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What is a Pride celebration without the parade?

Participants from Target Stores march down Boylston Street during The annual Boston Pride Parade in 2019, which took place through the streets of the Back Bay and South End.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Across the region this month, LGBTQ+ people and their supporters are covering their faces in glitter and bodies in sequins as they head out to Pride celebrations, including the traditional South End and Jamaica Plain block parties this weekend — and a new pop-up event planned for Sunday on Boston Common.

But the festivities won’t include Pride Month’s signature Boston celebration, the promenade from Copley Square to City Hall Plaza held the second Saturday in June that became one of New England’s largest parades.

Its absence is deeply felt by many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community, especially coming at a time when LGBTQ+ Americans are increasingly under attack by their elected leaders, with legislatures in 28 states considering more than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills so far this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign.


“It really was a high point of the calendar. Everybody looked forward to it. So I’m kind of devastated. I’m very devastated,” said Russ Lopez, 64, a historian and author of “Hub of The Gay Universe: An LGBTQ History of Boston, Provincetown, and Beyond.”

The parade fell apart last summer during planning for its 50th anniversary celebration, when longtime organizer Boston Pride disbanded abruptly amid a controversy over transgender and BIPOC inclusion.

The absence of a major Pride parade is, for some, an unpleasant irony in the state that was first in the nation to recognize same-sex marriage in 2004 and has become known as a haven of acceptance and queer visibility.

But similar growing pains are being felt in LGBTQ+ communities in other cities, such as Philadelphia, where the local Pride parade’s longtime organizers disbanded after an inclusion controversy last summer, one month before their Boston counterparts. But a new group was able to step up in time to host this year’s parade, according to media reports.


After Boston Pride fell apart, a coalition of local LGBTQ+ groups attempted to step in, but participants in those discussions said they didn’t have time to build a new organization and new parade from scratch.

“I originally pulled permits for a parade, but then decided that we couldn’t do it,” said Jo Trigilio, cofounder of Pride for the People, one of more than a dozen organizations that came together after Boston Pride folded.

“It wasn’t enough time for people to get together, create a 501(c)(3) [nonprofit organization], and plan an event of that scale,” Trigilio said. “We need at least a year of planning.”

Instead, this year’s Pride celebrations across the region are decentralized and driven by the community’s grass roots — which some members say is entirely appropriate.

Mateo Rojas, 27, who lives in Allston and participated in a boycott of Boston Pride last year due to the controversy, said the absence of the parade “made a lot more space for other groups to come forward, like the Dyke March and Trans Resistance,” which is holding its third annual march to Franklin Park on June 25.

“Ultimately, I do feel that trans people were really the backbone of the movement,” Rojas said in an interview at a Trans Pride celebration last weekend. “So I feel like in a lot of ways it recentered where our focus needs to go.”

But others, like Lopez, say the parade’s cancellation is a loss for the entire LGBTQ+ community.


“It was the one time when you got everybody together,” said Lopez, who attended his first Pride in 1981. “Even in the ‘80s and ‘90s, when people were fighting AIDS and discrimination, and every other horrible thing that was going on, it was still a chance to celebrate being with each other. And we’ve lost that.”

Pride celebrations have also been held this month in Waltham, Quincy, and Bolton, as a growing number of smaller cities and towns have begun hosting their own celebrations.

“All of these town and city Prides across the state are really amazing,” said Joan Ilacqua, executive director of The History Project, an LGBTQ+ archive in the South End. “It shows people that you don’t have to come to the city to be queer, that there are people in your own community that are here to support you and celebrate with you. I think that’s really powerful.”

Boston’s parade began in 1971 as a protest march inspired by the June 1969 Stonewall Rebellion in New York. Lopez, the historian, said controversies and disagreements within the local LGBTQ+ community emerged and have persisted since at least the late 1970s about how Pride should be celebrated.

Though the loudest pushback in recent years has come from transgender and BIPOC members of the community, the last few iterations of the parade “managed to alienate almost everybody,” Lopez said.

“It wasn’t just that it was corporate. … It was also that it was full of straight people on these corporate floats,” Lopez said. “You have, you know, 500 people from a bank. For a lot of them, it was straight people having fun in a Gay Pride parade, none of whom knew what it was like to be gay.”


The criticism led last year to the boycott and ultimate closure of the organization. Soon after, plans for a new Pride celebration began among organizations, including Pride for the People, Dyke March, Trans Resistance MA, the Transgender Emergency Fund of Massachusetts, the Boston Alliance of LGBTQ+ Youth, and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders.

After organizers concluded that it would be logistically impossible to plan a parade in time, they decided earlier this year to hold a pop-up festival Sunday on Boston Common from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The pop-up event, said Trigilio, will be community centered and include local performers and speakers.

Many in the community, including those who are white and cisgender, say they support the move to make the struggles of transgender people and people of color more central to LGBTQ+ events, especially as political attacks on trans rights have spiked this year.

Legislatures have enacted bans on transgender athletes in states such as Utah, Tennessee, and Iowa, while the Texas Supreme Court ruled last month that the state could investigate the parents of trans children for child abuse. (A Texas judge on Friday temporarily blocked the state from such investigations.)


“Right now, it’s a really ugly political climate,” Rojas said. “The downside of having more trans awareness in people is that there’s a lot more space for people to start to be miseducated about us and think there’s some big agenda, but ultimately our agenda is just to live.”

Trigilio still hopes to bring LGBTQ+ people back into the streets next year, perhaps not for a parade but a march that would move Pride closer to its political roots.

“People are more serious than ever with respect to addressing people with intersecting oppressions, and really addressing issues related to racial justice, accessibility issues that are related to Pride,” Trigilio said. “I think that there is a lot of rethinking that needs to be done in terms of what do we want a Pride organization to look like, what do we want Pride programming to look like.”

Emily Sweeney of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him @jeremycfox.