It wasn't anyone's lifelong ambition to be sandwiched in between baton twirlers and brigades of cops.
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St. Paddy's Day
by Kelly Cogswell
For the record, it wasn't anyone's lifelong ambition to be sandwiched in between baton twirlers and brigades of cops, getting ogled at by drunken, violent teenagers. Marching in the Irish Parade, for ILGO, is the symbolic act of taking their place in the Irish community. No one thought it would consume their lives for ten years.
An ILGO Decade
The night before, in the most resounding act of these ten years, the ILGO members came out en masse to their families in Ireland.
That first year, Mayor David Dinkins marched with them, and got a beer can tossed at his head for his trouble.
In 1992, the seeds planted by those phone calls to Ireland, and ILGO's first appearance televised across the Atlantic, bore fruit where it was least expected. For the first time a lesbian and gay group marched in a St. Patrick's Day parade in Cork, Ireland.
ILGO, on the other hand, was again refused entry into the New York parade. They declined offers to march under anyone else's banner, and marched from 59th to 68th Street where they were shut up in a pen on the sidelines.
Dinkins, who, like Ms. Clinton, had an upcoming election on his mind, wasn't with them this time to see the terrifying display of cops and firemen screaming obscenities and curses, and grabbing their crotches as they paraded past ILGO trapped in a pen of police barricades.
The increasing brutality and violence of New York City cops is no surprise when their hatred of minorities is nurtured daily by countless small, and not so small acts, like Giuliani's consistent refusal to grant ILGO a simple permit for a protest march before the parade. For a while, Giuliani even proudly touted this refusal as a "quality of life" accomplishment on the City's web site.
The only surprise is why groups like ILGO keep banging their heads against the AOH and the City, when even visible support from the Lesbian and Gay community is dwindling.
I asked Anne Maguire, one of the founding members of ILGO why her group persisted. Her reason was simple: "Because nothing has changed."
I also asked her why ILGO hadn't been able to generate support in New York's Irish community when lesbians and gays were marching all over Ireland. What Anne said about the AOH reminded me, in some respects, of quandaries facing moderates in the Cuban-American community, regarding panic-button issues like the U.S. embargo, and the child rafter Elian Gonzalez.
Every Man's a Hibernian
I asked her if the AOH's problem with ILGO, beyond their fear and loathing of queers, was due to the very nature of immigration.
"There's the idea that to be respected, you have to be respectable. The parade is about having made it. How you get from the bottom rung up the next, and up the next. I think when you come here you feel under siege, and you find the Church and Tammanny there taking care of you in the face of people telling you you're animals."
"At least that's the way it used to be," she added. "They're afraid people will say, 'there's the fighting Irish, here we go again.' ILGO embarrasses them. The rabble constantly brawling. That's the AOH's worry, inciting anti-Catholic, anti-Irish sentiment."
"But when you come here," she went on, "when you leave behind everything you know, there's also a great potential to be radical. But that seems to be the voice that gets completely quashed. It requires moving beyond your own community, which is very threatening."
What About Hillary?
"There's a strong argument for people running to have principles," concluded Anne Maguire.
Are you listening, Hil?
For Gay Irish links.
For the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization.
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