Jack Reid and Larry Turner live comfortably in their Wilton Manors home. They left South Boston after 65 years because of intolerance.
“We were driven out,” said Reid as he discussed his relocation to Florida.
The couple saw first hand the appalling treatment of gay men in the streets of South Boston. A longtime enclave of Irish, Italian and, more recently, Lithuanian and Albanian immigrants, “Southie” is in the news again as the neighborhood’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade approaches.
Reid, 81, a first generation Irish American with dual citizenship, recalled the last time gays and lesbians marched in the parade, which celebrates Irish pride and culture.
“People threw bottles at them and called them ‘faggots,’ Reid said. “That’s when I knew we had to get out of there. I wanted to shoot them.”
Reid and his longtime partner settled in South Florida, but have not forgotten their roots. They commend Boston mayor Martin Walsh for his willingness to work a deal with parade organizers to allow a gay veteran group to participate, but wonder if it’s safe.
One of those organizers, John “Wacko” Hurley said the LGBT group, MassEquality is not welcome because, “they got an agenda we don’t want.” Hurley went on to tell the Boston Herald, “They got their own parade in June.”
South Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade is traditionally held in conjunction with the Evacuation Day holiday, which celebrates the removal of British forces from Dorchester Heights.
The South Boston controversy dates to early 1990s and reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which handed parade organizers a landmark victory. The court ruled that although the parade was on public streets, it was a privately organized event protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The government could not interfere to prevent organizers from prohibiting gays and lesbians or any other group.
While acceptance of LGBT people has progressively improved over the years, Reid looks back on his time in Southie with some regrets.
“We survived,” Reid said. “But we couldn’t be ourselves. We had to hide who we were. We couldn’t be real.”