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It wasn't anyone's lifelong ambition to be sandwiched in between baton twirlers and brigades of cops.

Related Gully stories:

Gay Mundo
All the Gully's coverage is from the queer point of view, but these articles are ultra-queer.

The Cuban Closet
How moderate Cubans fear economic retribution, social ostracism, and other consequences of speaking out.

ilgo 1998

St. Paddy's Day
Gone to the Snakes

by Kelly Cogswell

MARCH 14, 2000. It's St. Patrick's Day again in New York City, time for demos by the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO), homophobic posturing from Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the Irish community, and cynical excuses from local candidates. I plan to drown a decade's worth of sorrow in green beer.

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
It began in 1991, when ILGO, a group initially formed to provide members an environment where they could be both Irish and Gay, first applied to march in the parade. The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), the all-male group that controls the parade refused them, but a division of the AOH offered to let them march under their banner.

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
snake"People aren't willing to put themselves on the line, go public," she said. "Every man in the Irish community who has financial or political or activist aspirations joins the AOH. Cardinal O'Connor's a member. And Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes. All his assistant district attorneys. It's a huge political, economic and religious network. And it's very powerful. And no one wants the AOH to come down on them, because it also means the Archdiocese."

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?
hillary"Hillary Clinton only marched in the Queens parade because she wanted to march in Manhattan on March 17. We'll see how often she goes back out into Queens if she gets elected, or to other small communities. It was just a cynical act. There's something to be said for Giuliani who just does what he wants and says 'fuck them, I don't give a fuck.'

"There's a strong argument for people running to have principles," concluded Anne Maguire.

Are you listening, Hil?

Related links:

For Gay Irish links.

For the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization.

For Complete Coverage Gay Mundo

For Complete Coverage New York City

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