June Pride means so many different things to different people. For many, it’s just a symbol of the LGBT movement for equality — how far we’ve come and all the work left to do. For others, it’s an actual event, a real celebration of who we are, where we’ve been, where we’re going.

At Dallas City Hall on Wednesday, June 10, June Pride was all of those things — and more.

For the fourth time in as many years, the Mayor’s LGBT Task Force joined others from our community, city staff and Dallas City Council members this week in the Flag Room to kick off June Pride at the city of Dallas. All of the usual festive trappings of our new tradition were there — a rainbow flag prominently among the many other flags at the front, colorful cakes and refreshments at the back, and a giant rainbow flag hanging in the main lobby at 1500 Marilla.

Fink-PattiBut there was one big difference: the room was full this year.

After years of talking about how to get one started, the newly-formed LGBT employee resource group at the city of Dallas gathered with us! With several dozen members already, Dallas City Association for Promoting Equality (CAPE) formally organized last month, facilitated by the city’s new Ethics and Diversity Officer Cheryl Orr.
Dallas CAPE has already elected officers, established a website (DallasCAPE.org), already issued its first newsletter and expects to grow significantly as the city’s 13, 500-plus employees in more than 60 departments learn about it.

For years, we’ve been talking about the difference between having good policies in place and making those good policies real for city employees. Workplace protections on paper often do not actually translate into a safe positive work environment where all employees feel supported and protected in being who they really are.
And while the city still has much work to do in making good employment policies real in some departments and benefit programs, the fact that Dallas CAPE is up and running now is a real indicator of real progress for city employees.

Councilman Adam Medrano chairs the LGBT Task Force, and his solid leadership of our fluid group has witnessed amazing realness for the city’s LGBT employees, residents and visitors in his two years at the helm. Adam has worked tirelessly in leading his fellow councilmembers, city staff, the Task Force and others together to get real results, and in the year since our last June Pride kickoff, there is more realness than ever before. He presented this year’s Dallas Mayor’s June Pride Proclamation to Dallas CAPE, and then presented the LGBT Task Force’s second annual Spirit of Equality awards.

Last year’s recipients included staunch LGBT advocates and councilmembers Philip Kingston and Scott Griggs (Ally Award winners), who championed our equality at every turn, along with perhaps the biggest single driver of our successes, Councilmember Jerry Allen (Leadership Award winner), who helmed the Budget, Finance and Audit Committee and zealously propelled the Dallas LGBT Equality Resolution and its directives through to stunningly profound success.

The Community Award honored Cathedral of Hope last year.

This year the Leadership Award went to Councilmember Lee Kleinman, who out of seemingly nowhere clamped down on the cause for equal pension benefits and didn’t let go until it had become real — tangibly real — for the spouses of the city’s LGBT employees on not one but two pension boards, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension Board and the civilian Employees Retirement Fund board.

The Ally Award went to Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins and Councilmember Carolyn Davis, both of whom joined Lee in persuading reluctant and at times recalcitrant pension board members to eliminate this pivotal disparity.

The Community Award went to young Josh Rudner and the Rev. Carmarion Anderson (a whole other op-ed on their amazing contributions!).

Looking back I can remember much darker days when the road ahead seemed fraught with much more than Dallas potholes in our way; when we could count our allies at Dallas City Hall on one or two hands.

And now, even without an openly-LGBT elected official at the horseshoe, we don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the real support — the very real advocates — we have in our city government today. As we posed for a photo Wednesday, Jerry Allen stood behind me with his hands on my shoulders, and as we wrapped up he said, “Of all the things I’ve done, this is my proudest moment.”

I was in tears as he quietly scooted away to continue the city’s business.

Be proud, Dallas; 2015 is a banner year for walking the walk, for actions over words, for making and keeping it real in the lives of our LGBT brothers and sisters at the city of Dallas.

And with a Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality in the next week or two, 2015’s June Pride has never been more real for so many.

Whether you lean symbolic or tangible, be proud this month. And if you want to make it real for those who make it real for us, send a loud proud real note of thanks to them.

Let them know that they are our proudest moment.

Patti Fink is president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a member of the Mayor’s LGBT Task Force, and a longtime LGBT rights advocate. She is also co-host of Lambda Weekly, the LGBT radio program that airs each Sunday at 1 p.m. on KNON 89.3 FM.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 12, 2015.