Celebration and Outrage

June 24, 2015

Celebration and Outrage: An Open Letter about the 2015 San Diego Pride Parade

By Stephen Whitburn, Executive Director, San Diego Pride

Thank you to all who plan to attend this year’s San Diego Pride Parade. I’m writing in regard to activism that may temporarily disrupt the parade’s flow.

This year’s Grand Marshal is the entire transgender community, and both Champions of Pride are transgender. We’re proud they’re leading the parade.

Pride was recently contacted by members of the transgender community who notified us of their plan to conduct multiple “die-ins” during which individuals will lie on the street, stopping the parade, while others encircle them with crime scene tape and read the names of trans* individuals whom we’ve lost this year to murder and suicide.

I obviously respect activism; it’s played a significant role in our movement for equality and fair treatment. At the same time, I respect others in the transgender community who do not wish for these die-ins to occur and who say they believe the Grand Marshal and Champion of Pride honors should be marked by celebration, not images of death. I’d further like to be considerate to our parade’s 200 contingents and 100,000 spectators, some of whom have asked us to minimize the stopping and starting and gaps that sometimes occur in the parade because they affect the flow of the experience for participants and spectators alike. There are several important interests to balance here.

I’ll never know what it’s like to be transgender. I’ll never know how it feels to be shunned for being transgender by many in our society including some in the LGB community. I’ll never know the fear and rage of being a trans* woman of color who has seen others like her murdered for who they are. I can only observe that within the transgender community there are both feelings of celebration for the honor and visibility that accompanies being parade Grand Marshal, and feelings of continued outrage as week after week brings a new report of a murder or suicide of someone who is transgender.

These feelings co-exist, and we should allow both to be expressed. Conflicted emotions are often our real experience, and there’s room in our parade for keeping it real. I trust those expressing their outrage during the parade will respect those who wish to celebrate, and I hope those in a celebratory mood will respect those who see it as an opportunity for activism. I think we’ve worked out a reasonable compromise under which three die-ins will occur at the beginning, the middle, and near the end of the parade route, and those in the trans* contingent who wish to celebrate will go first so as not to have to view the die-ins, while those conducting the actions will follow.

I also hope those watching the parade understand and appreciate that there will be both celebration and outrage. And perhaps there will be a couple of gaps. Our march toward equality and fairness has been full of starts and stops and conflicted emotions. Our march toward Balboa Park this year may be like that, too. In both cases, while it may be slow, I hope you watch our progress with pride.

Stephen Whitburn
Executive Director
San Diego Pride