberry at the loud queers.
It’s offensive because the objection is to our political and cultural progress; the reality is we haven’t progressed to full legal equality. These straight bigots not only don’t want us to have equality, they would rather we shut up completely.
That won’t happen. Carlos Maza will hopefully still make his videos, despite the presence of those permitted to abuse him. Millions of people will march in and cheer LGBT Pride marches and protests around the world. And activists and campaigners will never stop fighting until equality has been won. Just like the generations of LGBT people before us, we will be there for LGBT people who need help, support, and advocacy.
On Pride day itself in New York City, the two current faces of LGBT pride will be on display. There will be two marches: a Queer Liberation March and the main Pride march.
The first march is a reaction to the second, the big one, with all its corporate floats and police presence (both on the streets and in the march itself). You can join the first march if you are not with a corporation. You can just hit the streets and holler.
The second parade will be as it has long been: a great, big mix of everything, and yes, evidence that the power of the rainbow has now become big business. It is OK to feel that this is both a sign of progress and also a commercialization of a spirit of rebellion that has little to do with any brand name.
But both these marches are ones of celebration; both are statements of presence, resistance, and inclusion. Whatever Pride march you go on wherever in the world, it will be nothing like the Straight Pride March in Boston—a parade of sheer, pathetic inadequacy, and therefore the polar opposite of an LGBT Pride march.
Don’t boo the Straight Pride attendees, don’t shower them with the abuse they richly deserve, don't shout at them, as we Pride-goers have heard many times all too clearly, that they will go to hell. Ignore them. Show them the gayest, most devastating rejection: Go to brunch.