Interview with Kitty Lambert, President of OUTspoken for Equality:
Congratulations on the good news that for the first time in the history of New York State a LGBT organization will be allowed to march in a Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. When did you get the news?
Late last week!
Who delivered it to you?
Lori Overdorf, she pretty much herds the entire event. We had to wait for approval from the Executive Director and President of the Board for the Valley Community Association. To be honest… I was really cool while I was on the phone with Lori… but the minute I hung up the phone, I danced around like a maniac!!! Called my family together and told them and we all danced around! This is BIG. REALLY BIG.
Was there someone instrumental in getting you in the parade?
No. I had worked at the Valley a few years ago and they had always respected my partner Cheryle and I as an openly gay couple. I happened to walk my granddaughters over to the Center for Girl Scouts and decided to drop in and ask Lori… I knew that across the country LGBT groups have been denied the right to participate so I didn’t really expect a yes, but my dad was a Union President and he always told me that you can never get what you don’t ask for… so I said “so uhhh… Lori, how ’bout lettin’ OUTspoken march in the St Paddy’s Day Parade?”
How long has an LGBT organization been trying to march in a Saint Patty’s Day Parade?
I am really not sure, I do know that it has been going on in NYC for a long time. There are actually law suits that have been filed on behalf of the community. The atmosphere there is quite acrimonious. It has gone so far that the LGBT Community has established a parade for their families and supporters!
Was it a big surprise or did you have earlier warning that the group would be allowed to march?
It was a HUGE surprise! I didn’t get an immediate answer and honestly didn’t think I would get an answer at all… I figured they would just quietly ignore my request… that tends to be the response most LGBT groups have gotten… cold silence, no reply.
Ironically, Lori expressed concern about how we would “present ourselves”. I appreciated her honesty. This is a struggle that we have… many people believe that EVERY thing we are involved in looks like the pictures they see of us in the media of the PRIDE Parade (wild drag queens and leather daddies)…. and Lori expressed concern that this is a very ORDINARY FAMILY based event. I reminded her that WE ARE ORDINARY FAMILIES TOO! I also promised that we were NOT going to show up in a pink tube top with a lavender speedo, and matching boa!
Now which Saint Patrick’s Day parade is this?
The SATURDAY one! The BEST one, the OLDEST one, the REAL one!! This is the one being held by the Valley Community Center in South Buffalo since the early 1900’s. It is a traditional, true, old fashioned parade with a small town feel to it… complete with a hooley at the end, lots of food and great music! This is a link to their website.
Have you been applying to other Saint Patrick’s Day parades and why was it this one in particular that finally said ‘yes’?
No, we really didn’t even want to fight that dragon in the past. But last year OUTspoken was approached about participating in the Puerto Rican Festival to celebrate the LGBT Latin-American Community and I thought, “why aren’t MY Irish roots embracing me?” I think the VCA said yes because they are run by a progressive Executive Director, Peg Overdorf, who recognized that Gay, and Lesbian individuals have worked for and volunteered for the community center for decades and that we are hard working and dedicated employees/volunteers and that we DO HAVE, AND ARE PART OF, FAMILIES TOO.
What are the parameters of the march – how many people, any floats, etc?
We are not sure how many people will show up to march with us, but the parade is HUGE!! We are only marching this year, no float.
Will everyone be wearing green or will they show off their colors?
We did send out a plea asking that everyone to wear green and asking that they remember that this is NOT a PRIDE parade and to keep it subtle, but let’s be honest…. even the Irish look gay on St Paddy’s day. But yes, there will be a rainbow or two peeking out.
Is there a slogan that you are running with?
Yes, our banner is simple;
PROUD IRISH AMERICAN FAMILIES
The words Proud and Families are done in the traditional “Gay Rainbow” and the Irish and American done in Green.
There isn’t an IN YOUR FACE attitude here… we ARE just ordinary families. My darling and I will be marching with 2 of our 5 adult children and 5 of our 12 grandkids PLUS all of the “adoptees” that Grandma Kitty has wrangled!
How do you think the crowd will react to the LGBT group seeing that this is unprecedented?
Truthfully, we are hoping to just be another group. But we do hope that there is a mom, dad, a sibling or two or a couple of grandparents that see us and feel warm and happy for the son or daughter, brother or sister, mom or dad in their life that are LGBT Americans struggling for inclusion and protection in their own country. We desire to instill hope and allow people who only know the media hype about what gay families look like to see the real side of our lives.
Are there state-wide LGBT groups that are paying attention to what is taking place here?
I do not know. After we do something is when we suddenly get inundated with responses and interviews.
Are there other parades or events that have banned LGBT organizations in the past that should reconsider there positions?
Of course! NYC is in need of a new guard, one that is not steeped in bias… heaven knows, we as Irishmen suffered from it during the NINA era, WHY WOULD THEY PERPETUATE HATE AND BIAS?
What would you tell someone that tells you that you don’t belong in the parade because the group is not Irish?
I would ask them to prove THEIR lineage… I can! All the way back to the 1400’s!! Most of us there will be of strong Irish descent. But we won’t seek conflict. This is about fun and family. It is amazing how many people step up to our aid when someone gets ugly. EVERYONE has an LGBT somewhere in their family, and that is what families do, they step up for and protect each other!
Does the Pride parade restrict anyone from marching down Elmwood?
To be honest, I don’t know. I highly doubt it. I know that every year we have to pass the lunatics spewing hate-speech from the sidelines and their God Hates Everybody Church. We have come to expect them, many of us include them in our photo albums… kind of like the media chooses the fairy-wing wearing Drag Queen in fish net stockings… something to giggle about years later. In NYC they are put in little corrals off the edge of the parade.
Do you think that you will attract some of the usual suspects that protest at LGBT events?
We hope not. That would be unfair to the other participants who, like us, just came to march and celebrate who they are. Why rain on someone else’s parade just because you don’t like ONE of the participants?
Does this mean that you will get to march in the parade from this year on?
As long as we don’t cause problems I would imagine we would be welcomed back. And we are a peaceful group.
How big of a victory is this?
For Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Buffalonians, this is HUGE. Another myth about us gets eliminated. WE get to be there WITH and AMONG OUR families. We get to celebrate OUR heritage as Irish Americans. We get to honor OUR fight for OUR freedoms.
Mission accomplished – no rest for the weary… what’s the next battle to be fought, large or small?
Wow, there is not enough room to tell you EVERY thing that is coming up… but here is just one that we hope to see everyone at… On July 17th we are going to be hosting “Bill Stachowski’s BIG GAY Retirement Party!!” at the Buffalo United Artists Theater on Chippewa Street. It will be an evening of great vaudevillian entertainment (just like his legislating) and a fundraiser to support candidates who believe in representing the needs of ALL of their constituents! We hope you will be there!!! Oh! AND there is going to be an incredible family picnic in Sept… more on that soon!