After a Bruising Controversy, Metro Trans Umbrella Group Withdraws From St. Louis Pride Parade.

Metro Trans Umbrella Group (MTUG) has pulled out of Sunday’s Pride Parade with a surprise announcement by MTUG Executive Director Sayer Johnson on St. Louis Public Radio.

“So much of the conversation has been taken over by this parade when so many in our community aren’t even getting their basic needs met” Johnson said. “Pride for us is a mark of survival, not celebration.”

Many board members have been personally targeted, and have lost friends over the controversy.

The Board of Pride STL sought to honor and highlight the Trans community’s contributions for Stonewall 50, but faced intense backlash and even threats over a request that officers marching not be uniformed this year. Proposed compromises included officers wearing shirts that read “LGBTQIA+ Officer” or MTUG shirts, but were resoundingly rejected by representatives for police marchers. In the end, a press conference was held in the office of Mayor Lyda Krewson reversing the decision.

The group was to participate as grand marshal.  

A STLPD tactical vehicle at the 2017 St. Louis Pride Parade. The Trans community requested police marchers have a toned-down presence for Stonewall 50. Photo by Scott Lokitz, courtesy of Pride STL.

Pride STL’s Police Uniform Decision Reversed. Trans Leaders Devastated.

For the first time, Pride St. Louis decided to put the Trans community front and center in the parade in honor of Stonewall 50. Going a major step further, they attempted to ignite a discussion about Trans issues by asking police marchers to wear civilian clothing for this year’s celebration. Another idea was for unarmed officers to march in MTUG shirts. While many like myself enjoy seeing uniformed police in the parade as a symbol of how far we’ve come, other communities have very different realities. There are many marginalized people who don’t call the police when they need help. This was an opportunity to discuss that.

It didn’t go well.

Most in opposition genuinely felt this proposal was discriminatory and disrespectful to LGBTQ officers. They kept to those general talking points, and a few even offered a kind word to Trans friends and their supporters. Many others, however, poured gasoline on the controversy with hyperbolic, defamatory and discriminatory statements about both the Pride St. Louis Board as a whole, individual members–many who were sent hateful messages, and the Trans community.

I’ve been saying for over a week that proposals are often scrapped (remember the $5 entry fee?) as details are finalized, and today the Board has reversed the request after winning a concession from STLPD to attend diversity training.

Below is MTUG’s official statement:


This year, 50 years after the Stonewall riot, we were cautiously optimistic that we would finally be seen by our own community. Earlier this year, the board of Pride St Louis decided to center gender expansive and trans lived experiences by holding us up as grand marshals in honor of 50 years into our movement. When we agreed to take our place as grand marshals, we agreed to make our bodies vulnerable; we put our most marginalized community members at risk once again, especially our siblings of color. While hesitant, we agreed despite knowing that uniformed, armed police officers who have historically and presently criminalized our bodies would be in the parade. We have strained at best, and violent at worst, relationships with police officers. There has been no indication or effort made to gain an understanding or awareness by the police of who we are and what our community needs from our police officers. We knew that our constituency would be resistant to marching with armed officers however we wanted to work with the Pride Board and Parade team. Once the decision was made to exclude armed, uniformed police officers we finally felt seen, heard, understood and centered. Watching the backlash from white, cisgender gay and lesbian and straight community members, we realize that there is so much more work to be done. More than 50 years into this fight, we are not safe even within our own movement. So what are we going to do now? We don’t know. For right now, our leadership core is at a loss for words. We are disappointed. We are frightened. And, now quite frankly, we are much more aware of the massive targets on our backs put there by the Federal government, our state legislature, and our own community leaders.

An irony in all this is many of MTUG’s natural allies sat on their hands due to their general opposition to Pride St. Louis, ceding the field entirely to those opposed to the proposal. That of course was not helpful, but will be self-serving for the masturbatory cynics who can now say “I told you so.”

Pride is a community organization that answers to the community. They held firm longer than I could have expected, and hopefully the concession they won has some impact on the lives of people in our community. I commend their efforts.

I believe in the long run some good will come from this, mainly a better understanding of Trans issues. But for now, calls for unity will ring hollow after refusing to even listen to one another.  We all limp towards Stonewall 50 battered and bruised.

And for those who have been drunk on rage, you’re going to have a hangover from Hell.