This is 30: On being an ally

Jody poses in front of May Sun and Richard Wyatt’s City of Dreams/River of History (detail) in Union Station.

Time to bust out the glitter and rainbow gear! Happy Pride, y’all! Today, all kinds of civic organizations and agencies celebrate Pride –– just check listings for your local parade. But not always. It took some back-and-forth to make Metro’s involvement official. Key to this watershed moment was Jody Litvak, Metro’s Interim Executive Officer of Community Relations. Of course, she didn’t have a fancy title back then. As a young community relations manager, she went with her gut … and helped Metro take an important step toward equality in the workplace.  

By Jody Litvak 

I like to think that I strive to be an ally to anybody who is part of a marginalized community, even as a straight, white, cisgender female. The opportunity to do so in a practical way, however, doesn’t come up on a daily basis. But some time ago, I was presented quite unexpectedly with a situation to do just that. 

Since 1999, Metro has participated in the annual Pride parade. It’s apparently the first transit agency in the country to do so.  

Metro’s first-ever Pride bus, 1999

Metro’s sophomore effort, 2000

Third time’s a charm, 2001

Metro’s participation in the Pride parade had always been organized out of Metro’s Division 7 that happens to be located in the heart of West Hollywood. This particular bus division is much older than Metro, having been around since 1896.  

Back in 2004, I had just started a new role at Metro as our Community Relations Manager for the Westside. In that role, I was responsible for representing the agency to civic leaders and organizations throughout the area. And as part of this role, I decided to join our bus in the Pride parade and see what it was all about.  

Today, everyone knows about Pride. But back then, Pride participation wasn’t super public at Metro and information about the parade was shared on a “need to know” or special invite basis. But even though it was just the operator and myself, the event was a lot of fun, with many people cheering for us and our bus. Some employees of Division 7 had decorated the bus using many homespun, handmade decorations.  The work was incredibly creative. The operator had covered the bus with all these silvery shiny reflective squares that glimmered in the sunlight. Upon a closer look, I realized they were condom packages!  

I had a great time that day. And I wanted to up our game.  

So when the time rolled around to prepare for the 2005 parade, I decided to make Metro’s involvement more visible. I worked with our Design Studio who developed our “Ride with Pride” king ads [ads that cover the side of the bus] and a banner to be carried in front of it. For the first time in Metro’s history, the agency’s participation in the event was officially branded.  

One of the first Metro Pride designs. The colors of the lines correspond to rail lines open at the time.

Showing Pride, 2009

The Metro crew celebrates Pride at the parade, June 2016

I also arranged for an email to all employees inviting them to join us for the parade, and to represent the agency. My only so-called requirements were that you were  

– a Metro employee 

– a friend or family of a Metro employee 

– willing to appropriately represent us  

 We got many positive responses. But there also was a backlash. In my progressive, liberal naiveté, I hadn’t prepared for the hateful and truly ugly messages that we received. (I’ve honestly chosen to forget many of them, but several questioned the morality of the LGBTQ+ community and, by extension, our participation in an event that supported them.)  

I was stunned. Metro participates in all kinds of events throughout the year and across LA County such as the annual Kingdom Day Parade, which honors the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. I didn’t and still don’t see how this one was any different. After all, I pointed out, “everyone gets to ride our buses and trains as long as they pay their fare.”  

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, Metro is a big agency.  Every view that exists in society likely exists among our employees. While we were working through the internal brush fire, a Metro executive asked me a question that hadn’t crossed my mind. Was I only inviting gay employees to participate?  

“How would I know?” I responded. 

Well, my initiative stood firm. Metro participated in the parade that year –– and dozens of Metro employees joined the decorated bus carrying our banner. We continue to do so today. Several dozen Metro employees and their friends show up every year. This year we have over 100 signups. Thousands and thousands of people line the route to wave and cheer and are so, so happy to see us. In the early days of TAP cards, many would proudly wave their cards to show us they use and support transit. 

I will never know what it means to be closeted –– it would be presumptuous of me to even begin to understand that pain. Yet as a Jew, I come from a people who, throughout our history, have had to disguise our identities or even go into hiding in order to survive. And, like the LGBTQIA+ community, we are also experiencing an increase in hateful rhetoric and actions directed at us. While our immediate experiences have differed, these shared patterns and stories continue to resonate with me.  

At a critical inflection point in Metro’s history, I am proud that the agency did –– and continues to do –– the right thing. And I am proud of and thankful for the small role I played in it.   

This year is Metro’s first year being the Official Transit Partner for LA Pride, and will be supporting four main events. Join us!

  • Pride is Universal – June 8 
    Connect to the Metro B (Red) Line and exit Universal City/Studio City Station. Use the Metro pedestrian bridge, located at the corner of Lankershim and Universal Hollywood Drive, to access Universal Studios Hollywood safely and easily. 
  • Pride in the Park Concert – June 9/10 
    Connect to the Metro L (Gold) Line and exit Chinatown Station, then head to N Spring Street towards L.A. State Historic Park. Park and transfer to the L Line via L.A. Union Station which has 3,000 parking spaces. Megan Thee Stallion will headline June 9, and Mariah Carey will headline June 10. We’ll also have a Metro Pride Selfie tent going in the Pride Village!
  • 53rd Annual LA Pride Parade – June 11 
    Connect to the Metro B (Red) Line and exit Hollywood/Highland or Hollywood/Vine Station.  If you’re heading to the parade, stop by the Metro Pride Selfie tent in the Pride Village! 
  • LGBTQ+ Night @ Dodger Stadium – June 16 
    Go Metro to Dodger Stadium by connecting with the Stadium Express at two convenient locations – Union Station or the South Bay.  The Ride with Pride bus will join the Dodgers Express Shuttle for this night. Also make sure to stop by the Metro Pride Selfie booth! 

Got a cool story about transit? Give us a shout!  

Categories: Transportation News

Tagged as: