Vancouver
2 min

Police state

Historically queers and cops have had an "us and them" relationship

The other night, I ended up walking between two sets of cops. Two were up ahead. Two were behind me.

We were walking the same pace and going the same direction. It was an eerie feeling that invoked every Nazi movie I’ve ever seen.

Since bars are scanning ID now and everyone I know is willingly relinquishing their personal information to the allegedly CIA-patrolled Facebook, it wasn’t a huge jump to tell myself that I was living in a police state.

Stopped at the lights, the officers made small talk so I asked what they were doing. They were patrolling the area because they had heard our collective call.

They said they were determined to make sure that Jordan Smith was the last victim of a hate crime on Davie St. They wanted the violence to end. That’s handy. Me too.

It’s just that I can’t seem to get the Tupac and Ice Cube lyrics out of my head.

When I see cops in uniform, I think about police brutality. Maybe it stems from the time I spent sharing a house with a founder of the Anti-Poverty Committee; my roommates were followed, questioned and watched because of their leftie radicalism.

Maybe it’s from reading Leslie Feinberg. Or maybe it’s because prior to the Stonewall riots, queers were routinely arrested and charged for indecency just for socializing in gay bars.

All I know is that for my entire adult life, people of my sexual and political persuasions have not felt that we’re the ones the cops are protecting.

When Police Chief Jim Chu spoke at the Join Hands for Justice rally in October, he told us most gaybashings go unreported. Because he’s such a personable man and showed genuine concern, most of us nodded and afterwards said things like, “Oh, there’s an idea: call the cops.”

If the cops are on our side now, that’s great. Or, rather, that’s justice —a reasonable expectation in a democracy.

What Chief Chu didn’t adequately address is that our trust has been damaged. We have not reported our crimes not just because of shame but because (at best) we would not be taken seriously and (at worst) we would face further bullying. That day, our collective cry to “Stop the violence!” was meant for everyone.

Historically, queers and cops have had an “us and them” relationship. We’ve received neither apology nor acknowledgment for the systemic homophobia and transphobia in the police force. As much as I want to make nice and frolic under the rainbow with them, I can’t help but notice that they’re the ones with guns, bats and pepper spray. All I tote around is lip balm.

Personally, for protection, I’d rather have Joan-E on my speed dial.