We are happy and relieved to announce that, after 25 years
of struggle, we have won! The NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade has dropped its
bigoted ban: an Irish LGBTQ contingent will finally march with its own banner in the
parade next March 17th.
From the beginning, our demand has been for an Irish LGBTQ
contingent to march behind their own banner saying who they are, like all other contingents. Today’s
decision to invite the Lavender and Green Alliance does just that!
This is a victory for the grassroots organizing, civil
disobedience, and street protest of the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization and
its successor, Irish Queers. Protests held the line year after year where
politics constantly failed. It’s also a victory for our beautiful queer and
Irish community of support, stretching from New York City to Ireland and
The parade issue has never just been about LGBTQ people. Irish people’s struggles are
part of our identity: challenges to religious bigotry, demands for women’s
rights, Irish republicanism, and struggles against racism in New York and
Ireland are irreducible parts of the Irish experience. Irish queers have often
been at the forefront of those struggles. We are proud of the complexity of our
lives and histories.
The desire to march and the protests against exclusion began
as part of Irish queer people’s work to stem the homophobia-fueled tide of AIDS
deaths, to push back on the power of the church in Ireland, and to end the
pretense that Irish queers are not a central part of Irish culture and
politics. Even as other battles were won, the parade’s ironclad combination of
bigotry, religion, money, and city politics made it a long holdout against
justice. We are tired but happy to see the end of it.
Our thanks: we’re thankful to the many ordinary New Yorkers
who supported us over the last 25 years, as well as the many elected official
who refused to march in the parade while we were left out. We’re thankful for
David Dinkins and others who made real, tangible tries at giving Irish queer
people their rightful place in the parade. And we’re grateful to and proud of
the original members of the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization – who were also
part of ACT UP, the Lesbian Avengers, and other important queer activist forces
– who laid the groundwork for this victory.
We look forward to marching up Fifth Avenue with our
After John Dunleavy’s 25 years of being the standard-bearer
for religious homophobia, Irish Queers are of course glad to see him go.
Dunleavy’s contributions to the Irish community include likening Irish LGBT
people to the KKK, and claiming that being openly gay is a political statement
(while insisting with a straight face that the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade is not
a political event.) His positions finally became untenable; it’s only
incredible that it has taken so long.
The reasons behind Dunleavy’s ouster are something to
celebrate. In the referendum on May 22, Ireland roundly rejected homophobia and
the authority of the Catholic church to dictate Irish culture. Irish Queers and
its predecessor, the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization, have staged the same
battle at the parade. We have posed the legacy of Irishness as a powerfully
diverse set of experiences – and a history of throwing off chains – against the
religious vision of Irishness as a closed, provincial identity that erases so
many people’s real lives. The question of whether queers can take our place in
Irish history and culture is now settled.
But the NYC St. Patrick’s Parade Committee is not led by the
Irish or Irish American community. The parade is still exclusively held by the
same men who enforced anti-gay bigotry over the past two decades. Their version
of “inclusion” last year amounted to adding OUT@NBCUniversal instead of an
Irish LGBT group. (OUT@NBC were so tightly controlled that, when asked by
reporters how it felt to march, gay marchers they said they weren’t allowed to
discuss it.) Who knows what exciting version of inclusion they’ll offer us this
year with the addition of one more handpicked, battened-down group?
Some voices in Irish New York politics have called for
parade organizers to end to the ban on “good” gays – those who have not
protested, but instead participated in the fundraiser-and-mass circuit where
the parade’s homophobes are welcomed. Taking that advice would be in keeping
with the Parade Committee’s history of making the smallest change possible
without actually opening the parade to Irish LGBT communities. But we were
never in this to reform the men of the Parade Committee.
In breaking other chains, Ireland has represented itself
brilliantly – from the referendum, to the rise of antiracist movements, to
insisting that water is a human right. If the parade can’t catch on, it will
find itself like John Dunleavy: out of time.
In Ireland, the campaigning around the referendum has turned up some really intense homophobia, and we hope today's vote shows a victory over that.
Conservative religion and church power in Ireland have been challenged so importantly and beautifully in the past decade or so -- today's vote is another huge challenge, and that's unquestionably fabulous.
The YES campaign has been extremely white (not to mention full of images of queers as just regular folks, which is different in Ireland than here, but not so different...) We hope today's YES vote will make space for queers to be queer again, rather than normal.
Today, the day before the annual NYC St. Patrick's Day parade [protest], we thought we should swing by OUT@NBCUniversal's Facebook page. We're already completely appalled by OUT@NBC, the corporate gay/straight/marketing alliance that's marching in the antigay parade to the exclusion of the actual Irish queer groups who have been shoved aside for the last quarter century. But the video we found on their Facebook wall surpassed our expectations of badness.
NBC had made a sort of fake news piece where a gay NBC anchor Thomas Roberts (of Sochi boycott-violating fame) was interviewing the main OUT@NBC guy about how terrific it was that they were marching in the parade. In the video, they pretend to take on the concerns of the LGBT community about how OUT@NBC is undermining us. But they end up assuring everyone who has panned them for undermining the Irish struggle for inclusion (okay, so that's everyone, then) that they're actually doing it for us. Between the smarminess and the squirming, it would be a somewhat satisfying train wreck to watch if it weren't so totally deplorable.
OUT@NBC's video frankly exceeds the capabilities of an outraged press release in response. And OUT@NBC refuses to return our calls, so our options for reply are limited. But we're not the silent types! So you can watch the NBC puff piece here -- or you can watch Irish Queers' version below, in which we rage-eat cookies and finally get to talk smack to the stuffed shirts of OUT@NBC. Are we mad? Yeah, we are. In the American sense of the word.
Irish LGBTQ Protest of Exclusion Continues at 2015 NYC
St. Patrick's Day Parade
Irish Queers welcome support from NYC officials
& Ireland; condemn corporate sponsors.
Press Conference: Tues.
March 17, 10:45am at Fifth Ave below W. 57th St.
March 17, 11am-1pm, same location.
Irish Queers and allies will protest the exclusion of
Irish LGBTQ groups from the St. Patrick's Day Parade this Tuesday, March 17 at
11am. This year’s protest will feature images of cherished figures whose Irish
or Irish-American and LGBTQ identities are inseparable – all of whom would be
closeted or banned by the parade organizers.
Irish Queers is proud to count on the support of Mayor de
Blasio and the City Council, who have again withdrawn their participation from
this year’s parade, because the parade continues to marginalize and shame Irish
LGBTQ people. We’re also proud of the ongoing support for inclusion coming from
Ireland – gay and straight – where New York’s bigoted parade is widely regarded
as an embarrassment.
The parade committee's admission this year of the
gay/straight alliance of their corporate sponsor, NBC, is not inclusion of
Irish LGBTQ groups, but more exclusion. The demand has always been for Irish
LGBTQ groups to march under banners that say who we are without shame – not
corporate groups, marching behind an “OUT” banner that avoids mentioning
“lesbian”, “gay”, “bisexual”, or “transgender.”
“There is no logic to letting OUT@NBC march except as
another way to keep Irish LGBTQ groups out,” said Gaby Cryan of Irish Queers.
“The parade organizers have claimed a right to discriminate against us because
they’re running it as a Catholic procession. But even the Cardinal calls it ‘a
celebration of all things Irish.’”
Guinness and Heineken have joined NBC in supporting the
discriminatory parade while also claiming that they oppose discrimination.
“Guinness and Heineken, after dropping their sponsorship
of the antigay parade for just one year, have used NBC’s trick as an excuse to
resume sponsoring it. It’s totally perverse that Heineken has offered to put
money into the inclusive Queens parade as well as the antigay parade. Playing
both sides harms the LGBTQ community, and adds insult to injury,” said Eustacia
Smith of Irish Queers.
Irish LGBTQ groups have been fighting to take our place in
our community’s parade for 25 years. We hope that next year’s parade will
finally see the end of discrimination – and that corporations and others who
say they support inclusion will work with the Irish LGBTQ community, rather
than through back room deals.
Exposing the parade organizers' sideways cuts at a religious "free speech" right to discrimination, and the NYPD and City Hall's wildly underreported support for the bigoted message of the parade... And calling on a mayor who has shown he cares about this issue to step all the way up to end the excuses.
Mayor must reckon with St. Patrick's Parade Legacies 3/2/15
"De Blasio's boycott alone may not be enough to end the discrimination, but he has the authority to do even more. The question of how to deal with the anti-gay parade has long been muddied by a 1993 court case refiguring it as a private, anti-gay Catholic procession. The mayor's boycott of the parade obscures another problem: City Hall has long supported the parade organizers' exclusion of Irish LGBT groups, and it hasn't stopped yet. If negotiations are underway – the mayor hasn't acknowledged them, but media reports have – then it's time to set the record straight on these two legacies. And it's time for the mayor to take the additional steps he can."