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Where diversity is valued

Linden Ponds and its residents participate in Boston’s Pride Parade

Created date

November 14th, 2014

As part of its celebration of LGBT Pride Month in

For the fourth year in a row, a contingent from Linden Ponds marched in Boston’s Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade. The lively Boston parade takes place each year in June and features dozens of colorful floats from local churches, schools, businesses, and elected officials, along with about 1 million spectators—all coming together to celebrate diversity, inclusion, equality, and respect.

Celebrating equality

Howard Bengele, who lives at Linden Ponds with his partner Jim Henderson, organized the community’s participation in the parade. He says that about 20 residents and staff members joined in the fun of marching in the Pride Parade this year. The first year Linden Ponds participated in the parade drew a smaller contingent of about 12 people. 

Howard says he sees increasing support for, and awareness of, equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.
“Each year it seems to grow,” Howard says. “A lot of the people are grandparents or parents of gay people, so you don’t know that until they approach you and tell you, ‘I have a gay son or a gay granddaughter,’ so they go along in support on the bus.”

Linden Ponds provides a branded shuttle bus to serve as the community’s float, so people who don’t want to walk in the heat can ride on the bus. Others walk alongside the bus and hand out Linden Ponds brochures to spectators. Sandwiches and cold drinks are provided for the group, as the parade lasts for several hours.

“Once people go one year, they want to go again because it’s such a fun event. The Boston Pride Parade has a lot of kids and church groups,” Howard says. “I think [the Linden Ponds group] will continue to get stronger because people who go pass the word to other residents that it was such a positive event.”

In fact, Linden Ponds was in good company as a participant in this year’s parade. Float sponsors included Northeastern University, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Joe Kennedy for Congress, Boston Children’s Hospital, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Boston Medical Center, Staples, TJX Companies Inc., Verizon, B’nai Or of Boston, United Parish in Brookline, Bank of America, Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, Microsoft, and many other well-known organizations. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick served as the grand marshal of the parade. 

Raising awareness 

In conjunction with this year’s LGBT Pride Month in June, Howard helped to organize a showing of Generation Silent, a documentary film that explores the unique challenges that gay and lesbian people face as they age, such as discrimination by caregivers or bullying by other seniors. 

“It deals with older people who really fought the fight for the acceptance of gay people and who are now finding they are being discriminated against when they go into a nursing home,” Howard says. “It was done by a producer here in the Boston area and has now been shown all over the world.”

Howard says he had seen the film a few years ago and thought it would be valuable for the residents and staff at Linden Ponds to watch. He approached management about arranging a showing of the documentary, and he says they were very receptive to the idea.

“I think Jim Wingardner, our executive director, is very cool,” Howard says. “He feels it is an important issue and made the decision that [the documentary be available for viewing] by all of the employees.”

Howard says that about 150 people attended the first viewing of the film. A lesbian couple who have been together for 50 years and who appeared in the documentary came to Linden Ponds to answer questions after the film. The initial showing of the film was so well received that subsequent viewings for employees were arranged, and the staff are now planning to arrange a second viewing for residents.

“Everybody who saw Generation Silent, whether gay or straight, were crying when they left the theater,” Howard says.

Tolerance, diversity, inclusion

While Howard has been pleased to see his Linden Ponds neighbors and staff embrace LGBT equality by attending the Pride Parade or watching and discussing Generation Silent, he is not surprised by their openness.

“I would say Linden Ponds is quite tolerant,” Howard says. “A lot of the people here are highly educated people from the Boston area who were lawyers and professors, so they really tend to be tolerant.”

Howard says he has always been open about his sexual orientation, including when he and Jim moved to Linden Ponds. As far as he knows, he and Jim were the first openly gay couple to move to the community. 

Since moving to Linden Ponds from Canton in 2010, Howard says he and Jim have made many friends and have become known for their personalities and their interests, not simply for their sexuality. A year after he and Jim moved to Linden Ponds, Howard decided to run for the highly regarded Resident Advisory Committee, and his victory sent him a clear signal that he was living at a place where diversity is valued and everyone is welcomed.

“People knew I was gay, but it didn’t appear to matter to them because 92% of residents voted for me,” Howard says. “They knew from all of these things I had been involved in that I was a good role model.”