MCC Tampa withdraws from Tampa Pride 2023

ABOVE: MCC Tampa congregants including Rev. Jakob Hero-Shaw (2nd from R) at Tampa Pride 2018. Photo via MCC Tampa/Facebook.

TAMPA | The Metropolitan Community Church of Tampa shared March 9 that they will not participate in Tampa Pride 2023 after President Carrie West “once again used his public platform to misgender a member of the trans community.”

Billed as the first LGBTQ organization to affiliate in Hillsborough County, MCC Tampa has inclusively served the region for more than 50 years. The church is a longtime supporter of Tampa Pride and Rev. Jakob Hero-Shaw, their senior pastor and a Watermark contributor, served as a grand marshal in 2018.

The MCC Tampa Board of Directors made the decision to withdraw from this year’s ninth celebration March 7. Their meeting followed Tampa Pride’s public planning session March 6, where West publicly misgendered Hero-Shaw, a trans man.

“We did not make this decision lightly,” MCC Tampa’s board said in their statement. “We were disappointed to learn that Carrie West, the President of Tampa Pride, had once again used his public platform to misgender a member of the Trans community.

“In this instance, the person who was harmed by these actions was our pastor, Rev. Jakob Hero-Shaw,” they continued. “This was not an isolated incident, but the latest in a series of such encounters.”

The board said the decision was made “in response to a pattern of behaviors on the part of Tampa Pride leadership.” The noted they stand in solidarity with those who are trans, perform in drag and all people of color. Earlier this year, Tampa Pride’s secretary and West’s husband resigned after making a derogatory social media post regarding drag. He later apologized.

Tampa Pride was first notified of MCC Tampa’s intent to withdraw from this year’s celebration via a letter sent March 8. “Plainly put, Carrie West, and therefore Tampa Pride, are failing at their mission of ‘championing our shared experiences, honoring our differences and strengthening our community,’” it reads.

The board requested that Tampa Pride remove all references to MCC Tampa from their website and social media feeds, including a planned Interfaith Pride Service on March 20. It had previously been solicited as a Tampa Pride event and will be held without their participation.

Following the letter’s delivery, presumably in compliance with MCC Tampa’s request, Tampa Pride deleted their public apology initially shared via social media March 7.

It noted that “everyone deserves to be recognized for who they are, and we are extremely grateful to the Pastor for taking the time to correct and teach us, allowing for a meaningful and necessary dialog across the room.” It was signed by West and Executive Board Members Alex Barbosa and Cassandra Hair.

The statement also called Hero-Shaw a fundamental part of the LGBTQ community. It noted that “mistakes happen and people need to be held accountable. Our trans community is under constant threat of bans and bodily harm — we must be better, and we will be better.”

Read a screenshot in full below.


Watermark spoke with West March 8, who confirmed he made “a pronoun mistake” in misgendering Hero-Shaw multiple times. He added that “I have supported him in everything that he has done with MCC Tampa.”

West also adamantly denied that he is racist or harbors any ill will toward people of color, those who are transgender or those who perform in drag. He pointed toward his decades of activism throughout Tampa Bay, which includes the co-founding of Tampa Pride’s latest iteration.

“We’re sold out at Tampa Pride and we’ve put together a great community program,” West says. “Ethnicity, gender, it doesn’t matter — this is a day of celebration to recognize what Tampa is for its LGBTQ members. We work hard at that and working together with other groups is very important.”

MCC Tampa also sees the celebration’s worth, noting that they aren’t seeking a boycott of Tampa Pride. The body will host an “Inclusion Fusion” event from noon-6 p.m. on March 25, however, as an “informal space to drop in, have some food and connect with the community.”

“The Board of Directors at MCC Tampa recognizes that there are wonderful people who are involved in Tampa Pride, we celebrate their efforts to increase diversity and to help Tampa Pride live into its mission,” they shared. “We celebrate everyone who is being honored in the Tampa Pride Festival and Parade.

“We in no way see the actions of the Pride president as a reflection on the amazing activists, performers, artists, and others who are being honored,” they continued. “We hope that all those who have a platform will use this opportunity to advance trans rights, racial equality, and social justice in Tampa and beyond.”

Read their full statement below.

In a personal statement, Hero-Shaw details multiple encounters with West and reiterates that no boycott is being sought.

“There are some truly wonderful people involved in creating Tampa Pride,” he shared. “There are incredible folks being honored during the festivities. I’m grateful Tampa Pride exists and I’m hopeful for real change in the future.

“My heart hurts for the whole situation, including for Carrie West who did seem genuinely distraught when he saw how much his behavior hurt me, this time,” he continued. “I am still hopeful for the possibility of learning and real change.”

Read his full statement below.

Tampa Pride is scheduled for March 25. For more information, visit

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