Why a Chareidi Woman is Taking Her Kids to Pride
I’m about to post something that is probably more controversial than anything I usually post (and that’s saying a lot), and it may cause some people to defriend me, it may cause some people to think less of me… and I’ll admit, part of me was planning on just not saying anything at all.
But I feel I must. But just know that because of the controversy, I do plan on not responding to the comments section here, because I have no interest in arguing with you. I’m just sharing my thoughts.
I am going to the gay pride parade in Jerusalem in a few hours.
With my kids.
Yes. That’s right. I identify as a chareidi woman and I am still going. And I feel its important to bring my kids too.
Before you get all in shock, let me say that I used to be “one of you”. I used to be opposed to the parade. I used to say “Fine, be gay, but why do you need to be proud of it? And show off about your aveiros (sins) in the holy city of Jerusalem.”
But I’ve changed.
You want to know why I’m going?
I’m going to show that you can be religious and not be a bigot. That you can be chareidi and not be a bigot.
The thing that changed my mind, the thing that made me decide that this year is the year I’m going to go, is finding out that some of my good friends are gay. And they feel that that means that God hates them. That their life isn’t worth living. That they’re an abomination.
The reason I’m going to pride is to say I care about you. I love you. I think you’re an awesome person. And the fact that you’re gay doesn’t mean you’re any less valuable as a person, any less worthwhile as a jew, any less loved by God.
I’ve heard some people say that gay people have a choice, they choose to be gay. From my experience with my close friends who are gay, I know its the exact opposite. Because of the religious community, because of wanting to fit in and be normal, they want more than anything to not be gay. To just be able to live a traditional family life, without all this pain. People don’t choose to be gay. That is how they are. Period. Yes, for some people there’s a spectrum and they can be happy with either a man or a woman, and honestly, in that case, I do think its preferable halachically for them to have a traditional marriage. But for those who can’t or don’t want to be with someone of the opposite sex for whatever reason, I don’t judge them.
To be honest, I used to think the answer to the “gay and religious” issue was to do like Josh Weed and marry the opposite sex to your best friend… until I learned that even he was divorcing, that no matter how much he tried to make his marriage work to a woman, it wasn’t fair to either of them.
Yes, the torah says that male to male anal sex is an abomination. That is a fact. That is a sin.
But you know what it doesn’t say?
It doesn’t say that being gay is a sin. That being gay is an abomination.
I’m going to pride to stand up against so called religious people who mock, bully, belittle, and castigate others simply for “being gay”. I heard a story of a yeshiva bochur who didn’t even really know what gay was, let alone that he was gay, until after he was already bullied for being gay in yeshiva.
I’m going to pride to say that all human beings are worthy of love and respect.
And yes, the fact that some people that are gay do acts that are assur by the torah is true. But that is something private, and that isn’t anyone’s business but theirs and god. You’re supposed to be dan people lekach zechus, judge people favorably. There’s many ways for gay couples to be intimate without breaking an issur dioraysa (a biblical law).
The fact that someone is gay doesn’t mean they are doing anything that is a sin. There is not a single sin in the world that encompasses or involved “being gay”.
I’ve heard people oppose the gay pride parade because they don’t believe its appropriate to have a parade about peoples sex life. I’m sorry, but peoples sex life is not on parade in the Jerusalem pride parade. Being gay is not about who you have sex with. You can be a celibate gay person. You can be a gay person who only has hetero sex. Being gay is about an identity that you are, not what you do. (Yes, I have heard that gay pride parades in other cities are sexually explicit, and thats why I would never go to a gay pride parade in any other city. The jerusalem one is family friendly, G rated.)
I want to add also that pride is not just about gay people. It also involves asexual and demisexual people who are shamed and told they arent normal human beings because of their lack of interest in sex. I support asexuals. That’s how god made them.
Pride is also about trans people, who I support, because I know what it’s like to be uncomfortable in your own skin, to feel like there is this existential thing wrong with you, until you figure out your identity and live as you identify inside. (For me, by the way, that happened when I attempted to live as a dati leumi person, when my inside was saying thats wrong, I identify as chareidi.)
Pride is also about intersex, and if there’s ever an argument that “this is simply how god made me” with absolutely no outside influence, this is it. God made people intersex, and they also are worthy of love and respect. (And for the record, the torah has lots of talks about intersex people, its not even remotely controversial.)
An argument I’ve heard is “fine, be LGBTQIA, if thats how you are, but why do you need to be proud of it? Why have a parade about it?” and “What about hetero pride?”
When the world at large tells you you aren’t worthwhile, when it tells you that your existence is an abomination, when people put up signs around the city calling you abnormal, being proud of yourself is an act of defiance. A healthy act of defiance. Being proud to be LGBTQIA is saying i’m a worthy human being, not in spite of the hate I get or because of the hate I get, but simply I just am. Its not saying being LGBTQIA is better than people who are cis het, it is just saying “I am a valuable individual and when you say I’m not I will proudly stand up and say I am worthy”.
And as for “Why in jerusalem, and why specifically in a way and place that is inflammatory and offensive”, I say that Jerusalem has many LGBTQIA people just like any other cities. And if there were this parade going through chareidi areas, I’d be strongly opposed. But it isnt. And if people don’t like it, they can ignore it.
If you oppose the pride parade but support the israel day parade in america, youre a hypocrite. Both are types of people that the world at large says arent worthwhile/valuable, both bring out protesters, and both are saying “I will not let the hate around me bring me down. I am proud of who I am because I am a child of God/a human being.”
Lastly, I am going to the pride parade because the main tennet of the torah is “Viahavta lireacha kamocha”, treat your neighbor like yourself, treat other people the way you want to be treated. And what better way than you march at pride with everyone else, announce myself as an ally, and say “I don’t support hate and bigotry, because that’s not what my torah says.” And that’s what I’m teaching my kids by bringing them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ronit Peskin is a chareidi single mother of 4 living in Kochav Yaakov, activist for mental health awareness, blogger at PennilessParenting.com about living a life with mindful spending, and foraging instructor, attempting to make a kiddush Hashem (honoring G-d) every day via her interactions with others