Archive for the ‘Gay and Lesbian issues’ Category
Several years ago, I was having dinner in Dupont Circle, a gay-friendly neighbourhood in Washington, D.C., with a gay Jewish friend and his boyfriend, also a Jew. My friend, who describes himself as both a “professional Jew” and a “professional gay,” brought up the topic of Israel. I don’t recall exactly what was said, but both he and his boyfriend expressed pride in the fact that Israel was rather tolerant towards gays and lesbians, much more so than its Arab neighbours. I agreed with the sentiment, but expressed some skepticism as to its value.
I remember saying that many right-wing, hawkish supporters of Israel, would proudly praise Israel’s record on gay rights, or women’s rights, or any other issue that showed that Israel was a modern, western, country, with a tolerant, progressive society, not unlike that of the United States or Canada. I remember thinking that these people didn’t give a rats ass about gay rights in America, or about feminism anywhere in the world, apart from trumpeting Israel’s superiority over its backward Muslim enemies. This was especially true for Israel’s Christian Zionist supporters, many of whom were actively hostile to gay rights and women’s rights.
This sort of analysis always made me a little uncomfortable, like comparing the Israeli military’s efforts to reduce civilian casualties with the goals of Hamas suicide bombers, who hoped to maximize them. Having the best human rights record in the Middle East is a little like being the best student in a remedial math class: not something you should really be boasting about. Sure, Israel is more tolerant of gays and lesbians, and more progressive on women’s issues than Syria, but so what? As a modern, western, democratic state, shouldn’t it aspire to play in the big leagues with the United States, Canada, western Europe and the like?
I stopped by the big Pride Parade yesterday, which, for obvious reasons, was pretty exciting this year. I parked myself on Christopher and Bleecker Streets, a place which I figured had some pretty historic connotations and took some pictures (click on them to blow them up), which I thought I’d share along with some thoughts.
1. The only moment, in my life, where I’ve seen so much authentic and unscripted joy was election night 2008, when the whole city burst into spontaneous celebration. New Yorkers are a pretty rude antisocial bunch, but the mood in Greenwich Village was completely jubilant and communal. Everyone was talking about the bill in every coffee shop and restaurant. I heard strangers discussing it in the Strand bookstore, and the level of authentic joy and happiness, including among the many straight people, was infectious.
2. If anyone still thinks of the gay rights movement as a rich white movement, they haven’t spent much time in New York City. It may be that marriage equality was able to pass because rich white New Yorkers, by and large, either supported it or didn’t care. But both the crowd and the marchers were appropriate for New York: a completely diverse, rowdy, and democratic bunch. There were the South Asian gay marchers, the Orthodox Jews, the Latina Women, the Asian marchers, etc…I’d like to think it would make Walt Whitman proud, on a whole bunch of levels.
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