Boston won't enjoy its massive Pride Parade celebrating the region's LGBTQ community this year despite the city re-opening amid the lingering pandemic.

Boston Pride, the nonprofit organizer of past parades, moved to dissolve itself last year amid a boycott over issues of race and transgender inclusion and complaints of excessive commercialization. The parade, which typically drew thousands of marchers and hundreds of thousands of spectators, has not been held in person since 2019.

While Pride Month in Boston will no longer have its signature event, many LGBTQ organizations will still be holding grassroots block parties, marches and festivals throughout the month of June. A rally for Black and brown trans rights will return to Franklin Park after first assembling last year. The annual Boston Dyke March will be held for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. Massachusetts Youth Pride will take place at the end of May.

Trans rights rally
Marchers make their way from Nubian Square to Franklin park in Boston during The March and Vigil for Black Trans Lives on June 12, 2021.
Meredith Nierman/ GBH News

The absence of the parade comes as Mayor Michelle Wu seeks to brand the city as emerging from the pandemic. It also leaves some in Boston struggling to mark Pride without a centralized non-profit behind which to rally and organize.

"It sounds like we're a little ways away from having an organization wholly set up to be able to take on the scale of preparation and logistics and all that requires, but there will be many celebrations this summer, and I stand with the organizations wanting to make sure that the foundation is strong before rushing into any event," said Wu, who recently announced a new city Office of LGBTQ+ Advancement to safeguard LGBTQ rights.

Boston doesn't officially track estimates about the economic impact of events like parades, according to the mayor’s office. But, as recently as 2018, the Pride Parade and related Pride Week events were estimated to pack a multimillion-dollar economic impact to Greater Boston.

Leaders from multiple organizations told GBH News the loss of the parade would not devastate the month-long celebration.

“It is a big deal and also it’s not,” said Tre’Andre Valentine, executive director of the statewide advocacy organization Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.

The Pride Parade, he said, “Is one of the few times that the LGBTQ community can come together and not feel alone.”

At the same time, “the previous Pride events didn’t really feel — for a lot of trans people, for a lot of people of color — like it was for us,” Valentine said, pointing to instances when big-name companies were placed in more prominent positions than community organizations, or disputes over whether “Black Lives Matter” signs should be displayed.

“It almost seemed like [Boston Pride] did Pride for our allies and for the corporations,” Valentine said. “So, we’re not missing old Pride. We’re wanting something that’s more inclusive.”

Julia Golden, interim president of Boston-area activist collective Trans Resistance MA, said it’s an opportunity for an inflection point.

“For some groups of people, Pride is having a parade, having a bar crawl and festivities, and for others, it's simply about community and gathering and ensuring that marginalized folks are represented,” said Golden. “It can be both of those things all at once, or something completely different.”

“I think one of questions that the people of Boston really have to ask themselves,” Golden continued, “is ‘what is Pride?’ and ‘what does it mean to celebrate LGBTQ individuals?’”

"We're not missing old Pride. We're wanting something that's more inclusive."
Tre’Andre Valentine, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition

Even though grassroots organizations sprang up to help guide the future of Boston Pride toward more inclusive political advocacy last year, none so far have established a new nonprofit to fill the gap left by Boston Pride’s committee.

"We were hoping one of the new groups would step up," said Linda DeMarco, former Boston Pride board of directors member.

DeMarco said Boston Pride's governing board decided on dissolution as opposed to transitioning its leadership after outcry last year because "you can't ask a whole board to resign without closing down an organization."

"That's how it works," DeMarco said.

Those from other LGBTQ groups say, however, the decision to dissolve Boston Pride threw planning and funding into disarray, since forming a nonprofit takes time and organization.

"The community just wanted pride to be focusing more on issues of race and trans issues and issues that deal with intersectionality — that is, LGBTQ as it intersects with other forms of oppression — and do more programming around the most disadvantaged of the LGBTQ population," said Jo Trigilio, a founding member of Pride for the People Boston and long-time organizer, pointing also to past demands made of Boston Pride.

Daniel Ortega, a member of the coalition Pride for the People Boston that was formed to end racism in Boston Pride, called the parade’s absence “frustrating.”

“The community is hungry for a space where they can be themselves, and it’s painful that there are many people that haven’t had a chance to attend their first Pride event,” Ortega said. “However, I’m well aware that a mindful transformation is not going to happen overnight and that there are efforts in the city to bring diversity and direct community feedback into the next iteration of Pride in Boston.”

A few people smile out over a rainbow wall, wearing rainbow wigs, as a parade float moves down the street with Boston buildings shining in the background
Thousands gathered and marched in Boston for the city's annual Pride Parade on June 8, 2019.
Meredith Nierman GBH News

Others, like Kurtlan Massarsky, director of development and marketing for the longstanding Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, said the parade’s absence clears the way for other organizations to showcase their events and programming and re-focus Pride back to its grassroots origins.

“I think in some ways it creates more space and in other ways it removes resources. But BAGLY, in its 42-year history, is very accustomed to working with minimal resources,” Massarsky said. “I feel personally and professionally committed to making Youth Pride as fabulous, as celebratory and as meaningful as possible — and that wouldn't have changed if the Boston Pride Committee hadn't dissolved itself.”

Pride for the People, Trigilio said, is attempting to assess its bandwidth and coordinate a potential smaller-scale, community-focused march and festival in June in partnership with Mass LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce.

Trigilio said the event is not yet confirmed and will not happen unless enough volunteers step forward to pull it together.