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When Irish Guys Are Smiling

South Boston's legendarily divisive St. Patrick's Day Parade was marched amid considerable rancor between gay-veterans groups and parade organizers. But the parade went on Sunday, and I chatted with a few shamrock-festooned revelers about what St...

by John Liam Policastro
Mar 17 2014, 2:56pm

This year, the rancor between LGBT Veterans for Equality and South Boston's Allied War Veterans Council—the organizers who have privately run South Boston's legendary (and legendarily divisive) St. Patrick's Day parade since 1947—came to a boiling point not seen since the Supreme Court's landmark 1995 decision stating that the Council had the constitutional right to ban any group it wanted.

Former mayor Tom Menino and other Boston politicians have boycotted the parade ever since the ruling, but the newly elected mayor, Martin Walsh, who used to march in the parade when he was a state representative , held out hope to march if a deal could be reached to allow gay-rights groups and organizers to participate in the parade under their own banner.

Ultimately, there was no agreement, Mayor Walsh did not march, and the parade went on as planned. And maybe it was a good thing the mayor didn’t attend. In terms of Irish-American stereotypes, it was business as usual Sunday afternoon.

I turned onto D Street in Southie, heading to the heart of the parade on West Broadway Street, and immediately heard a young sully shout, "Gimme back my vodka, you cheap nigger!" amid a flurry of shit-faced fistfights between teenagers and even a kid huffing a can of Dust-Off.  

I crammed myself into the raucous route and grew increasingly anxious in the throng of thousands of heavily intoxicated townies in glittery green top hats and shamrock glasses that even Elton John would find tacky. The police had promised a zero-tolerance policy on public drinking, but I witnessed no citations handed out despite just about everyone I saw guzzling clandestine cocktails in bottles of water and soda. Boston PD reported that citations for public drinking along the parade route were down from last year, as were arrests. But an orderly and law-abiding parade this was not.

I managed to talk to a few emerald-clad revelers about their feelings surrounding the LGBT Veterans for Equality beef and what St. Patrick's Day means to them.

HUNTER AND FRANK

VICE: What does St. Patrick's Day mean to you?
Hunter: It means the world to me because I'm Irish, so anything about St. Patrick's Day I love. It's all about Irish tradition; you gotta do it. 

Do you think the media try to portray the whole drinking and fighting aspect of Irish culture as something bad?
Frank: Oh, of course! We aren't hurtin' no one.

What's the craziest thing you've seen here today?
Hunter: I saw a pair of boobies!
Frank: I've seen a bunch of girls peeing in the streets, but I love it! It's awesome, and I think people should be able to do what they want in Southie 'cause Southie is my shit and I love it.
Hunter: I just wanna see drunk girls come up to me and just give it their all!

What are your thoughts on this year’s controversy over gay veterans not being able to march openly? Did it affect you in anyway?
Hunter: It didn't affect me at all; I'm just here having fun. If they wanna do it, they can do it. I'm all about it. 
Frank:I think it's disrespectful to the parade. If you wanna march, march in your own parade. This holiday is for Irish people; this means a lot to us.

So would you say to a gay Irish person, "Hey don't be gay, be Irish"?
Frank: No, I'm sayin' do what you want, but on this day, this is for Irish people, and nobody else should be trying to overcome that.
Hunter: I'm just out here being an Irish person, you know what I mean? We don't really care.

What would shock you more: a close friend coming out as gay, or a close friend coming out as half Italian?
Frank: Honestly, dude, I wouldn't care either way. If they wanna be gay, be gay.

If they wanna be Italian, be Italian?
Frank: Hey, look, be who you are, as long as you’re havin' fun.
Hunter: Look at this necklace: It says, "Irish for a Day," not "Gay for a Day." 

JOHN AND JANE

VICE: What does Saint Patrick's Day mean to you?
John: Drinking.

What brought you down to the parade?
John: I saw it on Family Guy once.

What are your thoughts on gay people not being allowed to march openly in the parade after a pretty close attempt by Mayor Walsh to get the ban lifted?
Jane: I don't advertise that. I'm straight every day, so they should'nt have to advertise that they're gay every day. I'm not against gays; I'm all good, woo-woo!. Everybody should be able to do what they want, but nobody should need the attention to be straight or gay, so get over it! Get over it!

Do you think that if gay men and women were able to march openly this year, that inevitably Italians would be trying to march openly next year?
John: Well, look, I support gays, but I am totally against Italians.

Do you think Mayor Walsh showed great leadership by not marching or are you disappointed he did not show up?
Jane: Well, we're from Toronto. Our mayor smokes crack, so I have no answer for this mayor!

Where are you guys off to now?
John: Going home to smoke crack with Rob Ford.
Jane: We're going to a gay Italian party!

PAT

VICE: Is it safe to say you really dig St. Patrick's Day?
Pat: Well, obviously, I do love the commercial side of it and all the partying, but I do recognize that a lot of the history has been lost these days. 

Where do you stand on the recent controversy surrounding the parade?
Well, honestly, I am gay, so it's tough. I am pretty neutral on it, to be honest. I understand it from the parade organizers' point of view. If you want to march as Irishmen, great, why do you have to march as gays? You have your own parade. However, there are so many other groups that march, such as Irish veterans, so why can't Irish gay people march? Then you get to people like gay Irish cops and firemen, and why can't they march? That's a problem to me. 

Do you feel it's a problem that those men and women don't make an issue of it?
I think that's maybe half the problem; we make too much of an issue about it. Can't we all be us? Why can't we just be gay or Irish or whatever? But I mean gay people are kind of like our own little culture, and we've spread through all cultures and all religions, which makes it really cool. Shit, to me we're more of a solution to unity than anyone else.

What's the craziest thing you've seen today?
Dude, honestly, not much. I've been inside the bar all day. I'm usually hired by bars to be their mascot. I'm probably the craziest thing people see!

A GUY

VICE: Hey, can I ask you a few questions for VICE?
Guy: What?

What does St. Patrick's Day mean to you?
Get the fuck away from me.

OK. Can I take your picture?
Don't take my picture, fucking faggot. Get the fuck outta here.