“Are you ready?”
With those three words, my partner Carl DeMaio took my hand, squeezed it, and the two of us started down the parade route in this year’s San Diego Pride Parade.
I almost did not walk in the Pride Parade this year.
I want to share with you why – and why I am so glad I did.
First, let’s recall why Pride came to be.
The LGBT community was tired of living closeted lives and we developed Pride events to show that we were, indeed, proud of who we are.
Pride is supposed to be a time when we as an LGBT community, and our allies, come together in mutual support and show our Pride.
Unfortunately, some LGBT community members decided to put politics above Pride this year.
My partner Carl DeMaio is running for Mayor – and could become the first LGBT person elected Mayor of our city.
Carl won the primary election because he’s a fiscal reformer who had the courage to speak out when the City tried to sweep fiscal problems under the rug. He has shown leadership in crafting a “reform agenda” to fix the problems, and has gotten a lot of reforms done at City Hall.
Naturally not everyone agrees with Carl’s fiscal reform agenda – namely the government labor unions. The unions know that Carl’s reforms are wildly popular with the people – which is why Prop B on Pension Reform passed with 66% of the vote, won even Democrats, and carried every City Council district.
So to keep Carl from becoming Mayor, the labor unions are trying to use other issues to defeat him.
There’s nothing wrong with that – that’s just politics.
It’s no secret that there is a long-standing alliance between labor unions and many members of the LGBT community. To their credit, labor unions have helped us in our fight for equality.
Unfortunately, in this year’s Mayor’s race, some LGBT community members are putting their allegiance to labor union politics above what is right for the LGBT community and our efforts to achieve full equality.
This year’s Pride Parade provides a perfect example of this.
For four years, Carl and I have proudly walked as a couple in the Pride Parade.
This year, the labor unions helped organize and fund a “Turn Your Back on Carl DeMaio” campaign. They spread outright lies about Carl along the Parade route.
Worse, they encouraged behavior that is the antithesis of what Pride is all about: mutual support for the LGBT community. Regardless of politics, profession or personality, Pride should be the one time everyone comes together to stand united.
So as Carl and I started walking in the Pride Parade, I was indeed apprehensive.
To my surprise and relief, it was a good experience and validated my belief that positive change will always win out over hate.
Fortunately, the vast majority of Pride Parade attendees greeted Carl and I warmly. The hugs, kisses, hoots and smiles meant so much.
There were others who probably do not support Carl politically, but still showed mutual respect – recognizing what Pride is supposed to be about.
Sure there was a smattering of boos and hisses – but previous generations of LGBT Pride attendees had to deal with far worse.
It’s just a shame that the boos and hisses in this year’s Parade didn’t come from homophobes, but came from some within our own community.
For those handful of LGBT activists who are so committed to union politics that they spent their Pride Parade engaging in this negativity, I actually feel so sorry for them.
They chose to use their energy and talents to try to turn what was supposed to be a happy day of celebration and pride into one where people expressed anger, hate and mistruths. And they put politics before Pride.
I learned a lot from this year’s Pride.
First, the experience reminded me of the sad reality that is there has been a tremendous amount of infighting for years in the LGBT community.
When Harvey Milk ran for Supervisor in San Francisco, his strongest opponents came from within the LGBT community and some of his strongest supporters came from outside. Funny how history sometimes repeats itself.
Second, I learned a lot about leadership.
At the end of the parade, someone told Carl and me how disgusted they were with the behavior of some on the parade route.
His response was the same as it always been when nasty attacks are hurled: “No one is going to run me out of my own community.”
But this time he also added, “Sometimes leadership means taking heat from the very people who will benefit the most.”
Those who seek to tear others in our community down are not leaders. Those who work positively to build our community up are.
The bitterness we sometimes see in the LGBT community perhaps will never change – but for my part, I will continue to focus on advancing equality in a positive way and by supporting others who do the same.
If you feel the same way, join me – and encourage anyone you see engage in this behavior to reconsider and put their energy and talent to constructive efforts to achieve full equality.
Thank you for your continued support of SDGLN, SDPIX and Hale Media.
Publisher of Hale Media
As a matter of full disclosure, SDGLN Publisher Johnathan Hale has a personal relationship with Carl DeMaio. Their relationship in no way impacts the editorial decisions made by Ken Williams, SDGLN Editor in Chief, and does not influence our political coverage. Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @KenSanDiego on Twitter or at (877) 727-5446, x713.