For the second year in a row, Newport Pride marched in the St Patrick’s Day parade in Newport, Rhode Island. We feel that visibility and inclusion of LGBTQIA+ community is important. And so we dusted off our blow-up leprechaun riding a rainbow unicorn and organized a contingent to march. We were so pleased to have the Salve Regina University LGBTQIA+ Center march with us, with members adorned in inflatable shark and unicorn costumes, much to the delight of the parade’s younger patrons.
As we reflect on our experience at the parade, we must acknowledge our participation's positive and negative aspects. While most of the community welcomed us with open arms, there were instances of bigotry and intolerance that we could not ignore.
One member of our organization was subjected to having items thrown at them. We also heard people shouting anti-pride slurs, which is incredibly hurtful and unnecessary. A small contingent of folks spread out through the masses made it clear to us that they felt Pride was not welcome at the parade. They flat out said so to us as we marched by. How is Pride marching any different than our local animal shelter or a gym? It’s not. But people’s bigoted views towards our community are.
However, we don't want to paint the entire community with the same brush. We were heartened to see so many people cheering us on, including the parade organizers. It's important to remember that the vast majority of people were welcoming and accepting of our LGBTQ+/Newport Pride contingent.
That said, we cannot ignore the hate and bigotry that still exists like a disease in our communities. It's a reminder that our fight for equality and acceptance is far from over. We need LGBTQ+ folks and especially our non-LGBTQ+ allies to continue to show up in this fight.
In the end, our experience at the parade was bittersweet. We were grateful for the support we received and for the most part we had a great time, but were also reminded of the work that still needs to be done to eradicate hate and intolerance. In the future, we hope for a St Patrick’s Parade that preserves the Irish tradition and explicitly and loudly invites a celebration of multiculturality, welcoming and highlighting the diverse communities that Newport represents. And we hope that by sharing our story, we will continue raising awareness and promoting acceptance for all.
Newport Pride, Executive Director