While frustrations mount over the election of Donald Trump as president, Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan hopes Pride's legacy remains more reflective of the tragedy suffered by the community this year.
“I’d prefer we leave this election out of it,” Sheehan told The Advocate. “We have enough with Pulse and honoring our victims.”
A number of protesters demonstrated against the Trump/Pence ticket at Lake Eola Park in Orlando on Friday evening, a day before the annual Pride event kicked off at the same venue on Saturday. The protest was billed on Facebook as a stand against the spread of racism, misogyny, homophobia and hate, Sheehan, the state of Florida’s first out elected official, hopes Pride remains focused on the long-term fight for the expansion of LGBT rights. “Longtime activists know this is not the time or the place,” she says.
That’s not to suggest she was satisfied with the election of Trump. Already, she has heard from teachers in Central Florida who report emboldened teenagers picking on Hispanic students. But the fault for Trump winning Florida’s electoral votes and the White House, as far as Sheehan is concerned, lies with a failure for Democratic voters to turn out. While she notes Orange County, including Orlando, came out for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, the coalition that delivered Florida to Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 simply didn’t turn out this week. Too many voters either stayed home or voted third party, a protest against what they viewed as an imperfect candidate in Clinton.
Sheehan doesn’t think much of critiques of Clinton from the left either. “If I try and explain it to Millennials,” she said, “it’s like a video game where as you play, you build up levels of the game. Well, now you’ve put us back to zero. And when you always have to start from zero, you can’t build on that to get what you want.
“You have to vote in every election, not once to feel good, and not only when you get everything you want. Make a commitment to vote in every election. Until that time, we are stuck on this roller-coaster.”
Sheehan said already there was bound to be a certain malaise on Pride. “Believe me, there is a sense of depression and ennui in the city on Wednesday. It wasn’t even a gloomy day. And long-time activists were horrified to watch all this unfold.” But the Pulse shooting, which occurred in Sheehan’s district, still stands as the more important event for the LGBT community. “This community certainly came together after Pulse,” she said.
City officials expected Pride to be the largest celebration in city history. Originally scheduled for October, the event got moved to Saturday after Hurricane Matthew threatened the state last month. But Luis Martinez, the City of Orlando’s director of multicultural affairs and the LGBTQ liaison, says interest in Pride remains high post-Pulse. “This community is more united than ever,” he said. “The Latino community and LGBTQ community have merged into one as far as supporting each other, which is something I have never seen in the past.”
The parade route for Pride is longer, and more than 150,000 people attended.
“We are going to remember the 49 victims and 53 injured in a colorful, family-oriented way,” said Martinez. “It’s a great opportunity to show the world the city of Orlando is stronger, more united and more welcoming.”