Miss Staten Island banned from St. Patrick's Day parade after coming out bisexual
via Change.org

The organizers of the Staten Island St. Patrick's Parade have taken heat over the past few years for excluding LGBTQ organizations from marching in the event. They're the only borough in New York City that still imposes such a ban.

"Here's the deal, it's a non-sexual identification parade and that's that," Larry Cummings, a representative for the parade's organizing committee, told the Staten Island Advance. "No, they are not marching. Don't try to keep asking a million friggin' questions, OK?"


To take a stand against bigotry, Madison L'Insalata, the 2019 Miss Staten Island, announced she was bisexual the night before Sunday's parade. She also said she would march wearing rainbow colors to represent the LGBT community.

Larry Cummings via Change.org

"There's no rule against me wearing a rainbow," said L'Insalata, 23, told The New York Post. "I want people to see the colors and ask questions."

Miss Richmond County, Gabrielle Ryan, and Miss Staten Island's Outstanding Teen, Angelica Mroczek, previously announced they would not be marching because of the ban.

"I'm proud of the community that I am from, and I'm proud to be Miss Staten Island," Madison L'Insalata said, "but I'm not going to hide who I am."

The night before the parade, Jim Smith, the director of Miss Staten Island Scholarship Pageants, informed L'Insalata that parade organizer Larry Cummings banned her from marching in the parade because of her announcement.

Smith claimed that the organizers of the parade wouldn't allow her to march for "safety reasons." Claiming that she could be subject to abuse from drunken, rowdy revelers.

"What can happen to her? I don't think anyone can harm her. I'm very disappointed, though I'm not surprised. I know they're very strong in their beliefs," Smith said of parade organizers.

But the parade organizers couldn't stop L'Insalata from attending the parade as a member of the general public.

On Sunday, she stood and watched the parade from the sidelines like the rest of her fellow Staten Island residents. But she did so while proudly wearing a rainbow scarf and heart-shaped pin while clutching a little multicolored flag.

"I still wanted to march because I felt I could make a much greater impact being in the parade, waving my rainbow flag," L'Insalata told The New York Post Sunday.

"It's frustrating — I wanted to be in the parade, and it's unfortunate we can't have a disagreement and still be in the same place," she continued. "They're removing all discussion by not allowing me to be there."

L'Insalata wasn't the only person banned from the parade for making a pro-LGBT statement.

Republican City Councilman Joseph Borelli says he was physically blocked from marching in the parade for wearing a small rainbow pin.

"They called police on me. I spoke to a sergeant and was not going to make the life of our cops more complicated to prove a point," he said. "I didn't come looking for an argument. My friends handed a pin to me. I really didn't think it was a big affront to the Irish."

Madison L'Insalata intended to make a statement by marching in the parade in support of the banned LGBT groups. However, the fact that she was banned may have amplified her message even louder.

"I said what I have to say — I still think that my message got across and that's most important," she said.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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