I’ve always enjoyed watching and, at times, participating in parades and recognize that in addition to being a most effective way of celebrating a particularly important day or event they provide as outlet for the expression of gratitude and appreciation for a notable accomplishment or achievement. My long-ago memory of throwing ticker tape (what do they throw now, I wonder) in honor of John Glenn’s heroic trip into space is still vivid, and I grudgingly applauded and cheered, together with thousands of others, at the procession celebrating the miracle of the ’69 Mets (a bitter pill for a Yankee fan to swallow), and, of course, I recall wondering what new balloons were to be introduced during the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (Snoopy really should have given someone else a chance).
There are, of course, no defined parameters or algorithms that indicate when a parade is in fact justified. It’s something that, well, just feels right. And for which the public is readily willing to endure the temporary disruption to both vehicular and pedestrian movement. So, while parades in honor of specific holidays such as Israel’s Jerusalem Day and the Adloyada on Purim, or one that reflects the joy and relief associated with the completion of wars and hostilities, or a pageant of fashionable displays and banners that proudly display ethnic and cultural backgrounds are understandable, rainbow-covered floats, garish music and loudly colored costumes in honor of sexual preferences and orientations are not. No matter whether they take place in San Francisco, Helsinki, Johannesburg or Jerusalem, Pride Parades associated with the LBGTQ community makes no sense, and has no purpose other than provocation. Even if they are accompanied by seventy-six trombones.
The idea behind these parades is, or was, to ensure that the world be made aware of the achievements and legal rights of those who identify themselves as members of the LBGTQ population. I won’t dispute that it is indeed unfortunate that, even after considerable legislative and judicial victories, such awareness is not universally taken for granted. Nonetheless, I never did understand, not during the less accepting period and certainly not now, how dressing in the fashion of exaggerated grotesque and transmitting lewd, offensive images support in any way the objectives related to tolerance and welcome. More importantly, the point has been reached throughout much of the western world – including Israel – where such flamboyancy no longer serves any purpose. The community that participates in these parades are no longer regarded with the same degree of derision and suspicion that was common a decade or two ago. There is virtually no area of professional or commercial endeavor in which those who associate themselves with one of the five main letters is not part of. The infamous closet, in other words, is slowly disappearing as a place of refuge.
Why, then, does something as natural as human sexuality – regardless of the freely taken direction or perspective – warrant festive revelry and pointless attention? If anything, I would think that the community to which these parades address would prefer to be regarded as unremarkable and commonplace. There was a time, I suppose, that the objective of these parades was to encourage seamless integration of the LBGTQ population segment into society as a whole – be it industry, academia, military, entertainment or government. And, yes indeed, In Israel, this was no small challenge. A significant percentage of the Israeli population identify themselves as traditionally religious (among both Jews and Arabs) and Haredi parties have been, from the start, an aggressive, homophobic component of the political landscape; these factors, among others, made “coming out” no easy decision. But despite major objections by narrow minded politicians and threats of violence against the LBGTQ community, the broad objective of community and social acceptance has, for the most, part been achieved – there are notable athletes, public officials, business leaders and media personalities who have expressed, with pride, that they are members of this group. It won’t be long before such “outings” will no longer be expected or necessary. And I fail to see how parades will make this happen more quickly.
Those participating in these parades will argue, with some justification, that there is much left to be accomplished for the LBGTQ community, and I’d be lying if I claimed to be in complete agreement with the objectives that, from their perspective, have not yet been fulfilled. I am, for example, more than a little troubled by the liberal willingness to sanctify – or, at least, legalize – unisex marriages, and have yet to become passively complacent when hearing of unions between two husbands or two wives. Moreover, I’m not unaware of the fact that there are groups of strictly Orthodox Jews who openly identify themselves as gay, and have found a way to intellectually and emotionally reconcile both roles. Such creative reconciliation, though, has yet to be approved by conventional rabbinical authorities, and I doubt such approval will be forthcoming any time soon. And I can only imagine the personal pain that anyone who feels compelled to seek out reassignment and transitional therapy as the initial steps in the transgender process must be going through, but I’m not convinced that other, less drastic options might have been equally effective. If these issues, though, are typical of what Pride Parades seek to bring onto the public agenda, the time could be much better and more efficiently spent.
That I may not be aligned with the objectives of the LBGTQ community does not automatically mean that I oppose their right to petition for the changes they are lobbying for; on the contrary, I fully support their right to peaceful demonstration, would gladly invite them to present their arguments in front of public bodies both at the national and local levels, and could understand if not encourage that the discrimination they have historically faced be made a part of the public education curriculum. I may not be ready to raise a hand in approval of the major changes the LBGTQ community feel are necessary, but would be more receptive if their platform was presented in terms of debate rather than as an exaggerated display of pink and sequins.
I was, I admit, disappointed that Israel’s excellent performance in the 2022 Beijing Olympics was not rewarded with a parade honoring the blue-and-white medalists. Bringing home two gold medals in highly competitive events that have traditionally been dominated by the larger and richer nations was no insignificant achievement. And had it not been for the post-Olympic hoo-hah over the fact that Artem Dolgopyat was not permitted to marry in Israel, nobody would have known – or cared – if either he or Linoy Ashram were gay.
Time to put an end to the Pride Parade, and save our cheers and applause for those who are truly deserving.