Boston’s LGBTQ+ Pride march returns after row over inclusivity

The largest Pride march in New England returned to Boston Saturday after a three-year hiatus, with a new focus on social justice and inclusion rather than corporate support.

Protesters cheered, danced and held up signs representing various causes throughout the two-hour event, while pitchside crowds also cheered. About 10,000 protesters had registered before registration was halted, according to organizers.

Mason Dunn, 37, of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, said the crowd was diverse: “All different gender identities, all different races, ethnicities, ages and abilities. We see a really great performance.”

A Pride flag flies below a Massachusetts state flag in front of the Statehouse after a Pride month celebration Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in Boston. dimensions Gov. Maura Healey said Massachusetts is a state that “values ​​equality, protects liberties, protects civil rights, protects the LGBTQ community, and that would send a broader message to people nationally.” (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Some attendees commemorated transgender people who died in the United States because of bias or hatred by carrying signs with one of their names at the parade, Dunn said.

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, one of the first two openly lesbian governors in the country, said ahead of the parade that she was looking forward to attending.

“This is a very special march this year and at a time when we are seeing states and some governors backing down, taking away equality and freedoms, demonizing, hurting members of the LGBTQ community, banning books, banning shows.” which even bans access to healthcare,” Healey said.

The parade’s return comes amid growing hostility towards LGBTQ+ people in parts of the country. Some states have restricted drag shows, limited gender-sensitive medical services, and banned books from school libraries because of their LGBTQ+ content.

Drag performer Kori King, center left, holds a fan while standing with other drag performers on the steps of the Massachusetts Statehouse during a Pride Month celebration Wednesday, June 7, 2023 in Boston. The event featured a performance by about a dozen drag performers at a time when some states were trying to target drag performances. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Although the Boston parade took place on the second weekend of Pride Month, many other major cities – including New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Denver and Minneapolis – hold their main marches on the last weekend in June. Some cities host their events throughout the month or even at other times of the year. In Italy, Rome also hosted its annual Pride March on Saturday, as did Albuquerque, New Mexico and several other cities in the US and around the world.

In Washington, President Joe Biden welcomed hundreds to the White House for a Pride celebration originally scheduled for Thursday but postponed because of poor air quality from Canadian wildfires.

“So today I want to send a message to the whole community – especially to transgender children: You are loved. you will be heard You belong,” Biden said.

Boston’s first Pride March since 2019 took place on Saturday. The hiatus began with COVID-19 but lasted until 2022 because the organization that used to host the event, Boston Pride, disbanded in 2021 over criticism for excluding racial minorities and transgender people.

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Boston Pride for the People, the new group formed to plan the Boston parade, came together last September to create a more inclusive, less corporate festival, said Jo Trigilio, vice president of Boston Pride for the People.

Though Massachusetts is the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, it is not immune from attacks on LGBTQ+ people, according to Janson Wu, executive director of GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD).

He cited protests against drag shows and harassment of children’s hospitals and doctors who provide gender-sensitive healthcare.

“The return of Boston Pride with new grassroots leadership is incredibly important, especially now that attacks against the LGBTQ community are increasing,” Wu said.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, a Democrat, welcomed the parade’s return and said it was important for Massachusetts and Boston “to be a bulwark on the frontlines at a time of increasing hatred.”

Drag performer Neon Calypso sings and dances to Tina Turner’s version of the song “Proud Mary” during a Pride Month celebration Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in front of the Statehouse in Boston. The event featured a performance by about a dozen drag performers at a time when some states were trying to target drag performances. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Neon Calypso, 30, a dark-skinned Boston drag queen and trans woman who performed Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” at a statehouse where the Pride flag was raised on Wednesday, said she was baffled by those trying to marginalize drag performers.

“It’s unfortunate that there are states and politicians that are empowered by people and that see something so welcome and accepting as something negative,” she said. “A lot of people protesting the shows, if they went, they would actually see that it’s not what they say it is.”

As one of the oldest Pride events in the country, this year’s parade was a little shorter than previous years. It began on Copley Square and ended on Boston Common with a festival for families, youth and older members of the community. A second event for the over 21s was planned at City Hall Plaza with alcohol, a disc jockey and dancing.

Focused on empowerment, celebration, commemoration and education, Boston Pride for the People seeks to counter Pride marches and celebrations across the country that have become too commercial and too focused on reaching out to people of privilege, said Trigilio, who runs the Pronouns “they” and “they” used.

“The more companies involved, the more they are looking for money, and that suits the privileged,” they added. “If you run a Pride that’s too commercial, it becomes a party and you lose the social justice aspect.”

They said Boston Pride for the People screened corporate supporters against a number of criteria, including whether they had donated to anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers.

Groups of employees were welcome to march, but companies were not.

“We were initially really excited about how we could best serve the LGBTQ community in the Boston area and throughout New England,” said Trigilio.

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