OPINION: GOAL Is the Wrong Choice for Grand Marshal of Pride

The selection of a police group to lead this year’s parade is tone-deaf.

Here’s a not-so-fun fact: Every year, Philly Pride does something that sours me on our city’s LGBTQ community.

Whether it’s the lack of creativity in venue selection, the disproportionate number of cisgender gay white men dominating the event, or the lack of a queer-cultural embrace that intersects the community, Pride often fails to represent everyone.

But this year, the selection by event organizer Philly Pride Presents of the Greater Philadelphia Gay Officer Action League (GOAL) — a year-old regional law-enforcement organization whose members identify as LGBT — as grand marshals of the Pride parade on June 12th has left me beyond disappointed.

The community has been divided over the announcement since it was made a month ago. One side — led by Philly Pride executive director Frannie Price — believes that the choice best matches this year’s theme, “Are You Connected?,” which is meant to encourage community involvement. The opposition — represented by a Change.org petition with more than 250 signatories — believes that “the honoring of GOAL is antithetical to the spirit and history of Pride, which grew out of the commemoration of the Stonewall riot.”

I don’t take issue with the fact that openly LGBT officers want to participate in Pride — they definitely should — but I find the appointment of the group as grand marshals of the first parade it will attend far-fetched. Grand marshal status at the Pride parade has historically been a recognition of a long record of community service — honorees have included the late Gloria Casarez and Charlene Arcila — but GOAL has yet to prove it will have a lasting impact on the community. It’s admirable that the group was formed, but why not just get a booth during the festivities rather than take away an opportunity for a more experienced organization to be honored? The local black HIV/AIDS advocacy group COLOURS, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, would have been a more deserving recipient.

Furthermore, in light of the long record of mistreatment of LGBTQ individuals at the hands of police nationwide, honoring police officers so soon at Pride appears to be more political than progressive. Too much of Pride this year seems to be tinged with governmental influences: Mayor Jim Kenney is being named a “Friend of Pride,” while a group of LGBT city employees will be the parade’s other grand marshals.

The backlash that has been growing since the announcement is another sign of how Pride politics don’t fully account for the intersectionality of the community the organization serves. At a time when LGBTQ members of color face higher incidences of police discrimination and harassment, we can’t ignore those individuals when making decisions intended to include them. The publicity value of having out police officers lead the Pride parade shouldn’t outweigh the level of offense it will inflict upon certain segments of our community.

If you are interested in finding out more about why Philly Pride Presents selected GOAL as grand marshals, a meeting has been scheduled by the organization for 6 p.m. on May 25th at the William Way LGBT Community Center (1315 Spruce Street). And those who want to see further action taken against GOAL’s participation should check out the meeting scheduled by the creators of the petition starting at 6 p.m. on May 26th at the Leeway Foundation (1315 Walnut Street, #832).