By Special Guest Writer Manny Apostol, Communications Specialist
We finally hit the month of June! Happy Pride Month!
What is Pride Month you ask? Pride Month is about the promotion of self-affirmation, equality, dignity and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) people as a part of our society. This is the month you will see rainbow flags being flown all over the country. This colorful flag identifies and shows support of the LGBTQ community.
A brief history on why Pride Month takes place in June: The Stonewall riots started in the early morning of June 28, 1969, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood in New York City. In the late 1960's, it was illegal in New York for bars to serve anyone known or suspected of being gay, and police regularly raided gay establishments. Nevertheless, despite repeated raids, bars such as the Stonewall Inn offered a respite where gays could meet and socialize with some degree of safety. The Stonewall Inn was a popular local gay bar. However because it was a gay bar, it was constantly harassed and raided by the police. On this particular night, it was raided again and the patrons of the Stonewall, other area gay and lesbian bars and neighborhood street people fought back when the police became violent. These riots are widely considered to constitute one of the most important events leading to the gay liberation movement and modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States. Even today, the Stonewall Inn still exists and serves as a marker for the birthplace of LGBTQ rights.
Unfortunately, my experience with law enforcement got a rocky start. This first impression was back in the 1980’s when I lived in the southern region of California. I specifically remember a very ugly incident: I was walking on the sidewalk with a friend, and a patrol car slowly drove by us. As the patrol car slowly passed by the officer spoke through his amplifier to say, “Look at those two f*ggots over there”, and drove off. That one act of ugliness set the tone for years on how I would look at law enforcement. Cops were supposed to protect people. Instead, we were called names.
Sadly, even today one can see the overt aggression towards the LGBTQ community from some who identify with law enforcement. One simply has to look online. You see homophobic and transphobic memes being posted. People openly mocking others because of who they love, or how they identify. What is particularly shocking is that many of these are posted on groups created specifically for the law enforcement and telecommunication industry.
As an openly gay man in my department, I have had the privilege (which I recognize is still a privilege) of being able to work in an environment free of ridicule, harassment and the fear of being fired simply because of who I am and who I love. My department consists of many gay and lesbian folks, from dispatch to patrol and all the way up to our Sheriff. We have a transgender deputy who speaks to other police departments on behalf of our department and his community. It is wonderful to work for a department that values diversity and celebrates differences.
Our participation in the annual Pride Parade is particularly fun. My department’s participation in the parade sends a strong message to our citizens that YOU ARE PART OF OUR COMMUNITY AND WE STAND WITH YOU. I could not be more proud.
We as law enforcement can and have to do better. If you feel alone because of who you are, let me tell you: YOU ARE NOT. Your identity is not up for debate nor should it be decided by anyone except you. There are too many days wasted on comparing ourselves to others or wishing we were something we are not. Believe in yourself and stop trying to convince others who you are. Know that we all have something to contribute in this world and what you bring to the table matters. You matter.
I leave you with a wonderful quote from the Dalai Lama. I keep this quote with me at work and remember it every time I put my headset on:
“I believe that at every level of society – familial, tribal, national and international – the key to a happier and more successful world is grown of compassion.”
About the Author:
Manny Apostol is now in his 29th year with the King County Sheriff’s Office (Seattle, WA). Manny is a training officer, a member of his department’s public education team and the administrator of his communication center’s official Facebook page. In his spare time, Manny and his husband, Richard, scour the country’s garage sales and auctions in search of antiques to fill their 100-year-old house. Manny is also the administrator for the Facebook group “LGBTQ Community of 911 Emergency Dispatchers” and invites friends and allies to join.