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Boston launching new office to support LGBTQ residents

2017 Boston Pride Parade (Elizabeth Gillis/WBUR)
2017 Boston Pride Parade (Elizabeth Gillis/WBUR)

The city of Boston will launch a new office dedicated to empowering and protecting its LGBTQ residents, centralizing and expanding that work amid what Mayor Michelle Wu called a "growing movement to strip away rights that the queer community has fought and waited so long for."

Wu announced Wednesday that her administration will stand up an Office of LGBTQ+ Advancement that will be tasked with developing policies and programs to empower Bostonians in those communities.

City officials are seeking an executive director to lead the new office, which will work alongside other departments and community organizations. Wu's chief of equity and inclusion, Mariangely Solis Cervera, said the new office aims to have two full-time employees by fiscal year 2023 and enough budgeted funds to handle a range of programming.

Boston previously had several LGBTQ+ liaisons under the Office of Neighborhood Services umbrella, and Wu said creation of a new department will scale up efforts to provide services to those communities.

"For too long, members of our LGBTQ+ community have had to invent systems of safety and support for themselves while those in power have looked on or away," Wu said at a press conference announcing the new office. "For too long, they've needed to find resilience in the absence of protection. And for too long, many of us outside the community failed to act. But the pursuit of justice cannot fall only to those impacted most directly by injustice, because the strength and safety of all of our communities is our collective responsibility."

More than 20 other states have seen "anti-LGBTQ+ legislation" introduced so far in 2022, according to Wu, who said many of the proposals "specifically target the trans community."

Sen. Julian Cyr, a Truro Democrat and former chair of the Massachusetts Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning Youth, cautioned that elected officials in Massachusetts may be growing complacent on LGBTQ issues.

Having a city office "laser-focused on the needs of LGBTQ+ people" will make "a world of difference," he added.

"Too often, government has really overlooked the needs of the most vulnerable people in our community," Cyr said. "Yes, this is Boston, and yes, this is Massachusetts. We're proud, I think, of what we've done, but I really worry that we've been resting on our laurels when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community."

The LGBTQ Youth Commission plans an event next Thursday, March 31, outside the State House to call on state government to "to say it with us loud and clear: LGBTQ youth belong here and everywhere." - Chris Lisinski/SHNS

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