Each person has something unique to share, which is the theme of this year’s Boston Pride parade, a happy and Gay festival on Saturday, June 14. Pride parades are held throughout the U.S. during the month of June every year. What does this mean for those marching and for those watching along the parade route? The organizers describe the significance of their theme as Boston anticipates the event coming just on the coattails of the 10th anniversary of same-sex marriage in the U.S., which got its start in Massachusetts.
The theme for the event – and, in fact, the entire week, is “Be Yourself, Change the World.” The LGBT community is encouraged to embrace what is unique about each individual. In doing so, the idea is that those qualities of individuality can, and should, be used to change the world for the better.
Boston Pride events actually encompass 10 days, starting on the Friday one week preceding the parade, and ending the day after. This has changed since the inception of Boston Pride in 1970 when a single day marked the event with the parade as the main happening and some private parties afterward. To understand more fully the meaning of this year’s theme, a historical perspective is necessary.
Forty-four years ago, when Boston Pride was founded, the atmosphere for gays and lesbians was very different. Even the name changed. Those who identified as lesbian, bisexual or transgender were not expressly acknowledged as part of the new movement that got kickstarted in New York City after the Stonewall Riots of 1969. The name, plain and simple, was Gay Pride.
Several major changes took place over the years. First and foremost, 1970 was before the AIDS epidemic began. This means that partying in the street was huge, with drag queens, disco music, and a festive atmosphere. When the disease started to claim members of the community in large numbers, the mood turned from gay to somber, as the day began to serve as a memorial for those who had been taken from the community.
Another major change was that in 1970, gays and lesbians were just beginning to assert themselves as having rights. This coincided with many monumental social shifts occurring during the decade of the 1960s throughout the United States –the Civil Rights movement, the feminist movement, the death of Judy Garland (an icon for gay men), the first man to walk on the moon, the assassination of President Kennedy and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The world would not be the same after these events.
It was not until the mid-1980s that the concept of Pride started to become reality as well as a goal. Even though AIDS was claiming many gay men during this time, the belief in self was stronger than ever, with gays and lesbians asserting that their rights would not be compromised.
Though Boston’s marchers were happy to come together and comforted by each other’s presence, the idea of taking pride in one’s uniqueness was still not part of the conversation. At this time, fitting in with the group was a stronger value. Many people still needed to hide their true selves, which is part of why HIV and AIDS were still prevalent, despite advocacy for safe sex practices.
In the very beginning, supportive groups, such as Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and the Gay and Lesbian Speakers Bureau, as well as churches and a few other religious groups, joined in the parade. During the 1980s some businesses marched in the parade and for many years the longstanding mayor of Boston, Tom Menino, participated annually, as will his successor, Marty Walsh. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, the first African American governor of the state, has been a prominent marcher in the parade since the beginning of his tenure.
Starting in the late 1990s, Boston Pride marches started to draw more LGBT couples who had small children through birth, surrogacy and adoption. With the advent of marriage 10 years ago, Pride has had many more family-friendly programs, as those children are growing up in the community.
In the 2000s, the focus has been on diversity and there are activities throughout the week to appeal to all groups. These include the Black Pride dance, the Liberation Seder celebrating LGBTQ friends and family coming out of bondage, LGBT Senior Pride Tea Dance, several Latin Night events, the Pride Vigil at the New England Holocaust Memorial, Boston Pride Night at Fenway Park, Boston Gay Men’s Chorus Pride Concert, the Boston Dyke March and the Boston Pride Youth Dance. Also, present is a group who, because they are not safe in their own countries, must march with their faces covered – the LGBT Asylum Task Force.
Contrary to some opinions, LGBT people are a reality worldwide. All are welcome to celebrate the uniqueness of each person at the Boston Pride parade on Saturday, which is sure to be a Happy occasion. People will be marching from every walk of life and ethnicity. In the words of Boston Pride’s mission statement, they are marching to foster diversity, unity, visibility and dignity … to strengthen relations within the community.
Opinion by Fern Remedi-Brown
Previous stories on the Boston LGBT community:
St Patrick’s Day Parade Long Time Coming for Gay Groups in South Boston
LGBT Asylum Support Task Force
Same-Sex Marriage Pioneers Mark 10-Year Celebration