A Year Later, LGBTQ Activists From Trans Queer Pueblo and Phoenix Pride Are Still Divided

A Year Later, LGBTQ Activists From Trans Queer Pueblo and Phoenix Pride Are Still Divided
Diego Nacho/Graphic Design + Photography
A week before Phoenix Pride takes place, the organizers and LGBTQ migrant rights activists are still deeply divided over the presence of police and corporate sponsors at the parade.

In 2017, activists from Trans Queer Pueblo briefly shut down the parade to ask Phoenix Pride to stand up for the rights of LGBTQ undocumented immigrants. The response to their demonstration revealed a less-tolerant side of the gay community. Paradegoers in rainbow beads yelled racial slurs, pushed and shoved the protesters, and chanted, "Get out of our Pride."

Trans Queer Pueblo hasn't indicated yet whether they'll hold another demonstration at this year's parade, which takes place on Sunday at 10 a.m. But they'll be holding several of their own alternative Pride events this week.

After last year's parade, Trans Queer Pueblo and Phoenix Pride sat down for a series of meetings to try to figure out a way to move forward. While some board members from Phoenix Pride were supportive and expressed a desire to be more inclusive, Bailon said, they also haven't made the changes that TQP was asking for.
"We have presented our demands, now it’s up to the Pride board to move forward," Bailon said. "When they’re ready to have a deep understanding of how different systems of oppression have an impact on our lives and bodies, we’ll continue pushing through together, because we understand our road to liberation has to include everyone."

Jeremy Helfgot, the spokesperson for Phoenix Pride, said that the festival's board had made good-faith efforts to engage with Trans Queer Pueblo, and had initially been optimistic about the possibility of bridging the gap between the two organizations.

"Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago, TQP told us they were simply withdrawing from that process of dialogue," Helfgot said. "There wasn’t really an explanation given as to why."

One major point of disagreement for the two organizations has been the role of Bank of America and the Phoenix Police Department at the parade.

Trans Queer Pueblo has criticized Bank of America, the event's main sponsor, for investing money in companies that operate immigration detention centers. They also contend that the presence of police officers makes it hard for people of color to feel safe at the event.

But both Bank of America and the Phoenix Police Department have a history of supporting the gay community, Helfgot argued.

Bank of America was one of the first corporations to begin offering same-sex domestic-partner benefits 20 years ago, he pointed out. And the Phoenix Police Department is one of the few major departments in the country with a dedicated bias crimes unit that investigates threats against the LGBTQ community.

Helfgot said that Phoenix Pride is always looking for ways to make the parade as inclusive as possible, and hopes to continue the conversation that started last year.

"The issues that TQP and their allies are pursuing are issues that are very important to us, and that we’d like to continue to work with them on," he said.

For now, the two groups are heading in separate directions. TQP's plans for the week includes a vigil outside Eloy Detention Center, a forum for Phoenix mayoral candidates and an open mic session outside the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. Their goal is to remind people that Pride started as a protest against against police brutality, led by with two transgender women of color.

"The biggest thing that we saw last year was the reaction of people that had no knowledge of history, or how Pride started," Bailon said. "I think we’re going to start seeing that across the country, organizations like ours will hold their own Pride celebrations, because we’re tired of trying to move the needle."
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Antonia Noori Farzan is a staff writer at New Times and an honors graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Before moving to Arizona, she worked for the New Times Broward-Palm Beach.