Op-Ed by Steph Black
This piece originated on Steph’s personal blog about her first experience at Tel Aviv Pride. That year, over a quarter of a million people took to the streets to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the largest LGBT event in the Middle East.
What does Pride mean for me? In the US, fear. Fear that a fascist government will soon take away my basic human and civil rights to live my life the way I choose to as a bisexual woman. Anxiety that at any moment, a supporter of the 45th’s regime will harm me-verbally or physically. And sadness, that the spaces that I was once able to come and go into frequently have now become political battlegrounds over which my basic identity is being debated.
Pride is contentious. There are many aspects of Pride I disagree with, that I don’t support. For one thing, having cops march with rainbow police cars and having big banks sponsor floats doesn’t fly with me. But Pride is defiance. It’s an inward facing celebration that isn’t meant to appease cis-het members of society. It’s a space that welcomes and (should) celebrate all marginalized minority identities, including trans folks, disabled folks, and so on.
But what about Jews? The answer should be straightforward (no pun intended). Of course, in today’s tumultuous political climate LGBTQ Jewish people should be protected and welcomed into Pride spaces. With the events at Charlottesville, the rise of antisemitic incidents nationwide, and the ever-growing threat of white supremacy, one would think that it would be understood that Jews also deserve safety and comfort. One would think.
But unfortunately, this isn’t the case. In a time where Pride has become the most diverse and intersectional it has ever been, Jews have been told in no uncertain terms that they are not welcome.
In Chicago back in 2017, Jews who had proudly marched for nearly a decade in the Chicago Dyke March and the Chicago SlutWalk with a Star of David superimposed over the Pride flag were asked to leave. Why? Their flags were perceived as a threat to other marchers ‘because of Israel’. Newsflash, conflating every single Jew with the actions of a country halfway across the globe is what we call antisemitic. Assuming that the symbol of Jewish identity automatically means that the people carrying them are inherently anti-Palestinian is antisemitic. Then using the white supremacist dog-whistle ‘Zio’ to talk about what happened is antisemitic.
Let me be really clear. I am a Progressive. I am bisexual. And I am Jewish. I FULLY support the message and goals of Dyke marches, Pride, and SlutWalks. 100%. But I cannot simply refuse to identify as Jewish to make other people more comfortable.
So I left. I literally left the country to celebrate Pride in a country that celebrates and supports my identities. I have been so ostracized by a government that has actively worked to see people with my identities squashed and by a leftist movement that refuses to see the nuances of their antisemitism that I hopped a plane with my best friend and joined 250,000 others at Tel Aviv Pride for the first time.
And it was amazing. Finally being in a space in a Jewish country in one of the friendliest gay cities in the world, I felt free. So f--- United States Pride.
Next year in Tel Aviv.
Steph Black is a senior at American University studying Women’s Gender and Sexuality studies. She is a proud Jewish-feminist (or Feminist-Jew) and spends her time protesting, reading, and writing about these topics. When not working as an activist, she can be found with her cat, Goose, or museum hopping around DC.