Being an LGBTQ individual in Tel-Aviv can sometimes make you feel a little disconnected. It’s the illusion of living inside a liberal all-accepting bubble that prevents you from seeing the way this community is truly being treated outside of the borders of this city. But if you open your eyes just a little you are bound to see everything you tried so hard to shut out.
Tel-Aviv’s gay pride parade came and went, but not without a bang. The parties continued a week long, tourists occupied the city, coffee houses and restaurants were decked with rainbow flags and supporting smiles. For a little while I felt like my sexuality is finally being celebrated other than just dealt with. For a little while.
Not a mere month later we were struck again by the sad reality of our lives as a community. Be’er Sheva’s gay pride parade got canceled. The high court of justice didn’t allow it to go through the main roads of the city. “The parade will disturb public order and will hurt the feelings of the religious citizens” said Commander Effi Shieman, head of Be’er Sheva’s police department. I felt betrayed, the police, the high court of justice- organizations that are supposed to keep me and my rights to be me safe are the ones that force me to give up my voice? My opinions? Myself? Suddenly Tel-Aviv’s pride seemed distant and irrelevant.
Instead of a parade, Be’er Sheva’s LGBTQ activist held a demonstration right in front of city hall. Shay Sekler, who took part in the demonstration, got arrested. He got arrested by a police officer who only moments before blurted out how disgusted he was looking at his mother who held a sign supporting her son’s sexuality. He got arrested and I got scared. Only a year ago this kind of hate and fear were the excuse for the killing of an innocent young girl in Jerusalem’s gay pride parade. The same hate and fear that fueled that officer to be “disgusted” by a mother supporting her son. The same hate and fear that would have hurt the feelings of the citizens of Be’er Sheva if the parade would have taken place as it should have had. When will we learn? When will sexual diversity stop being this controversy that should stay hidden rather than shown in public? When will I feel safe to show my love to whomever I choose to on the streets?
I fear where we are going. We are letting the ignorant few stop us from achieving real equality. We are allowing dark politics and closed mindedness to take away our basic rights; our freedom of speech, our freedom to choose who to love. I’m afraid that by walking in the street with a sign supporting a whole community I become a target.
Today was Jerusalem’s gay pride parade. A few of my friends participated. They walked proudly and held their heads high while I was waiting patiently to hear if anything horrible, like last year, had happened. The parade went great, they voiced out our community’s scream in a pleasant fashion. Even Shay Sekler came by- proud to be there, proud to show the world that nothing can stop us from being, that we should not apologize. I’m happy to know that we are as strong as we need to be, but I can’t help but to feel a little quiver in my heart whenever I think of the next parade- who will get arrested? Who will get attacked? Will we finally, for the first time, be safe and loved?
A good friend of mine, Yael Neishtut, summed everything perfectly. “It’s the first time that I really want to go to the gay pride parade. I want to take my son and show him how beautiful and colorful love can be. I want to show him how much I support and care. It’s the first time that I really want to go but I won’t because of my son. I’m just too afraid that another guy will attack us as they did last year.”