The first time Cathleen Finn participated in Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, she wore a wool cap to cover her bright red hair. It was 1992 and she was marching with GLIB, the Irish-American Gay, Lesbian Bisexual Group, which was participating thanks to a court order. She wasn’t yet out to her parents and she didn’t want them to spot her on TV. The last time she participated, in 2015, she carried a banner for Boston Pride.

The rest of this piece should tell Finn’s story, compare it with the 27-year-long fight by LGBTQ groups to gain admittance to the St. Patrick’s Day parade, and package it as an inspiring lesson about social progress. But the story, like the march for social progress itself, is a little more complicated.

It is true that this Sunday’s parade will mark the first time since Finn’s 1992 march that we’ll be spared the drama around whether LGBTQ groups will be welcome or not. Last summer, after three years of intensive behind the scenes negotiation and relationship building, the South Boston Allied War Veterans hired Bryan Bishop, a gay veteran and the founder of OutVets, to organize the parade. LGBTQ groups are now welcome to participate.

But as of this writing, it’s still unclear whether Veterans for Peace, an organization with 140 chapters around the world, including one in Eastern Massachusetts, would be welcomed. Veterans for Peace first applied for a spot in the St. Patrick’s Day parade in 2011. It was turned down because the Allied War Veterans did not want banners in the parade in which the word peace was paired with the word veteran.

In response, Veterans for Peace organized its own parade that year, called the Saint Patrick’s Peace Parade, and extended a special welcome to LGBTQ groups. Media coverage of the controversy renewed public interest and efforts at getting the Allied War Veterans to be more inclusive. As a result, OutVets and Boston Pride were accepted into the parade in 2015, and as Finn notes, “there is a loyalty … that the LGBT community owes to Veterans for Peace because they reignited the issue when no one else was working on it.” Given this, declarations of victory are premature when it's unclear whether Veterans for Peace would be welcomed.

Despite the lack of tidiness in this story, the saga of South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade still holds valuable lessons for achieving social progress.

First, know your history. St. Patrick’s Day parades formed in the 1940s as a way for Irish immigrants to assert and celebrate their participation in American life. But it didn’t take long before they became expressions of discrimination against others. In 1964, parade watchers in South Boston pelted an NAACP float with “beer bottles, rocks, cherry bombs and refuse.” In the 1970s, floats opposing the desegregation of Boston Public Schools were met with cheers and Boston Mayor Kevin White, who championed desegregation, was hit with snowballs. In the 1990s, ire was turned on the LGBTQ community. Those who seek to exclude some of us from participation in community events aren’t that discriminating against who they will discriminate. Movements for social progress, by necessity, will do better when marginalized groups stick together.

Second, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to battling bigotry. It requires grassroots activism, lawsuits, political leadership, and painstaking, behind the scenes relationship building. Absent courage, however, each of these tactics will fail. Finn recalls that in 1992 there was so much fear of potential violence at the parade that some of GLIB’s members wrote out their wills before St. Patrick’s Day. During the parade, they were repeatedly spit upon, sprayed with beer, and screamed at non-stop by a good portion of the 750,000 people who turned out for the parade. Despite all that, they showed up again in 1993 when they won a second lawsuit to participate. Their reception was just as bad as the previous year’s. Finn recalls that one of her fellow marchers was hit with a beer bottle and marched most of the route with a blood dripping from his hand. GLIB also endured the added insult of witnessing opportunistic vendors exercise their constitutional right to hawk sweatshirts that read: “90 Years Without the Queers: South Boston Parade.”

Third, placating bigots and/or not taking their hatred seriously is a losing strategy. Remember Sam Yoon? Probably not, and there’s a reason for that. A politically talented newcomer to Boston, Yoon became the first person to win an at-large seat on the Boston City Council on their first attempt. Even more impressive is that he did so after living in the city for just one year. He was also the council’s first Asian-American member. After two terms, he declared a run for mayor in 2009. With his Ivy League education and prior experience as a community organizer, he was hailed as the future of Boston and compared favorably with Barack Obama.

Unlike every other Boston politician who respected the LGBTQ community and refused to participate in the parade so long as organizers banned LGBTQ groups, Yoon marched. His spin for doing so was a profile in moral cowardice: He claimed that it was braver to participate in the parade than to boycott it and that he would accomplish more working as an “agent of change” from the inside.

Yoon’s desire to work with the bigots, and presumably win a few votes from them, did not serve him well. He didn’t just lose his 2009 mayoral bid, he flamed out in humiliating fashion, finishing third in a field of four. Soon afterwards, he moved to Washington, D.C., never to be heard from again. Meanwhile, Yoon was succeeded on the council by a relative unknown named Ayanna Pressley who shared Yoon’s vision for a new Boston but practiced an inclusive brand of politics. Pressley, of course, is now a member of Congress and a rising leader in national politics.

Last, the harm that has been done must be acknowledged and those who perpetrated it must be held accountable. Otherwise, it’s not possible to move forward. Unfortunately, that has not yet happened. The bridge that connects South Boston with the South End is called the James Kelly Bridge. Kelly represented both communities on the Boston City Council for decades. He was one of the most vocal opponents of school desegregation. He opposed GLIB’s participation in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. He never missed an opportunity to vote against any measure that might mitigate racism, sexism or homophobia. He never apologized or made public amends for these actions. Still, when he died, the city honored his memory by naming a bridge after him.

Whatever was intended by honoring Kelly in this way, the message isn’t good. It tells those who still think like him that it’s okay. And that kind of thinking goes a long way toward explaining why in Boston, where LGBTQ groups have finally been welcomed into the St. Patrick’s Day parade, LGBTQ youth, especially those of color, face extremely high rates of discrimination and why nearly half have contemplated suicide.

Has there been progress? Of course. Are we done yet? Not even close.

Susan Ryan-Vollmar, a communications consultant, was formerly editor-in-chief of Bay Windows and news editor of the Boston Phoenix.