By Nik Rasheta (also published at http://theabhaus.blogspot.com/)
In April 2012 the police department that I work for announced that it was going to allow uniformed officers to March in the Phoenix Gay Pride Parade. Officers everywhere around me were upset with this announcement and were feeling like they were going to be represented by an ideological position that they did not agree with. Growing up in a conservative religion (Mormonism) I felt the same tug and abhorrence at this news and felt offended by it. I was completely uneducated and ignorant of perspectives and ideas that would tolerate and even celebrate such a public acceptance of the LGBT mindset.
On April 11th I did a Google image search for “Gay Pride Parade” and began to imagine uniformed police officers and the Honor Guard detail that was being requested marching in front of or behind the people and floats that I was observing in my Google search. I read the words from the Gay Pride Parade website that said the parade “intends to promote unity, visibility, and self-esteem among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons” yet I was observing images on my Google search that evoked words such as arrogance, insensitivity, flaunting, haughtiness, immaturity, and rebellion. In my moment of emotional indignity I drafted a letter to the Chief of Police demanding an answer to why some officers were being allowed to represent all officers in a parade that would be in most of their opinions grossly inconsistent with their values. I pushed send on my email and waited to see what response would develop.
I did not go to the meeting and I decided that if my email and my name were going to be used for or against such a polarizing topic, I better get more understanding and education on this topic. The first education I received was through my conversations with my gay and lesbian co-workers. I was humbled while speaking to them. I knew that although they had every reason to despise me they still opened up their hearts as I spoke to them and asked questions about their “choice” to be gay or lesbian. I quickly felt that their choice to be that way was just as illusory as my choice had been to decide I was straight. All the wishing and pretending in the world would never make me feel attracted to the same sex and suddenly I realized how ignorant it was to think the opposite was justified or desirable toward them.
Exactly 6 months after writing my letter to the Chief I decided to draft a second letter but this time it was written to the commander who had initiated our department’s involvement in the parade. She is openly lesbian and I wanted to reach out to her and attempt to heal some of the pain and wounds I was feeling inside of me. I felt like my first letter had been written out of ignorance and was influenced by cultural biases. My emotions had been triggered by the images from a Google search that turned out to be very inconsistent with the pictures and scenes from the Phoenix Gay Pride Parade that they ended up marching in. My world views were becoming much more focused and were founded on educating myself to both perspectives and hearing stories from the other side. I expressed my deepest apology to her for contributing to the opposition she must have faced when she challenged the department to show more equality by marching in the parade. I told her that I thought she was an admirable person for being true to herself and for standing proud in the face of so much cultural and religious bias and ignorance against her. I apologized for adding any weight to the opposition and I told her that I know that I stood in the wrong when I didn’t join in the walk side by side with all of my co-workers seeking equality in that parade. I asked her to keep up the good fight for equality and to know that one more person has joined the ranks to help our department and community and culture become more aware of the inequality that faces those who wish to live true to themselves with same gender attraction.