When Officer Jo Mason and his fellow LGBTQ cops marched down Market Street during Philly's Gay Pride Parade on June 12, they were cheered by thousands of parade-goers and offered high-fives by people lining the sidewalks.
The officers felt vindicated, especially because just a few weeks before they were told they weren't welcome to lead the parade.
But the admiration, as welcome as it was, grew out of tragedy: the mass shooting that left 49 dead and 53 wounded at a gay club in Orlando.
Mason, who is transgender, is the president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Gay Officer Action League (GOAL), a national organization that represents LGBTQ men and women in blue.
Philly's 60-member chapter, which started last year, was offered the opportunity to act as the parade's Grand Marshal - a coveted position that honors LGBT community leaders.
But an activist group argued that police were not representative of the community, and threatened to "shut down" the parade. As a result, GOAL quietly backed out two weeks before the parade.
But in the direct aftermath of the Orlando shooting, GOAL felt welcome back into their communities - both as police officers and as openly LGBTQ people.
"The cops aren't always a welcome sight," Mason said. "Nobody calls 911 because there are too many burgers at a barbecue. But at the same point, they know why we're there. And it felt like total vindication that day. Like, 'look around, guys. This is what I do every day.' "
Before the parade, a group calling itself Philadelphia Against Police As Grand Marshals circulated a petition on Change.org. saying, "we refute the notion that LGBTQ cops' ability to be out on the job is a measure of our movement's progress when the police, as an institution, continue to carry out racist and transphobic violence."
It received 372 signatures.
When Mason read that, he was shattered.
"I easily read [the petition] 10 times the night it was circulated. It hurt to just be singled out like that," he said. "I'm not going to say that every police officer or everyone that puts on a badge deserves respect. There is some community disconnect, and that has to be fixed. But where else should that come from better than the community. Seeing LGBT cops should do that."
But Mason made a concession: the Grand Marshal position has historically been a person or group that has deep ties within the community and because of GOAL's infancy, they lacked that.
"There're groups that have been around 25, 30 years. When we asked what GOAL has done for our community, and when we sat down and looked at it, we couldn't answer that," Mason said.
"It's an honor to be recognized, especially being a police officer. I was left speechless," Mason said. "But we didn't join Philly GOAL for marching in parades and getting awards. We joined because there is a lot of community outreach that still needs to be done between the law enforcement community and the LGBT community."
Multiple members contacted from the Philadelphia Against Police As Grand Marshal would not comment.
By the time the parade started, news of the Orlando massacre had spread, and the police presence at Pride festivals across the country swelled.
In the meantime, police in California apprehended a man apparently headed to the Los Angeles' Pride Parade with a small cache of weapons.
"It is kind of ironic that a handful of people who didn't want police involved then had 20 times the amount of police presence because of our safety," said Franny Price, executive director of Philly Pride Presents. "And thank God, because people felt safe."
When Mason heard about Orlando that morning, he immediately contacted his fellow LGBTQ officers.
"I called the GOAL group and gave them the offer to stay home and be with their families. But everyone came," he said.