Shortly after arriving in Manhattan Jamie Rattai grabbed Mike Lokken’s hand. They were on the street, in public, in one of the busiest cities in the world. And Lokken pulled, ever so subtly, away.

“That’s okay here,” Rattai said. “It’s fine. You’ll see.”

And Lokken did come to see. In fact, he was later photographed by CNN walking hand-in-hand with his partner of six years, marching alongside thousands of others in the New York City Pride Parade on Sunday.   

Lokken—officer in charge at the Parkland RCMP detachment, west of Edmonton, Alta.—was the only uniformed RCMP member to participate in the event, and the only police officer from western Canada.

The New York Police Department has extended an invite to Canadian police organizations for several years. This year, it was Lokken and the Toronto Police Association's turn to respond.

“When they would see us—particularly police officers, especially holding hands with somebody else—it was like being at a rock concert when a good song comes on and the cheer goes up,” Lokken recalled in an interview with CTV News Edmonton on Wednesday.

Rattai said the energy at the parade took his breath away.

“You just got caught in the moment and that moment didn’t leave until the parade was done, like four hours later.”

But the 2019 Pride was a particularly momentous occasion as it marked 50 years since the 1969 Stonewall Inn raid, which lead to days of riots against police treatment of the queer community. It was both a turning point for the modern-day LGBTQIA2S+ rights movement, and an origin point of what would become Pride parades.

For the man who walks with one foot in each world, it was a heavy moment to stand in those same streets.

“We halted and did a right turn and saluted the inn,” Lokken said.

“Wow, this is where it all began,” the RCMP member remembers thinking.

“Just watching that was emotional for me,” Rattai added. “Just to see the respect being given to the past and how far we’ve come from all that. Corrections can be made and forgiveness can be given.”

Lokken said, “There’s no better name than Pride, because we were truly proud to have arrived.”

His pride was twofold on Sunday, however.

“I am a proud member of the RCMP, and I know that my organization has always been very supportive of me,” Lokken told CTV News Edmonton. “I am proud to wear the red serge.”

Although he’s never thought of himself as an advocate or mentor, other RCMP members have sometimes approached Lokken for advice due to his increasing visibility.

He is a symbol of what the future may be.

“I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m comfortable with who I am,” Lokken said. “Maybe it’s with age and maturity that sometimes you don’t care what other people think as much.”

But on Sunday, he was part of an offering of homage.

“We often forget where we came from. I think it’s important that we have reminders like this to never forget what it was like and how bad it was and how much work those people have done to bring us to where we are today.”

With files from Erin Isfeld