A “Straight” perspective on the parallel non-heterosexual world
I am writing this, fresh from participating in the largest parade of Gay Pride ever to take place in Israel. Yesterday, tens of thousands of people – some say 100,000 – paraded through the streets of Tel-Aviv in a noisy procession, celebrating and, at the same time, promoting, their right to be different.
But I am not Gay, so why was I there?
Well, let me say that one’s attitude to, and awareness of, the existence and activities of the Gay community is strongly influenced by having a family member who is not a part of the “straight” community. Those of us that find ourselves in this situation are still a relatively small proportion of the total population. This means that the majority continues to view the Gay section of society with a mixture of ignorance, fear, distrust, suspicion and loathing.
Other than what they see or read in the media, they have little or no understanding of Homosexuals, Lesbians, Bi- sexuals or Transgender individuals.
So it is unfortunate that their awareness level of the existence of such people is only raised by the advent of parades such as this. For the image of the Gay community, as projected by these processions and events, is a distortion. The decorated floats blaring out loud music, and the gyrating semi-naked dancers, are certainly eye-catching, and make for great visual images on the evening news.
But this is only a small part of the community, albeit the most publicised.
Frankly, I was astonished at the huge numbers of photographers and cameramen, both professional and amateur, that this event attracted. There is something visually stimulating about the rainbow flags, and all the other rainbow coloured paraphernalia. But there were also a number of other flags being waved, in rainbow variations
Each group has its own colour theme, including a flag in various stripes of grey, representing the “asexuals”. And I was personally amused to see a contingent from Great Britain waving a Union Jack in various shades of pink!
I was also struck by the presence of the small group of ” Parents of Gay children” with their own flag. I know that, for many of them, it was very hard to face up to, and deal with, the new reality in their lives. Traditional concepts and values are difficult to overcome, so I salute them for the support they give, to their families and to others.
Unfortunately, I have personal knowledge of some cases where this was not so. Parents who could not overcome their prejudices, and placed religious belief, or simple ignorance, before the well being of their son or daughter.
It is an attitude which I find impossible to comprehend.
The reality of a Gay relationship is an incident I witnessed on the fringes of the parade. I found myself next to a male couple, one of whom had a little boy perched on his shoulders, to better see the floats. Suddenly the child reached across to his other “father” and gave him a big hug and a kiss – a regular family!
This little scene encapsulates another, and I think much more important element; the fact that a same sex couple, in Israel can adopt, or even via surrogate births, enjoy the ability to have a complete family.
I know that I am not alone in feeling that, to some extent, the flamboyant and open sexuality, exhibited in parades like this, are counter productive to the cause of equality.
If the argument is that Gays are no different from heterosexuals, save for their sexual orientation, then parades do nothing to persuade the rest of the population to understand Gay people better. To be accepted as an equal part of society requires compliance with the social norms of that society in matters of public conduct.
Being equal means exactly that. Equal rights are not superior rights.
I would hate us to arrive at a situation where there could be suggestions of “affirmative action” for Gays, This is not as far-fetched as it may seem. History has shown that other groups who screamed “discrimination”, did go down that road. That was bad for society then, and would be a bad thing were it to happen again.
The contentious subject of Gay marriage is an example of this phenomenon. In all the agitation for the rights of Gays to marry, it seems to have been overlooked that even heterosexuals cannot get married in Israel if they don’t satisfy the criteria imposed by the Orthodox Rabbinate.
Thousands of people still have to get married in Cyprus, or elsewhere, because, either they are not “Jewish enough”, to be permitted to marry in Israel, or they have some other impediment dreamed up by the religious authority.
Civil marriage for all citizens should be the sole aim, and Gays will then share the equal opportunity available. But I’m not going to hold my breath whilst waiting!
Of course, there are a variety of other aspects to the situation of Gays in Israel, many of which have been well publicised. The status of Tel-Aviv as one of the leading destinations for Gay tourism in the world being just one example. The expansion of Gay pride events to other cities, including Haifa, Petach Tikva, Hadera, Be’er Sheva, Eilat and, yes, even Jerusalem, is proof that the movement for equality is gaining momentum.
Oh, and I omitted to mention that, included in the parade, were a small contingent of religious Gays!
Maybe the day will come when we’ll see a parade in Bnei Brak or Ramat Beit Shemesh!
OK – just joking!
Andyboy – Telling it as it is
- ‘With this ring I thee wed': The turbulent battle for same-sex marriage in Israel (timesofisrael.com)
- Israelis flock by the thousands to Tel Aviv’s annual Gay Pride Parade (haaretz.com)
Photo credit: gay marriage:http://patnurseblog.blogspot.co.il/2012/05/gay-marriage.html