Buffalo Pride Week officially kicked off Tuesday with a celebration and a demonstration.
A flag-raising ceremony in Niagara Square marked the start of the 26th annual Buffalo Pride Week, celebrating the LGBTQ community. Led by the Pride Center and joined by a variety of elected officials and some 100 attendees, the ceremony raised both the LGBTQ and trans pride flags in front of City Hall as an invitation for the community to join in a week of LGBTQ advocacy and events.
Immediately preceding the ceremony, former City of Buffalo employee Camille Hopkins and a few supporters raised a flag of their own.
Hopkins transitioned in 2002, a time she called "very difficult," and has been calling on City Hall to enact guidelines specifically covering the city's transgender workers ever since.
"We'll hear the words of politicians today, but we won't see the actions that really result in building inclusion for transgender employees," Hopkins said. "I encourage the city to establish these guidelines because it's a best practice, it's a welcome mat for transgender employees and the city refused to do it. I asked every year and here we are 15 years later and we still don't have them."
Hopkins said she is not aware of any other openly transgender city employee, but believes there may be some "holding back because of fear."
She said both the former Masiello and the current Brown administrations have ignored her offers to help develop the practices. She is asking the Common Council to take the lead.
"The Common Council has repeatedly shown it is more progressive than the city's administration at enacting protections for transgender people," she said, citing the 2002 Gender Identity Equal Rights Law, the 2006 revision to the Fair Housing Ordinance and the 2015 Anti-Bias Ordinance. "This is how you respect all your citizens."
Majority Leader David Rivera of the Niagara District, who Hopkins credited with leading that 2015 effort, said he has been meeting with Hopkins for years to discuss LGBTQ issues.
"Yeah, I would like to see them. I would like to see the best practices," said Rivera. "Like in the past, they've brought best practices to us and we've looked at them and they had support among the Council. It's getting other Councilmembers to support it as well."
While the flags represent acceptable and inclusion, they are only a symbol and do not affect the working lives of trans people, said Hopkins. She noted in attendance Spectrum Transgender Group of Western New York co-founder Ari Moore, who served as a Buffalo Police officer for 25 years before transitioning from male to female.
"Imagine how much more difficult it would have been in the Police Department to transition," Hopkins said. "Implementing these best practices would have helped."
She pointed to the Buffalo School Board's move last year to enact protection guidelines for transgender students and has been advocating for a transgender Tonawanda student, among others since leaving City Hall.