Guest Blogger

From Politics to Parades: What's Left To Do in Massachusetts

Filed By Guest Blogger | March 18, 2011 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: irish, Kara Suffredini, LGBT, Massachusetts, MassEquality, south boston, st. patrick's day parade

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Kara Suffredini is the Executive Director of MassEquality. She is a seasoned LGBT movement veteran and has extensive background advancing laws that promote justice and fairness.

suffredinilecturepic-thumb-200x179-14928.jpgSo much has changed in Massachusetts since the early 1990s when the hot-button LGBT issue was whether or not organizers of the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade would permit openly LGBT people to march.

Much of this change is evident in South Boston, where the parade is held.

Nineteen years ago, when members of the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston (GLIB) marched in the 1992 parade (thanks to permission granted via court order after parade organizers turned them down), Southie residents spit on the marchers and doused them with beer; many of them wore sweatshirts with the slogan "90 Years Without the Queers: South Boston Parade" across the front as they did so. And anti-gay sentiment was so intense that sharpshooters from the Boston Police Department were deployed on rooftops along the route to protect those marching behind the GLIB banner.

Today, South Boston is home to hundreds of LGBT people, families, and businesses, including Bay Windows, the region's longest-serving LGBT newspaper. Meanwhile, the LGBT community has moved on to other battles: winning the right to marry, ensuring protections for the transgender community, and flexing its political muscle by consistently electing a pro-LGBT supermajority in the Massachusetts Legislature.

But here's what hasn't changed: openly LGBT people still can't march in the St. Patrick's Day Parade.

This year, a second parade, called the South Boston St. Patrick's Day Peace Parade organized by Veterans for Peace (who were rejected from participating in the original parade on the grounds that the group is too political) will be permitted to march a mile behind the first parade. At least one openly LGBT group will be participating.

You won't find MassEquality there. Although we appreciate that there will be a parade that is inclusive of openly LGBT people, MassEquality's mission is and has always been to ensure full inclusion of LGBT people in all of the Commonwealth's civic, cultural, and political celebrations. That includes the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. We don't want a separate parade. We are a valuable part of the Commonwealth's social, cultural and political fabric, and we want to celebrate in the same parade as everyone else.

Yes, we know that LGBT people already participate in the St. Patrick's Day Parade, though it's done with a wink and a nod. (How else to describe the spectacle a few years ago of a Kelly green Duck Boat full of, um, sporty gals in football jerseys and baseball caps?) But ending our second-class citizenship requires us to educate, advocate, and agitate for full participation.

This isn't just a political disagreement. It's personal. Given my Southie roots (my Irish-American mother was born and raised there), I find it deeply hurtful that I'm not allowed to participate in the parade as my whole self: proudly Irish, Catholic, and, yes, proudly queer.

MassEquality applied to march this year, but was told that we had missed the application deadline. We'll apply next year. Meanwhile, we'll be working to ensure that every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender person in Massachusetts has equal rights and opportunities from cradle to grave, from the State House to the streets of Southie, from politics to parades. That is what full equality looks like and that is the work left to be done to achieve it.


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Laura Hart | March 18, 2011 7:50 PM

So, Massachusetts does not have gender identity anti-discrimination and what is left in Mass is being able to march in the St. Patrick's Day parade????

"Here's what hasn't changed"!?!? Listing the parade should be WAY, WAY, WAY below other things mentioned that also haven't changed, using your own words, my friend: ensuring protections for the transgender community, and flexing its political muscle by consistently electing a pro-LGBT supermajority in the Massachusetts Legislature.

Focus there first, please. Those should be FAR ahead of parade-marching. Parades pay none of our salaries, protect none of our families and validate or make safer none of our lives.

Put the parade on page 3 of priorities. In the post, that paragraph needs editing to reflect what I certainly hope what I think I know about Mass Equality.

Time is always the enemy and sometimes language is. In this instance, I believe it's a two-fer. Let's provide main courses before we focus on desserts. Don't make me come home to make sure we're on track.

Kathy Padilla | March 19, 2011 9:27 PM

C'mon Diego - you know the most important thing is to fight for our right to party.

Given the last major nationally visible post having similar "language problems" you have to wonder If this falls under the rubric that coders used to say - "it's not a bug, it's a feature". Given others from this org making equivalent feature laden comments right here and the regrettable decades of history in that locale - the preponderance of the evidence standard is more than met. Really - even beyond reasonable doubt.

Kathy Padilla | March 19, 2011 9:29 PM

C'mon Diego - you know the most important thing is to fight for our right to party.

Given the last major nationally visible post having similar "language problems" you have to wonder If this falls under the rubric that coders used to say - "it's not a bug, it's a feature". Given others from this org making equivalent feature laden comments right here and the regrettable decades of history in that locale - the preponderance of the evidence standard is more than met. Really - even beyond reasonable doubt.

Gays in Massachusetts have been promising to "come back for" trans rights ever since they cut trans people out of civil rights reform legislation decades ago in order to get ahead. Since then they have relentlessly advanced themselves at our expense, sometimes even to the point of actively promoting transphobia as a way of getting the bigots off their backs.

Gays in Massachusetts now have pretty much everything they could reasonably want from the law: comprehensive anti-discrimination protection in employment, housing, and public accommodations; enhanced sentencing for anti-gay hate crimes; and full-fledged marriage equality.

Trans people in Massachusetts do not have even the most basic civil rights protection, and yet the gays continue to selfishly and callously monopolize the LGBT civil rights movement for "gay rights first and only".

And now MassEquality has the gall to announce that the sole remaining priority for civil rights is to bully its way into a parade after missing the application deadline fair and square. Are you fucking kidding us? Trans people continue to die in the streets every day and all you care about is a a damn parade?!?!?!? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!?

You've crossed the line. You have utterly crossed the line. I could at least understand your ruthless selfishness when we were all starving to death, but now that you have an all-you-can-eat buffet meal ticket there is no excuse for not paying back your moral debt to those whose bodies you stacked up like cordwood to climb over.

This is absolutely unforgivable.

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled against the community as far as the parade goes, the only hope is to get the organizers to change their mind, yes?

There is no evidence at all that the parade is actually discriminating against MassEquality. By their own admission, they missed the application deadline.

I was going to make a comment on the self-centeredness of MassEquality and how they are still run by a bunch of transphobic bigots that goes back to when Barney was in the State Legislature, but seems my brothers and sisters beat me to it. They really do have a lot of balls saying that the only thing left is to get to march in the St. Patty's Day Parade. Wow. From my perspective here in the Super-Bigoted State of Georgia, I find the arrogance and hatefulness of Kara to be beyond even some of the things I have experienced from HRC. My trans friends in MA are still suffering, so as far as I'm concern, MassEquality can kiss my blarney stone.

Technical note: MassEquality didn't come into being until about 2004, so they couldn't possibly have been run by transphobes or anyone else since the time Barney Frank was in the state legislature.

That maybe true, but groundwork for MassEquality was laid decades earlier by Barney.

Kathy Padilla | March 20, 2011 10:29 AM

Monica - and many of the same people were leaders in the groups preceding MassEquality & brought the same standard to stifle the rights of trans people that gay people already had to push for additional rights for gay people - even ones who didn't live in MA.

But - if some only want to claim responsibility for the last 5 years - at least they're acknowledging some responsibility.

Lurleen, I do not understand your continued desire to defend Gay Inc. Massachusetts is Gay Inc Central. The MassEquality Coalition may not have been officially formed until 2004 around Goodridge, but the same people that were working in 2004 were previously part of HRC and they run fluidly back and forth to DC to the "Mothership". The Board, the players, the press people, the money.

The one thing that was said to me when I came on the scene in 2004 with KnowThyNeighbor.org was that the inner sanctum of LGB power will NEVER let me in. This was said to me by the press. It's the same players pulling the strings that were there prior to 2004. And all of there connection to the Democratic Party back then and now is mind blowing. The Dems, Gay Inc, then the cottage industry of the spouses of many of the MA LGB leaders making money in their various business like advertising, catering, PR off of our movement is text book. It really is disgusting.

Point is, stop defending Gay Inc. and stop trying to white wash MA politics...aren't you in Washington State now? I think I heard that somewhere. The MA LGB "environment" is what is holding our Transgender Bill back right now. And that ownership has long seated roots in this state.

Technical note: MassEquality didn't come into being until about 2004, so they couldn't possibly have been run by transphobes or anyone else since the time Barney Frank was in the state legislature.

Relevant technical note: None of the above means that it couldn't have been run by transphobes.

As someone involved in the Trans-gender Civil Rights movement in MA. MassEquality is fully engaged in the movement to end discrimination against Trans-gender people. This guest blog...was simply written around the time of the parade for the fact that the parade was happening. MassEquality's top priority right now is the Trans-gender Civil Rights Bill. So instead of criticizing the organization out there figting for your rights from cradle to grave - defend them and donate to them and help them get this done.

Posts like this is why I believe that TS identified people should be forming their own groups in every state separate from the LGB and out from under the transgender umbrella.I was born and raised in Massachusetts and I've never been to a more transphobic state. It is time to call the LGB out for their transphobia and remove their separate but equal use of the term transgender. I am working on starting one in Iowa then I will be looking to start one in Massachusetts. Here is an international group that is just starting for TS women. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TSwomenscoalition/
Here is one for TS Vets http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TSVets/?yguid=470969219
I have supported gay rights and will continue to do so but I will no longer support the use of the word transgender or the assumption that all T's are part of the LGB.

Just in case anyone missed this great news: http://www.massequality.org/content/governor-patrick-signs-historic-executive-order-protecting-transgender-state-employees

i believe massequality's number 1 priority is transgender rights. i have received several phone calls from them asking me to contact my legislator and ask them to support the trangender rights bill. I say keep up the great work.

i think the point of this blog is being missed...

I believe it was Rob that just posted about Governor duval Patrick just signing a law for Gender Identity protection for Massachusetts State workers. Why is it only for state workers and why would you claim it as a victory? A victory would have been that if the State had banned all job based discrimination based on gender identity.Then that would have covered the state workers as well as those in the private sector.

I think that it's a step.

i believe all workers deserve these right immediately. no doubt. but the executive order is nothing to be scoffed at. it's a step, and a very important one. and yes, a successful one.

the private sector rights will come when this bill is pushed through the state legislature. believe me, i want it NOW. as should everyone.

so get on the phone a call your legislator.

This is an ongoing issue, particularly in Mass. The LGB(t) rights movement has made marriage the definitive issue with regards to civil rights, ignoring greater injustice to members of our community. Because of this, places where same-sex marriage is legal are simply assumed to be good on all of our civil rights issues, which just is not true.

Because they were first on SSM, Massachusetts residents in particular assume that their state already covers everything else and they (queer and straight alike) are often surprised to learn that trans people are still not accorded fair treatment under the law there.

As a queer guy with many trans friends and lovers this post made my blood boil. I honestly believe that Bilerico should be embarrassed to have run it and owes our whole community an apology for perpetuating the idea that LGB people don't care about our trans brethren.

I honestly believe that Bilerico should be embarrassed to have run it and owes our whole community an apology for perpetuating the idea that LGB people don't care about our trans brethren.
Whereas I think Bilerico has done us a great service by showing that some of them don't.

Or rather, that they do, it's just that they have much more important issues to address first. Like getting special treatment when they file for a march permit late.

Trans people must realise that they must be team players, and the pre-eminent LGBT group in Mass. has decided, and will decide, what's best for them, as it has done in the past. They must wait their turn, and not be so selfish.

As Barney Frank said just the other day, it's Trans people's own fault for not doing enough education of others about Trans issues.

Zoe hate to say it but on that one Barmey is right. If we are unwilling to stand up for ourselves separate from other organizations we have no right to complain about what they are doing for us. No T group should be 100% joined to the hip of any LGB organization. I believe that by forming our own groups we would be in a stronger position to argue our case for ourselves and to fight off LGB and cis discrimination against us. So far I don't believe such a T group exists and I think many T leaders have outlived there shelf life. It is time we pulled the plug on the proffessional TS women type leaders that are more than happy to promote themselves for a buck but are worthless when it comes to the fight for equality they know who they are and so do we. We shouldn't want or need leaders that want to dedicate their whole purpose in life to never winning the battle because there's no money in it. We need leaders that want to win the fight so that they can move on in life.

Some transsexual women create their own problems when it comes to inclusion. When transsexual separatists/transsexual elitists scream and holler about not wanting to be included in anything, it projects a hateful willingness to not want to work together with other trans people, or anyone else for that matter. They whine about forming their own exclusive "club" to work for their own rights, but none of them ever have the guts to do it. There is no "NCPOTWE" (National Center for Post-Op Transsexual Women Equality) out there. It gives an excuse to organizations like MassEquality to not work for any of us. They don't want to have anything to do with squabbling children who can't play nice with their peers. Can you blame them?

Monica that is a two way street especially when there are transsexuals that think it is their right to drag other T's under their umbrella term. If you think it is your sole right to speak for all t people you yourself are the elitist.As far as starting other groups they already exist your just unwilling to admit it.There is a need for groups outside the LGB for non LGB identified T's and also for those who don't like being placed under the transgender umbrella.Their voice on T issues is every bit as important as yours or any of the other groups if your unwilling to listen to them it might be time for you to step aside so that someone who will can fill your space.