Last Friday, East Boston residents along with elected and local officials gathered at Piers Park for the Annual LGBT Pride Flag raising.
This Eastie tradition is the result of residents recognizing that one of the neighborhoods best kept secrets is its diversity on every level.
The flag raising and display in Piers Park, aligned with Boston’s Pride Week, provides an opportunity for East Boston’s LGBT Community, family friends and allies to celebrate LGBT Pride in their hometown.
“The reason we raise the pride flag in East Boston is because it is the right thing to do.” said event organizer Celeste Myers. “It’s that simple little reminder to any newcomer or lifelong resident of East Boston that lets them know what we stand for in East Boston.”
Massport’s Director of Diversity Ken Turner reminded the crowd that this year marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn raids in New York City in 1969. The police raids of a Greenwich Village hotel that catered to the LGBT community sparked six days of protests and riots.
“This year’s Gay Pride celebration marks the 50th anniveasry of the Stonewall raids in New York in 1969,” said Turner. “Back then being gay was as illegal as stealing a car or robbing a bank. Public displays of affection or dressing in drag resulted in charges of gross indecency and lewdness or worse. The raids sparked a riot and for six days protesters violently clashes with police and Stonewall became a symbol of resistance. A lot has changed since Stonewall, courts have upheld gay marriage, don’t ask don’t tell was overturned, but these times still demand vigilance and renwed commitment to equality for these hard fought gains. Homophobia is alive and well and some folks wear it as a badge of honor so we have to resist.”
Turner was followed by East Boston YMCA’s Carlos Fuentes who grew up in Chelsea has been part of the Eastie community for the past seven years.
“I felt very alone in my community,” said Fuentes. “Yes there were many Latinos in my community and in my school but i felt like i didn’t belong because being gay was not common in my community. Today our LGBT community is growing especially at the Y. At the Y we have made a commitment of inclusion. We work to ensure that everyone, regardless of age, gender, cultural background, income, race or sexual orientation has the same opportunity to reach their full potential with dignity. “For All” is a simple but powerful phrase. However without it the Y’s mission is incomplete. Our commitment to inclusion creates better communities, a better country and a better world.”
This year’s keynote speaker, Josue Espinoza, is an Eastie resident that works as the director of a transgender health program at Mass General.
“Pride is something that is uniquely identified for each of us,” said Espinoza to the crowd. “I think each of us has had formative experiences that defines what ‘pride’ means to each of us. Not everyone celebrates in the same way and not everyone celebrates and that’s okay. For me pride is a celebration of the distinct qualities that really make who we are. We are not sorry for being who we are and we are going to stand for that. I am very proud and I stick to that fundamental value of ‘we are who we are’.”
However, Espinoza admitted that in these times he’s scared.
“I’m scared of the federal climate specific to this community, specific to women in this community,” he said. “There are fundamental values that are driving policy that seek to marginalize people like us. It deters people from being who they really are and that is a negligence of humanity.”