50 years ago, the Stonewall riot broke out at a small LGBT+ bar in New York. 50 years on, Pride marches happens every year, across the world. Last weekend marked London Pride, today, what appears like a corporate-sponsored festival, is at its heart, still a protest.
Rights for the LGBT+ community have come a long way in those 50 years since the Stonewall riot. In the UK, we’ve seen Section 28 repealed, the age of consent equalised, civil partnerships and now equal marriage. Keshet has done brilliant work in our schools and synagogues, paving the way for lasting and meaningful change where no person should have to choose between being Jewish and being LGBT+.
However, the past few months have reminded us that there’s still a huge amount to protest, in our community and in broader society. Just as antisemitism is on the rise, so is homophobia and transphobia. The vicious attack against two LGBT+ women in West Hampstead, home to so many of our young professionals, shows that we don’t yet live in a tolerant and accepting society. Stonewall reports that one in five LGBT+ people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last 12 months alone. This will be no different in the Jewish community. The devastating news from a South African Israel tour shows us that our communities have some way to go before young LGBT+ people feel accepted, loved and celebrated for who they are, all created in the image of G-d.
Jewish LGBT+ people exist. In our synagogues, our schools and in our communal framework. As the debate over LGBT inclusive education raged in Birmingham, one Jewish paper ran an op-ed with the headline ‘Jewish schools face battle for survival’, another Jewish paper used the deadline ‘possible relief for Charedi schools on LGBT teaching’ and another one claimed on its front page that ‘Jewish schools’ hopes rest on peers’ as ‘Lords can bin LGBT teaching’. The impact of these damaging headlines and hyperbole cannot go unnoticed. All children deserve to grow up knowing they are who they’re meant to be, without societal imposed shame or fear. Inclusive education saves lives, prevents violence and could show our community it’s fullest and most inclusive extent.
Change is clearly coming, thanks to the hard work of Keshet and so many trailblazing activists. Keshet’s paper with the Chief Rabbi shows that progress can be made. It’s clear that after the past few months that it can’t come quickly enough. Until then, Pride marches across the world will continue to protest. It’s too important not to.