No More Alphabet Soup

About a year ago Boston Pride decided to do some organizational soul-searching. Who are we as a movement? Whom do we represent? Where is the movement going? And what is our role as an organization in providing leadership and guidance to our community, colleagues, and supporters? The process was both challenging and productive, and we ultimately came to a surprising but empowering conclusion, namely that it was time to remove the alphabet soup of letters -- L, G, B, T, Q, I, and so forth -- from our mission statement. Our mission statement would no longer be defined by categorizing and labeling members of the community with a particular letter they may or may not identify with. Instead, Boston Pride would do away with labels and include all the members of the community and our allies who support us, not matter how they identify themselves on the gender and gender-identity spectra.

To be clear, this decision does not represent a step back from our mission to support members of our community. Rather, it is a bold step forward. We know that the alphabet soup has served an important purpose for many. Countless members of our community have felt invisible in many aspects of their lives, not the least of which is their sexual orientation, and being a part of an organization that explicitly tells them that they should be proud of who they are is important. But as we grow as a movement, we have also realized that employing the alphabet soup can be disempowering, as it excludes many people whose sense of identity is fluid. We want everyone to feel as if they are part of our community and the work that we do, not as if they do not count because "their letter" is not there.

Boston Pride has always been a leader among pride organizations across the country and around the world. We first began marching in support of the community in the early '70s. We hosted the first meeting where the International Association of Pride Organizers formed back in the early 1980s. In fact, we will be "Celebrating 30 Years of Worldwide Pride Movement" at this year's Boston Pride Parade and Pride Festival to commemorate the International Pride conference being held in Boston this coming October. We were one of the first organizations to put lesbian concerns in a position of prominence when we began using the acronym "LGBT" instead of "GLBT." We believe that taking the alphabet soup out of our mission statement represents another moment of leadership for our organization and for the global Pride movement.

Our community has come a long way since we first marched over 40 years ago. More and more people in the United States and elsewhere are comfortable expressing pride in who they are, which is encouraging. However, daily headlines, both from far away in the world and closer to home, are a cruel reminder that many still face discrimination, ostracism, even threats of bodily harm and death, merely because of who they are and whom they love. As a movement, we are compelled to find ways to acknowledge progress while continuing to instill pride and power in those who seek it.

We believe that the next step for the pride movement is to embrace inclusivity in a truly comprehensive way. This is not an easy task, we know. Even within our own organization, and among our supporters, taking away the familiar letters has generated important discussion and some disagreement. But we could no longer ignore the fact that the alphabet soup was alienating many. Language and identity have always been important to our community, and they will continue to be so going forward. As the pride movement around the world matures, and as our organization continues its quest for inclusivity and representation, we believe that our mission must evolve and adapt to our community, without leaving anyone behind. And for that, we must say good bye to the alphabet soup.