World Pride and Prejudice
World Pride and Prejudice
By Jesse Monteagudo
February 17, 2005
Recently the lesbigay and trans community accomplished something unheard of in 2000 years of Middle East history: it got Jews, Christians and Muslims to agree on something. An unprecedented coalition of Jewish, Christian and Muslim clergymen demanded that Israeli authorities stop the WorldPride events scheduled to be held in Jerusalem, Aug. 18-28. The former Chief Rabbi, Mordehai Eliyahu, called WorldPride “a disgrace,” while his Muslim counterparts warned that if GLBT activists and their supporters march on Jerusalem “their lives will be in danger.” The clergy asked Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski to issue an executive order to cancel WorldPride. Lupolianski, an Orthodox Jew, has no love for GLBT marchers - he called last year’s Jerusalem Pride event “ugly, insulting, offensive and provocative” - and indeed lobbied the Jerusalem police to deny them a permit. But Lupolianski had to admit that he does not have the power to intervene. WorldPride is a product of InterPride, a coalition of 75 GLBT pride organizations. According to the Web site worldpride.net, “WorldPride is a unique international opportunity to make a global statement building upon decades of Pride events and the struggle of millions of individuals across the globe for self fulfillment, for the possibility to be who they are and to follow their heart and their identity.” In 2000, the first WorldPride events were held in Rome, where thousands of supporters gathered in spite of fervent opposition from the Vatican. In a conference held in Montreal in October 2003, InterPride accepted a bid by Jerusalem Open House - that city’s GLBT center - to host WorldPride in August 2005. The theme of Jerusalem WorldPride 2005 is “Love Without Borders.” Organizers hope that “Jerusalem WorldPride 2005 will gather Israelis, Palestinians and people from all over the world to bring a message that is needed throughout the Middle East and beyond: human rights transcend cultural and ethnic boundaries, that differences can be respected peacefully, and that love knows no borders.” The 10-day festival will include opening and closing celebrations, a full schedule of parties, a film festival at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, religious services and workshops and a WorldPride Parade on Aug. 25. (It was the parade more than any other event that evoked such negative reaction from the local clergy.) Hagai El-Ad, executive director of Jerusalem Open House, is confident that WorldPride 2005 “will bring a new focus to an ancient city through a massive demonstration of LGBT dignity, pride, and boundary-crossing celebration. In these times of intolerance and suspicion, from the home of three of the world’s great religions, we will proclaim that love has no borders.” Groups like the World Congress of GLBT Jews - Keshet Ga’ava are already organizing WorldPride-related tours of Israel especially geared toward Jewish, Christian and interfaith groups. In his poem “On the Nature of the Universe,” the first century B.C.E. philosopher Lucretius bemoaned “the heights of wickedness to which men are driven by superstition.” In the two millennia that followed Lucretius’ death, organized religion has been responsible for countless wars, persecution and prejudice. With the fall of both sodomy laws and the sickness theory of homosexuality, organized religion has re-taken its wrongful place as the No. 1 enemy of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people around the world. Pope John Paul II recently accused Spain’s socialist government of promoting “permissive morality” and “scorn and ignorance” toward religion for, among other things, promoting same-sex marriage and the use of condoms to prevent transmission of HIV. Elsewhere, the Vatican is leading the charge against “gay marriage,” joining forces with Evangelical Protestants in the United States, Canada and Europe. Not to be outdone, conservative Anglicans worldwide continue to threaten a schism in their Church over the recent election of openly gay V. Gene Robinson as the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire. And to prove that homophobia is not limited to Christians, the Muslim Sheik Fawzan Al-Fawzan recently blamed the tsunami in South Asia on “fornicators and corrupt people from all over the world [who] come [to South Asian resorts] to commit fornication and sexual perversion.” Though organized religion is determined to stamp out the rights of sexual and gender minorities, we in the GLBT community (and our friends) are determined to go on fighting for our rights. In spite of the clergy’s complaint, WorldPride will go on and it will be a success, whether the Judeo-Christian and Muslim clergy agree or not. After all, Israel, like Italy, is a liberal democracy which guarantees free _expression and minority rights. Jerusalem, in fact, is one of the few cities in the Middle East where a GLBT Pride event can actually take place - a WorldPride event in Mecca, just to name another nearby “holy city,” would be unthinkable. At most, marchers will have to deal with ultra-Orthodox Jewish sects, which take a rather proprietary attitude toward the Holy City. By uniting to oppose WorldPride 2005, Jerusalem’s clergy sadly prove that superstition and bigotry often transcend religious and ethnic differences. By taking part in WorldPride 2005, queer people and our supporters worldwide will be able to show the world that love can transcend the natural and artificial borders that often divide us.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and activist who has been working for GLBT rights in South Florida for 30 years.
This article appeared on February 17, 2005, in twnonline.