and African-American lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender
and queer (LGBTQ) communities share a lot in common
when it comes to being excluded from iconic institutions
in their communities.
For LGBTQ African
Americans, it's the Black Church, and for LGBTQ Irish,
it's the St. Patrick's Day Parade.
Patrick's Day has rolled around again, and like previous
March 17th celebrations nationwide, its LGBTQ communities
are not invited. As a contentious and protracted argument
for now over two decades, parade officials have a difficult
time grasping the notion that being Irish and gay is also
part of their heritage.
the Black Church, however, that has and continues to throw
the Bible at its LGBTQ community to justify their exclusionary
practices, the St. Patrick's Day parade committee uses the First
Amendment, debating that they are constitutionally
guaranteed freedoms of religion, speech and association,
and the tenet separating church and state.
most cities and states are not gay-friendly, Boston is known
to be. But to the surprise of its LGBTQ denizens, Boston's
St. Patrick's Day parades have no gay revelers marching.
1994 Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade was cancelled over
this issue. The state's highest court ruled that
the parade organizers could not ban LGBTQ Irish-Americans
from marching. But in a counter lawsuit, parade officials
won, accusing LGBTQ Irish-Americans of violating their rights
to free speech under the First Amendment.
Irish-Americans discriminating against their LGBTQ communities
is so reminiscent, to me, of how straight African Americans
discriminate against their queer communities, with both
forgetting their similar struggles for acceptance.
the not so distant past, Irish Americans were scoff at for
showing their Irish pride, and they were discriminated against
for being both Catholic and ethnically Irish. As they immigrated
to these shores tension rose. By the mid-19th century anti-Irish
bigotry was blatantly showcased throughout our cities as
businesses put up placards saying: “No Irish Need Apply."
In 1900's in New York City, for example, newsboys, found
on every corner or on a regular newspaper route, were
often children of immigrants, and fought fiercely with each
other for these jobs. Italian and Jewish immigrant
kids would mock Irish boys screaming, "No Irish need
apply." And the song ""No Irish Need
Apply" captured the daily hardship Irish Americans
confronted looking for work:
a decent boy just landed
the town of Ballyfad;
want a situation, yes,
want it very bad.
have seen employment advertised,
just the thing," says I,
the dirty spalpeen ended with
Irish Need Apply.' "
like my ancestors of the African diaspora, the Irish were
once enslaved a.k.a. “Indentured Servants”, and bound
for the Americas by the British. King James II and
Charles I enslaved the Irish by selling 30,000 Irish
prisoners as slaves, making Ireland, as with Africa,
and a huge source of human livestock. The forced interbreeding
of Irish females with African males was widespread on British
plantations in the Caribbean and U.S. until it was outlaw
in 1681, giving birth to anti-miscegenation laws.
a matter of fact, the Irish didn't become "white"
in America until they fully participated in the wave
of anti-black violence that swept the country in the 1830s
and 1840s, where unskilled Irish men competed with free
African Americans for jobs.
So I ask, what would St. Patrick do in this situation?
He would unquestionably welcome Irish LGBTQ, especially in a parade
named after him.
St. Patrick was a man who used his experience of struggle to effect
As a 5th century English missionary to Ireland, St. Patrick
was born in 387 died on March 17, 461 AD.
He was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders attacking
his family's estate that transported him to Ireland where
he spent six years in captivity.
After six years as a prisoner, St. Patrick escaped, but returned
to Ireland as a missionary to convert the Irish to Christianity.
As a priest, he incorporated traditional Irish rituals
rather than eradicating their native beliefs. St. Patrick
used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish honored
their gods with fire, and he superimposed a sun, a powerful
Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what we
now know as the Celtic cross.
While many parade officials may think they are honoring the St.
Patrick's Day tradition by excluding its LGBTQ communities,
but like the Black Church, they will only be dishonoring
And, truth be told, no one knows how to throw a party or put on
a parade like the LGBTQ community.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, the Rev. Irene Monroe, is a religion
columnist, theologian, and public speaker. She is the Coordinator of the African-American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian and
Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) at the Pacific
School of Religion. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe is a graduate from Wellesley
College and Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University,
and served as a pastor at an African-American church before
coming to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate as a
Ford Fellow. She was recently named to MSNBC’s list of 10 Black Women You Should Know. Reverend Monroe is the author
of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on
Bible Prayers for Not’So’Everyday Moments.
As an African-American feminist theologian, she speaks for
a sector of society that is frequently invisible. Her website is irenemonroe.com.
Clickhere to contact the Rev. Monroe.