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Why a Trans Group Interrupted Phoenix Pride

phoenix pride, toronto pride

The disrupters in Arizona were inspired by Black Lives Matter's action at Toronto Pride.


The group known as Trans Queer Pueblo wants Phoenix Pride to go back to the roots of Pride.

Pride has become too corporatized, says the group, and LGBT people should remember and honor the lives of trans women such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, who led the resistance against a police raid at Stonewall back in 1969, a moment that is heralded as the beginning of the modern LGBT rights movement.

When Trans Queer Pueblo was looking for a way to capture the attention of Phoenix Pride's leadership, members looked towards Black Lives Matter-Toronto. Black Lives Matter-Toronto halted Toronto Pride last year, asking for the event's organizers to ban police from the celebration and to include LGBT people of color. Trans Queer Pueblo had their own list of demands at last weekend's Phoenix Pride -- members halted that event's parade so they could recite their demands, but they were removed by police before they were able to.

Dago Bailon, a member of Trans Queer Pueblo, says Toronto was important because it proved that it was possible to change the mindset of an established LGBT organization. When Black Lives Matter-Toronto provided Toronto Pride with their list of demands last year, the organization agreed to meet with them and work towards fulfilling their requests; Toronto Pride banned the police from future pride events.

"Toronto last year was incredible," Bailon told The Advocate. "It pushed us to start a conversation, not only locally in Phoenix, but throughout the nation on the importance of having large institutions like pride organizations and the Human Rights Campaign to take a stand on social justice, racial justice, and gender justice."

Karyna Jaramillo, one of the members of Trans Queer Pueblo, asked in a video released prior to Phoenix Pride, "Have we forgotten Stonewall?" What are LGBT people celebrating in 2017, asks the video. "Marriage equality, inclusion, adoption. But do you think marriage equality keeps us safe at night?"

This question is at the heart of Trans Queer Pueblo's action at Phoenix Pride last weekend. The group wants the LGBT community to pay attention to the rising murder rates of trans women and to the LGBT undocumented immigrant community locked up in detention centers. The Phoenix activists criticize LGBT groups and Pride organizations for championing corporations who donate or sponsor events to make themselves appear as if they are supportive of equality.

"Pride becomes this one day where organizations and corporations can say, 'Look, I am inclusive,' and then the next day when our brothers and sisters are getting deported or killed, nobody really takes a stand," Bailon says.

Trans Queer Pueblo is critical of Phoenix Pride's friendly relationship to the police. The Phoenix Police Department has a float during the parade and the Maricopa County Sheriff also participates in the event. In a video released prior to Pride, Trans Queer Pueblo said, "Pride is a product placement and cooperation with the same police that deports us." The group also called out Bank of America, one of the leading sponsors of Pride, because the bank "finances the incarceration of our people."

The group, like Black Lives Matter-Toronto, demanded Phoenix Pride cut ties with the police. The activists also demanded that Phoenix Pride stop working with corporations, such as Bank of America, that fund the incarceration of LGBT undocumented people housed in detention centers. The group wants Phoenix Pride to denounce SB 1070, the famous "papers please" law that allows police to ask people about their legal residency status.

Trans Queer Pueblo is planning on meeting with Phoenix Pride in the upcoming weeks to talk about how the group can become more inclusive of LGBT people of color and how it can take Pride back to its roots of activism.

"We are hoping that when we sit down with Phoenix Pride that it's not just this one time where they say we'll meet your demands and then two years from now they're actually back to corporate sponsorship," Bailon says. Instead he hopes that Phoenix Pride agrees to establish a review committee and that the organization is intentional in including LGBT people of color in decision-making "because that is the only way that we will truly move forward."

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Yezmin Villarreal

Yezmin Villarreal is the former news editor for The Advocate. Her work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Mic, LA Weekly, Out Magazine and The Fader.
Yezmin Villarreal is the former news editor for The Advocate. Her work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Mic, LA Weekly, Out Magazine and The Fader.