Living as an openly queer-identified individual is an inherently political act. If you’re transgender, a person of color or low-income, it is also a revolutionary and extremely dangerous act.

The Portland Press Herald’s coverage of the Pride parade and corresponding festival did a great disservice to those who bravely weather discrimination and bigotry on a near-daily basis for either how they identify or for the color of their skin. I’d like to draw attention to the wonderful folks who took the stage in Deering Oaks during the festivities, as they read the names of the more than a dozen transgender women of color who have been brutally murdered in this year alone.

Race, gender and sexuality have been intertwined in the battle for our mutual liberation since the very genesis of the gay liberation movement at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. That riot began because of a concerted effort to brutalize and harass young, impoverished queers living in New York’s Greenwich Village, most of whom were black or Latinx (a gender-neutral term for the Latin-American community).

So why shouldn’t the Black Lives Matter cause be brought up at a Pride event, a day after Philando Castile’s killer walked free? Why shouldn’t our communities come together in solidarity, striving to battle the dark shadow of injustice, wherever it might hide?

Press Herald Pride coverage repeatedly referred to Donald Trump and what was described in a photo caption as “the lack of political overtones” at the parade and festival. I know this may surprise the reporters at the Press Herald, but there is actually more to politics these days than being explicitly anti-Trump.

Their neoliberal, and frankly bourgeois, take on the activist scene in Maine has ground the gears of more than just their conservative counterparts. Why not report on the multiple Islamophobic and transphobic signs seen in the crowds during the Pride march down Congress Street? Or the significant rise of violent hate crimes committed against many minority communities across this nation after the ascension of the Trump administration?

A little over a month ago, I had my own experience with just how dangerous it can be to live as an openly transgender individual in this supposed progressive bastion. While walking home from the neighborhood gay bar, Blackstones, in my favorite pair of heels no less, I was tripped by two middle-aged white men and called a “faggot.” While I was on the ground, they kicked me twice in the ribs, and punched me in the face before running off with the $20 bill I had in my wallet. The detective later assigned to the case commented over the phone to me that “Portland is a very safe city.” It sure didn’t feel that way to me last month.

There’s a variety of solutions that City Hall and Portland police could pursue, least among them putting some decent lighting throughout the Parkside neighborhood. Inevitably, though, they will have to challenge the toxic culture that exists within our policing communities.

As the Press Herald reported last week, a recent survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 62 percent of Maine respondents reported verbal harassment or physical assault at the hands of the police, while 59 percent of Maine respondents said they would feel uncomfortable asking the police for help. Why are those numbers so high? What can policymakers and police chiefs do to find solutions to these issues? Listening to those most affected might just be the best way to start.

Ultimately, Pride organizations across this nation are coming to grips with some serious demographic shifts in the LGBTQ+ community, as we’re starting to look younger, more gender-nonconforming and increasingly racially diverse.

This challenge should be seen as an opportunity to build bridges so we can center voices that suffer most in our society. You need only venture down to the Preble Street Teen Center to see that a significant plurality, if not an outright majority, of youth affected by homelessness identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning or other. Where are they in the Pride organizers’ minds when we plan our week of events?

I suspect a change in the tide is coming, as old political and social realities begin to dawn on us in light of the resurgence of far-right populism throughout the world. My hope would be that Pride would change along with the world: “Adapt or die,” as the saying goes. Next year’s ethos for Pride Portland shouldn’t be “Love is love,” as warm and fuzzy as that sounds – it should instead proudly declare a gender and sexual “Revolution!”


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