June is LGBTQ Pride Month, 2018

Image: “We are ALL made in God’s Image” in Hebrew and English, on a poster identifying the group from Temple Sinai, Oakland in the Oakland Pride Parade in 2016. For full picture, see the end of this article. All rights reserved, Linda Burnett.

When I think of “Pride Month” I think of stories:

I think of the queer folk at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, fighting back and starting what would come to be known as the Stonewall Riots. Click the link, or Google them, and learn your history, fellow LGBTQs. They weren’t respectable. They weren’t nice. But all the rest of us owe them for the progress we’ve made since. I was 14 and hadn’t heard the word “lesbian” yet, but my life had changed for the better, even though I didn’t know it yet.

I think of my first SF Gay Pride, in maybe 1987 . I was not yet “out,” and was terrified to come out, because as the mother of two small children I knew that there was a lot at stake. Women like me lost children to homophobic relatives all the time in those days. One court wasn’t deterred by the fact that dad was a convicted murderer: he was still seen as a better parent than the lesbian.

I think of the next Pride in SF, when I was out, and I took the kids. It was a defining moment for our family – we were not going back in any closets. Jim asked me why the guys on the Folsom Street float were dressed in leather. I told him, “They like to play dress up.” He nodded his five year old head and promptly lost interest in them, but the bear float guys throwing teddy bears into the crowd won his heart.

I think about the next few Pride marches in SF; the AIDS epidemic was raging. ACT-UP was re-teaching the lesson from Stonewall: fighting for our rights could not be “nice” because we were fighting for our very lives. I wasn’t at much risk for AIDS, but I saw what was happening to the guys, and I saw what the courts were doing to LGBTQ parents, and I knew that we were all fighting for our lives.

I think about how times have changed, and how people haven’t changed. We’re in the middle of backlash now: certain folks are trying to roll back the advances made by people of color, LGBTQ people, women, disabled people.

We must remember that we are all in this together. We must not let the  social conservatives roll back the calendar to the bad old days. “Social conservatives” sounds so nice, like sociable jam or something – but relative to us, they aren’t nice, not one bit. You may not have my rights, social conservatives. I will fight you every step of the way.

Celebrate! because they don’t want us to. Be proud! because if we aren’t, who will? And fight back, in the primaries, in the general election, whenever you have a shot at a voting booth, vote!

Judaism is unequivocal on the necessity of speaking up when something is wrong. Leviticus 19 commands that we not stand by while another human being bleeds. Hillel speaks of the necessity of speaking up for ourselves and for others:

If I am not for myself, who is for me? When I am for myself, what am I? If not now, when? – Pirkei Avot 1:14

This Pride month, let us be for ourselves and for one another and against hatred in all its disguises.

Pride Parade Sinai Group
Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin,far right, with 4 members of Temple Sinai of Oakland, including me. Photo by Linda Burnett, all rights reserved.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at http://coffeeshoprabbi.com/ and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

10 thoughts on “June is LGBTQ Pride Month, 2018”

  1. I was sixteen then, and had certainly heard the word lesbian, being widely read, but did not think it applied to me, since I was attracted to men. It was a few more years before the concept of bisexual entered my mind.

    1. Hi, Mary Anne! I don’t know how I managed to be so ignorant; I’m glad you weren’t. Thank you for reading and commenting!

          1. I grew up in Kentucky (and am here again, in Louisville) but her professional experience was in Alabama and in New Orleans during WWII. I grew up on her stories. (Even though her clients were ten or more years in the past and a thousand miles away, she never used names. They were “The little boy who only trusted grey-haired people” and “The little girl whose father had leprosy.”)

            1. Wow… I have a number of family roots in Kentucky, although no one in the family lives there now. Louisville always feels homey to me. 😉

  2. When my twin brother came out to me at age 17, I became very proactive in the LGB (it wasn’t LGBTQ then) community.
    I love your blogs, Rabbi. You look fabulous!

    1. Thanks, Pamela! Yes, we do keep needing more initials, don’t we?

      Sometimes I joke about “LGBTQXYZ” but in truth I think that thinking expansively is one of the things the movement has gotten right. As Elizabeth Hendrickson, past ED of the National Center of Lesbian Rights once said to me, we won’t really be there until the most marginalized person is free to be who they are. (I don’t recall her exact words but that was the gist of it.)

  3. I was 13 when I first met with the LGBTQ community (and yes, at that time it was not identified by any letter! we, allies, just knew to support our sisters and brothers humans out of our love for who they were). In France, where I lived and was raised, being an ally was being part of the “women’s lib” movement. Those years were the seventies. I am proud that I have been part of the constant support of this long and often heartbreaking journey (I am a cis woman and understand my privilege).

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