Throggs Neck St. Patrick’s Day parade rewrites its history by including an LGBTQ group for the first time

From left, Gene Walsh, Jeff Conway, Brendan Fay, Malachy McCourt and Danny Dromm parade on 5th Avenue with the Lavender and Green Alliance banner for the first time on March 17, 2016.
Photo Amy Miller

On Sunday, the Throggs Neck St. Patricks Day parade will include an LGBTQ group for the first time — and it is the very group that was turned away from marching more than two decades ago.

The Lavender and Green Alliance, founded by Brendan Fay in 1994, will carry its banner in the parade on Sunday. The same group was welcomed to march in the Bronx parade in 1999, but the offer was retracted after various groups — religious and not — resisted, according to Fay. As reported by the New York Times, the Ancient Order of Hibernians of Bronx County and numerous church groups said they would not march in the parade if Lavender and Green was allowed to participate.

According to a March 14, 1999, Lavender and Green press release, the initial Bronx embrace made headlines in Irish community newspapers before the parade committee “came under pressure to withdraw the invitation or face a parade without marchers.”

“What began as a big-hearted, generous welcome by the Bronx Irish has flattened into a petty small-heartedness,” Fay said in the 1999 release. The release stated that members of the group would gather at the Bronx parade anyway, “hoping to join the line of march, and if not, to protest their exclusion.”

And so they did, and Fay and five others were arrested. Days later, he was arrested again with seven others at the Brooklyn parade after protesting the group’s exclusion there as well.

Fay, 63, told the Bronx Times in an interview this week that the Throggs Neck parade was the first St. Patrick’s Day parade across the five boroughs to welcome the LGBTQ group — even though the offer was rescinded.

The following year, Fay took the matter into his own hands and created a new parade in Queens called St. Pat’s for All, which is still held annually.

“When you’re arrested somewhere and put in handcuffs, it doesn’t make you want to rush back,” he said of the other parades.

But this year he is basking in positivity, eager for the history-making moment on Sunday.

“Of course we all wish it didn’t take us this long,” he said. “But you know what I always say? It is not how long it takes us to get there. What’s more important is that we get to this place, and we have.”

While individuals have waved rainbow flags alongside their Irish flags at the Bronx parade before, this is the first time an LGBTQ group is an official participant, which Michael Brady, executive director of the Third Avenue Business Improvement, emphasized is different than being tolerated.

“For this to be a sanctioned group, a codified group, is a huge step forward for New York City, the borough and the LGBTQ community,” Brady said in an interview with the Bronx Times.

He expects there will be some “hecklers,” but he hopes “the light outshines the darkness,” especially as more people realize their own family members may be part of the LGBTQ community, and that “being LGBT is as ingrained in you as it is being Irish. It’s part of your DNA.”

Lavendar and Green was supposed to initially join the 2020 parade, but it was canceled, along with the 2021 parade, due to COVID-19.

As for the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Manhattan, corporate LGBTQ group Out@NBCUniversal was allowed to march in 2015, but Lavendar and Green was not allowed until 2016, and not for a lack of interest, according to Fay.

Brooklyn’s St. Patrick’s Day parade first included an LGBTQ group — the Brooklyn Irish LGBTQ Organization — in 2019.

The Staten Island parade still does not allow LGBTQ groups to participate.

Attempts to interview the Throggs Neck Benevolent Association, which organizes the parade, were unsuccessful by press time, but in a statement to the Bronx Times, Karin O’Connor, Throggs Neck Parade Committee secretary, said the association is happy to have Lavender and Green aboard.

Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.