In a press conference held at City Hall yesterday, St. Louis, Missouri Mayor Lyda Krewson took to the podium flanked by members of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the Pride St. Louis Board of Directors.
Mayor Krewson announced that she did not believe that a previously announced decision to ask that members of the police department march in the Grand Parade in civilian clothes would be in the best interest of inclusion.
This statement from the Mayor’s office, as well as a rash of negative response by members of the St. Louis LGBTQIA community on social media, forced a vote by the Pride St. Louis Board of Directors and an unexpected reversal of their previous decision to honor the local transgender and non-binary community. Jordan Braxton, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Pride St. Louis, expressed a desired to work in tandem with the city to improve upon known issues, and read the following statement:
Noticeably missing from the podium were members of the Metro Trans Umbrella Group (MTUG), the area’s advocacy and support organization being honored this year as Grand Marshal in the PrideFest Grand Parade.
Several members of the Pride Board of Director wore Trans Ally shirts in support of their trans siblings, but members of the transgender community present at the conference were noticeably disappointed and could not in good faith stand in unity.
Sayer Johnson, Executive Director of MTUG, released this statement via social media immediately after the press conference aired on local news; and just before sending out a call to his community asking them to come together and hold space.
This year, 50 years after the Stonewall riot, we were cautiously optimistic that we would finally be seen by our own community. Earlier this year, the board of Pride St Louis decided to center gender expansive and trans lived experiences by holding us up as grand marshals in honor of 50 years into our movement. When we agreed to take our place as grand marshals, we agreed to make our bodies vulnerable; we put our most marginalized community members at risk once again, especially our siblings of color. While hesitant, we agreed despite knowing that uniformed, armed police officers who have historically and presently criminalized our bodies would be in the parade. We have strained at best, and violent at worst, relationships with police officers. There has been no indication or effort made to gain an understanding or awareness by the police of who we are and what our community needs from our police officers. We knew that our constituency would be resistant to marching with armed officers however we wanted to work with the Pride Board and Parade team. Once the decision was made to exclude armed, uniformed police officers we finally felt seen, heard, understood and centered. Watching the backlash from white, cisgender gay and lesbian and straight community members, we realize that there is so much more work to be done. More than 50 years into this fight, we are not safe even within our own movement. So what are we going to do now? We don’t know. For right now, our leadership core is at a loss for words. We are disappointed. We are frightened. And, now quite frankly, we are much more aware of the massive targets on our backs put there by the Federal government, our state legislature, and our own community leaders.
Initial reaction from many in the St. Louis transgender and non-binary family has been anger and fear. Many are unsure how to react and group support forums on social media are active with people reaching out to each other as they try to navigate this as best they know how.
There is speculation that MTUG plans to pull out of the Grand Parade eschewing their Grand Marshal honor. There has been no formal announcement and we cannot confirm this plan.
What is clear at this time is that those who screamed that the reason they believed that the police officers should be allowed to wear their uniforms while marching in the parade was out of pride and unity; need to now understand that when they once again so quickly and conveniently forget the letter “T” in LGBTQIA, they will be the ones with blood on their hands.
Just look how far we’ve come as a community in the past fifty years. What a proud day this is.