Racial Justice

Why these trans, BIPOC activists are hosting an alternative pride event

"It’s about giving our trans individuals a voice to be seen, to be heard. It’s giving back to our community because that is what pride is about."

The Trans Resistance March in 2020. Jo Trigilio

A growing coalition of local LGBTQ+ activists are demanding an overhaul of Boston Pride’s leadership and calling for a boycott of all Boston Pride events. They want change, and they want change to be led by queer, trans community members of color.

The coalition held its own mayoral forum, after persuading several candidates to drop out of Boston Pride’s previously scheduled forum, and is holding an independent pride event, a Trans Resistance March and Vigil, on June 12 in Franklin Park. On June 9, The Boston Globe reported that Boston Pride Board President Linda DeMarco plans to resign.

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Though events are coming to a head with Pride Month upon us, activists have actually been asking for change for a while.

Years of asking for change within Boston Pride

Queer, trans, and Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) activists have been calling on Boston Pride to make changes since at least 2015, when Black Lives Matter demanded the organization diversify the board, allow BIPOC activists control of Black and Latino Pride events, and reexamine corporate sponsorships, among other things.

Last summer, numerous Boston Pride volunteers resigned after the organization allegedly removed a statement supporting Black Lives Matter from a newsletter, and called for all board members to step down in place of more representative leadership.

According to The Boston Globe, Boston Pride’s six-members board has no Black members, two Latino members, and one transgender member.

“My experience in working with the board is they experience community voices as antagonistic as opposed to thinking, ‘these are our people,’ ” Jo Trigilio, who resigned from the Boston Pride communications team, told the Globe. “They treat that as some sort of attack as opposed to what it is — people asking them to serve their needs and interests.”

A Pride flag is unfurled over construction scaffolding on a Tremont Street building, in the South End. – (Photo by Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff)

Boston Pride quickly apologized and shared an updated statement.

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“The Boston Pride Board has heard the voices of concern from members of the community regarding a previous statement posted on our website related to the recent atrocious events of the murders of Black and Brown people at the hands of police officers in so many places across this country,” a release titled #BlackLivesMatter read. “We deeply apologize for the hurt and pain we caused by our shortcomings. We pledge to hold ourselves accountable now and in the future.”

Boston Pride did not respond to Boston.com’s request for an interview.

Recognizing the origins of pride

The coalition of activists, including Trans Resistance, Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, Urban Pride, the Center for Black Equity, Boston Black Pride, Boston Dyke March, and Pride for the People, believe change is way past due.

Trans Resistance MA President and Co-Founder Athena Vaughn noted that while Boston Pride has been around for awhile, so has criticism about their lack of representative leadership. The events also lack representation, she said, out of the nearly $500,000 of annual funding only $10,000 goes to Black pride events.

Athena Vaughn is co-founder of Trans Resistance. – Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

“For pride to be pride, and getting their power from trans women of color, to not back Black Lives Matter was the final straw,” she said. “I brought all of our team together, individuals I know in our community of color…and said it’s time to have something for us, by us. We have to do this because our community is yearning for it, our community was missing out, our community of trans BIPOC individuals of color are not having what they’re looking for, what they’re asking for, and though Boston Pride has said they’re going to do something, they haven’t, and there lies the issue.”

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Back in 2015, Black Lives Matter demanded that Boston Pride “remembers that Pride started as a riot led by trans and gender non-conforming people of color,” a message Vaughn echoed.

Activists are calling on Boston Pride leadership to remember that pride as we know it began with the Stonewall Riots in June 1969, which began as a response to police violence on New York’s queer and trans community. Historical figures like trans women of color Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, as well as Black biracial lesbian and drag king Stormé DeLarverie, are remembered as leaders of this early movement.

“It’s taking back our own power; giving our community and trans women a voice that has been shunned and quiet for so long, has been shunned, has been stepped on,” said Vaughn. “It’s about giving our trans individuals a voice to be seen, to be heard. It’s giving back to our community because that is what pride is about.”

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