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Transforming Pride: Article About QWOC+ Boston in Bay Windows
In case you missed it, here’s the repost from the Bay Windows pride article.
by Ethan Jacobs
Thursday Jun 11, 2009
In the midst of the many changes Boston’s LGBT community has seen over the past few decades Boston Pride has remained an enduring community tradition. This year, however, the focus of Pride is on change itself.
The theme of this year’s Boston Pride, which kicked off June 5 with the ceremonial Pride flag raising at City Hall and runs through June 14, is “Trans-forming our community.” Broadly speaking, the theme calls for people to work to transform their communities by fighting for justice, fairness and inclusion. But the theme also refers to a very specific goal, one often sidelined by the LGBT community: fairness and inclusion for the transgender community. The timing of such a theme is particularly significant: on July 14, the legislature’s Joint Committee on the Judiciary will hear testimony on House Bill 1728, which would add transgender-inclusive language to the state’s non-discrimination and hate crimes laws.
Kristie Helms, a board member of the Pride Committee, said in addition to the festivities people normally associate with Pride the committee hopes the events foster discussion about the need to advocate for transgender rights and transgender inclusion. As an example, she cited Pride Committee vice president Keri Aulita’s words during the flag raising, where she told attendees, “It’s about time that we stand up and stand behind our trans families, our transgender allies and friends and colleagues and coworkers and neighbors,” and Boston City Council President Mike Ross’s speech, in which he talked about the passage of a transgender rights ordinance in the city in 2002.
“It’s not just a set of words. It’s a discussion we’re having with city councilors, with the mayor, with the community at large and we’re trying to put it out as much as we can and make it a real focus this year,” said Helms.
Reaction from members of the transgender community to this year’s theme was generally positive, but people with whom Bay Windows spoke said the larger LGBT community has a way to go before it succeeds in transforming the community into a fully trans-inclusive space. Joanne Herman, a board member of both Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) and the Point Foundation, said the trans-inclusive Pride theme comes at a time when many members of the transgender community feel left behind in recent LGBT political victories.
“In each of the states where marriage happened in New England there’s a trans bill that’s languishing, so it’s a really important statement that we haven’t been forgotten and that folks are still thinking about us and that folks still have a ways to go,” said Herman.
She said she attended her first Pride in 2006, and while she generally felt welcome in subsequent years there have been some performers at Pride in the past couple of years who have detracted from that feeling of inclusion.
“I remember one comment [from a performer on the festival stage] being, ’Where are the trannies?’ And that’s nice that you’re thinking of us, but some of us object to using that word. So it would be nice if it were better this year,” said Herman.
Gunner Scott, director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC), praised the Pride Committee for working over the past six or seven years to make the event more trans-inclusive. Several years ago, he said, Scott reached out to the committee to urge them to make Pride a more welcoming environment for the trans community. They responded by taking several steps, including branding the event as “Boston Pride” rather than “Gay Pride” and booking transgender performers for the Pride Festival, including one of this year’s performers, comic Ian Harvie.
“I think they’re on the right path to being a trans-inclusive organization. They do their own work. I don’t have to call them and say, you guys need to do this. They do it on their own,” said Scott.
But in some respects, said Scott, this year’s Pride theme represents a missed opportunity. While many may read the theme as being trans-inclusive, it is vague enough, he said, that others might not make the connection between Pride and transgender rights. He also noted that in a year honoring the transgender community it seems odd not to have any Pride parade marshals from the transgender community. This year’s marshals – the Eastern medicine clinic Pathways to Wellness, the late Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, and lesbian rock icon Melissa Etheridge – were all chosen by an online poll on the Boston Pride website. The parade kicks off at noon on June 13 (see parade map, page 13); the festival at City Hall Plaza starts at the same time.
“I think the downside was the process didn’t allow for any trans people to be marshals, so it feels a little weird. … It feels a little one-sided, I guess,” said Scott. He has suggested to the Pride Committee that in the future they choose at least one marshal without community input to make sure that one marshal reflects that year’s theme.
MTPC will be using Pride to spread the word about the effort to pass H.B. 1728, hosting a table at the Pride Festival and urging people to sign postcards to their elected officials to support the bill.
’Strut your stuff at Pride’
Helms said one change for this year’s Pride about which she is particularly excited is the inaugural King and Queen of Pride pageant, which will be held the evening of June 11 at The Estate nightclub. The prospective kings and queens will put Carrie Prejean to shame, competing in a range of areas including talent, eveningwear, and, for the kings, swimwear. The winners will ride on the Boston Pride Committee’s float and entertain the crowd at the festival.
“We’re really super excited about this,” said Helms. “It’s just a chance to strut your stuff at Pride.”
And despite the economic downturn, Helms said the Pride parade is on track to be one of the largest in its history, with 150 organizations representing about 5000 marchers, 25 floats and 45 other vehicles signed up to participate. Helms said this year’s Pride parade is expected to be the largest since 2004, which drew unprecedented participation one month after Massachusetts became the first U.S. to implement marriage equality. She said the Pride Committee offered substantial early-registration discounts to make it possible for organizations feeling the pinch to participate.
“I think people really responded to that. So it’s going to be a wonderful event like in years past,” said Helms.
Pathways to Wellness will be the only Pride marshal putting in a live appearance.
“Pathways is so honored to be chosen as this year’s grand marshal,” said Kristen Porter, the organization’s executive director, during remarks at the flag raising ceremony.
“Twenty years ago we were the first group in the United States to take action against HIV and AIDS and start a free program that brought Asian medicine to people who were affected and infected,” said Porter. “For the next 20 years we will continue to fight for equal access to integrative medicine for all people so that is a right for all, not just a privilege for few.
“Pathways is also the only group in the United States to ever publish material on transgender healthcare and Asian medicine and will continue to be on the forefront of research and service to that community as well,” she added.
Etheridge, picked by voters as this year’s celebrity marshal, was unavailable to attend Pride; she has a concert scheduled in California the day of the parade. Jordan was selected as honorary marshal, a title given to LGBT community heroes who have passed away.
Dykes on the march
Beyond the parade, the festival and the pageant there are a number of other events going on during Pride week, many of which aim to provide an alternative to mainstream Pride events. As it has since 1994, the Boston Dyke March will present a more overtly political message than the more celebratory Pride Parade. The Dyke March takes place June 12, beginning at the Parkman Bandstand on Boston Common.
Jo Trigilio, a member of the Dyke March Committee, said this year organizers decided to forgo booking nationally known speakers and entertainers and concentrate instead on local acts. Local spoken word performer Jaclyn Friedman and Mrs. Danvers, a queer band formed by students at Berklee College of Music, will perform.
“I think we all just felt like it was time to go back to celebrating people in the Boston community. It’s the Boston Dyke March,” said Trigilio. She said she was particularly excited to give a large spotlight to an up-and-coming band like Mrs. Danvers.
While the Dyke March committee works closely with Boston Pride and has a presence at the festival, the Dyke March remains an autonomous, grassroots, non-commercial event. The goal of the event, said Trigilio, is to show that “people that were not male gendered and didn’t have male privilege have a different political lot in life.”
Trigilio said the Dyke March draws a diverse crowd.
“Our tagline is, ’The Dyke March is for everyone,’ because it’s an all inclusive, non-identity-based march. Everyone who supports dykes can come,” said Trigilio. “What [newcomers] can expect is a lot of people who are excited and happy, most of whom are probably politicized to a certain extent, but some people just show up to find girls. It’s a real mix.”
Black Pride gets a dash of SPYCE
One Pride mainstay getting a makeover in this year of transformations is Black Pride. In past years organizers have planned events targeting the city’s black LGBT community as part of a series of events called Unity Pride or, more recently, Black Pride Boston. This year a new organization called Boston Standing Positively for Your Community Empowerment (SPYCE) has tackled the task of organizing Boston Black Pride. Boston SPYCE aims to create a social network addressing the concerns of LGBT communities of color in greater Boston.
“This year although we wanted to bring something different … we also wanted to follow the legacy that Unity Pride and Boston Black Pride left behind,” said Steven Fleury, president of Boston SPYCE. He said Black Pride would start with the traditional opening cocktail reception, which will be held June 11 at Fenway Health’s new headquarters. Additionally, as in the past, this year’s Black Pride festivities include a ball: the Doll Collection Ball will roll at the John Hancock Hotel and Conference Center on June 12.
Other events on tap for Black Pride this year include the June 12 Black Gay and Bisexual Men and HIV Conference, also at the Fenway, a June 13 fashion show at the Hancock hotel, and a June 14 pool party at the Dorchester YMCA, complete with a hot body contest.
Fleury said one of Boston SPYCE’s priorities is to make this year’s Black Pride a safe environment for all, and that includes people who may not be out of the closet. All of the events, with the exception of the cocktail reception and the HIV conference, are ticketed events; Fleury said organizers are working to ensure that people who are closeted can attend discreetly. Boston SPYCE has also secured four detail police officers for the pool party, said Fleury, “only because an event like this has never been done in Dorchester.”
Despite the new organizers, Fleury said people who have attended Black Pride in the past should feel at home.
“It’s a new journey for us and a new vision, and I’m sure folks will enjoy and have fun while attending the events,” said Fleury.
Third time’s a charm for QWOC+
Queer Women of Color and Friends (QWOC+) Boston and MadFemme Pride will also be working to make Pride more inclusive of communities of color, hosting the third annual Optionz Diversity Pride Party June 11 at Umbria. Tikesha Morgan, one of the QWOC+ Boston volunteers organizing the event, said she first learned about QWOC+ Boston when she attended last year’s Optionz party, and it was one of the first times that she attended an LGBT social event in Boston where she was not one of a handful of people of color in the room.
“I was excited to go to a party catering to women of color in Boston. … I’ve been living in Boston for about six years. I’m a New York City kid, and you don’t really see that here,” said Morgan.
While Optionz focuses on women of color, the party, like all QWOC+ Boston events, is open to all “people who kind of get it,” said Morgan. “Being a person of color and being GLBT comes with another set of issues, and it’s great to be around people who can understand and can also relate.”
For more information on all of these events see www.baywindows.com or pick up a copy of Bay Windows’ Official Guide to Boston Pride.
Ethan Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org