A few weeks ago I attended Los Angeles’ Pride Parade. It was my first in the States as an adult. Growing up, Las Vegas wasn’t organized enough or maybe not queer friendly enough to have a Pride parade that I can recall. My first several Pride events took place in Jerusalem. I was very happy to be part of the marches, and more than thrilled to attend the late night, semi-secret drag shows that happened during the festivities. While it didn’t occur to me that Pride looked different from city to city, there was a definite sense of uniqueness that surrounded the Jerusalem Pride. I thought the crowds were large and boisterous, which I immediately found to not be true when I came to LA Pride. To me, it seems that LA and Jerusalem are making very distinct statements in their Pride events. In LA I was surprised to find that not everyone marches in the Parade. There are organizations and churches, clubs, and even radio stations, all with their very large and creative floats and music. The streets are lined with supporters, folks from the LGBTQ community, friends, and allies. It seemed to me that the LGBTQ community was marching for each other. It was less a political statement as much as it was a celebration of all things queer.
Here in Jerusalem, Pride takes on a much different meaning. Everyone in the LGBTQ community, their friends, family members, and allies marches in Pride here. There is no one set apart, all are participants, and all are making a statement. Obviously the numbers here are smaller, but Pride here is still making a political statement of queer identity within a religious city, and we need all the voices and bodies we can get. Walking through the streets of LA there was a small number of people from the Westboro Baptist Church, holding their signs of hate and bigotry. Walking through the streets of Jerusalem the hate was more pervasive. Orthodox Jews held up ropes tied into a noose screaming that queers needed to die. Young girls held signs dooming all queers to a level of hell that I was pretty sure Jews don’t even believe in. To my surprise, the majority of the people in the Pride march, just walked by, not giving more than a second glance at the protesters. With all the diversity of the parade I was inspired by the solidarity of everyone involved. There was an unspoken consensus that the little fights didn’t matter, but that the large battle of being seen in Jerusalem was of utmost importance. In LA, queers are seen. That’s not to say that we don’t have discrimination and hatred and our own battles to wage. But in Jerusalem, folks of the LGTBQ community are still fighting for the awareness that they even exist, while in San Fransisco queer culture is so visible that there’s even a queer anti-Pride, calling on the SF community to take back Pride from corporatism and media.
I hope that one day the Pride in Jerusalem can look as outlandish and beautifully loud as that of Los Angeles or SF. That one day LGBTQ folks in Jerusalem will be as visible as Haredim. And I hope that we can support the community on this side of the world until it happens, and when it does, Pride in Jerusalem is going to explode.