Column: Why Pride? Because progress is worth celebrating

Guy Saucier [Courtesy]

VIRGINIA BEACH — It’s been less than a year since I was appointed by Sheriff Ken Stolle as the first ever LGBT liaison for the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office. It’s been 18 years since I officially came out to my family and friends as being gay. Why did it take so long?

For a long time, the LGBT community was not accepted. It’s taken me my entire life of knowing and understanding myself and learning about other people to be able to have real “Pride” in humanity and in the LGBT community.

Why celebrate Pride? I often hear the question – why do people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, or LGBT, feel a need to have a whole month dedicated to them, and why do they call it Pride? Or, this sort of logic goes, if straight people don’t have a Pride month, why do gay people get one?

My standard answer is this: consider yourself lucky that you don’t need a Pride month. The LGBT community celebrates Pride to help bring awareness to our community and show that we are often still looked down upon as second-class citizens.

We just want what everyone else throughout the history of America has worked for – equality.

We want equal rights. We want to be treated equally across the board, not treated differently because of who we love. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, and I’m not looking for a debate or to change those beliefs. I’m simply stating that, in the history of the U.S. and Virginia, there have been a lot of changes for the positive. These changes are worth celebrating.

Once upon a time, women could not vote, drive a car or work. Then came equal rights protests, and all of that changed, including with the ratification of the 19th Amendment. This was a positive movement.

Once upon a time, a black person couldn’t sit at a lunch counter or attend a school with white people. Then came equal rights protests and laws banning segregation and discrimination. This, too, was a positive movement for our culture.

Once upon a time, a person who identified as being gay and loving a member of the same sex could be beaten and left for dead in the streets, and it wasn’t a hate crime until the LGBT community became protected by discrimination laws.

Once upon a time, it would not have been legal in Virginia for me to marry my same-sex partner. Today that is not the case. As I look at engagement rings, I know I can stay in Virginia to legally marry the man I love. This is a positive movement.

I grew up in Virginia Beach, and I’m a lifelong resident. I have seen our city in the best of times when the economy has boomed and neighbors help neighbors. I take Pride in knowing I’m part of the best city in the commonwealth by serving with the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office.

I’ve also seen the city at its worst during riots, floods and hurricanes. I’ve been called some nasty names and have had some nasty stuff thrown on me in the performance of my job as a deputy sheriff.

Through it all, the best part of living and working in Virginia Beach all these years is experiencing how supportive the community has been of law enforcement and the LGBT community.

When the news was published announcing my appointment as the first LGBT Liaison for the VBSO, most of the feedback was positive. There will always be people who can find negative things to say about anything. These people take pride in tearing others down. I just pray for their souls and ask the good Lord to bless their hearts and remove the hate.

Why Pride? Because we still have a lot of growing to do as a country. Despite our gains, members of the LGBT community still face discrimination and are not always accepted. We have Pride because it’s a way for us to show all members of the LGBT community that they are not alone. For me, Pride is not just about being homosexual. It’s about being one as a community and allowing others who are supportive of LGBT family and friends to join in and say, “Hey, I support you, and I recognize you as my equal.”

Pride took on a new meaning for me when I was appointed the LGBT liaison for the sheriff’s office because I saw the city of Virginia Beach support my community as they support all the other communities within the city.

I saw Sheriff Stolle recognize that there is a population in the city that needs to be reached out to and told they are equal in the eyes of the sheriff and the law. The liaison position shows that we are here to support and help the LGBT community.

This year will be my first time attending PrideFest hosted by Hampton Roads Pride. It will be my first time attending as the sheriff’s office LGBT liaison. It will be my first time attending as a member of the LGBT community. That’s because, for the first time, I don’t feel like I will be judged for being me – for being a law enforcement officer and a member of the LGBT community. For the first time, I don’t have to worry about being “outed.” I have Pride in myself and my department thanks to the support of my family, friends and peers.

I encourage everyone – and I mean everyone – to come out to PrideFest on Saturday, June 30, at Town Point Park in Norfolk to meet your neighbors and friends and show your support for the LGBT community. You will be welcomed and thanked for your support.

To the members of the LGBT community who think you can’t have a career in law enforcement or public safety, I’m living proof that you’re wrong. If you have an interest in working in law enforcement, come out to PrideFest and meet me and LGBT liaisons from other Hampton Roads law enforcement agencies. We will answer questions and connect you with recruiters. We will also be glad to answer any questions you may have about the relationship between LGBT individuals and law enforcement.

Why Pride? Because we are proud of the achievements that the LGBT community has made over the years and the achievements we are still making. Although we still have a ways to go, Pride is a way for us to come together and support one another – and thank those who support us and treat us as equals.

Reach Saucier, the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office LGBT liaison, via

© Pungo Publishing Co., LLC

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