Proud to be LGBT and Jewish
Thousands of members of the LGBTI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and more) community as well as straight allies gathered to celebrate what it means to live openly as your true self with pride and without fear or shame.
There was also pride in celebrating how far society has come in terms of tolerance, understanding, inclusivity, respect, and support of the LGBT community.
This year marked the 30th anniversary of Joburg Pride, and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York, protests by members of the LGBT community who had had enough of being arrested, harassed, and fired for simply being who they are. Those riots marked the beginning of the gay rights movement.
In South Africa, the rights of the LGBTQI+ community were made constitutional in 1996, making it the first country in the world to grant legal protection to the community, and later the fifth country globally to recognise same-sex marriage, a fact of which South Africans can be incredibly proud.
The Pride festival was held on a specially closed-off section of Rivonia Road outside Sandton City, and it was made possible in part through generous donations by major corporations which occupy the office buildings in the area. The fact that some of the largest and most powerful companies in the country are happy to donate to and actively support Pride is in itself an incredible testament not only to their social responsibility, but to the progress South African society has made in changing its views of LGBT people.
Growing up as a gay boy in the Jewish community was difficult. Being bullied in school and feeling terrible shame, sadness, confusion, and isolation was a reality not only for me, but many little boys and girls like me not only at Jewish schools, but in schools in general.
Thankfully, as the world has moved forward in its attitude to the LGBT community, so too have schools improved their approach to bullying and LGBT education.
After “coming out” the closet at 19 years old, I felt like my life had gone from black and white to technicolour, as I was finally able to live happily as my true self. I am grateful that my parents and family are 100% supportive of me, even though it may have been difficult for them to overcome some of the stigmas and preconceptions they had grown up with. I was incredibly lucky, but I’m aware that not everybody has such a positive coming out experience, and that is something we can all work to change.
Being a part of both the Joburg Jewish and Joburg LGBT communities is a wonderful experience. The two actually have many things in common such as treating others as you wish to be treated yourself; welcoming and including everybody like Avraham did into his tent; giving back to and helping others especially those less fortunate; and using one’s unique gifts and talents to be a good person, lead the best life possible, and make the world a better place.
As a young, gay Jewish man I confidently wave the Israeli and the rainbow Pride flags with pride.