It was hour six of being on my feet in the summer sun, and I had been steadily walking (but really I’d call it more of a hybrid booty shaking-salsa dancing-jumping-running sort of thing) for the entire length of NYC’s Pride Parade. My voice was completely shot from leading the crowd in chants at the top of my lungs, my feet were begging for mercy despite my ugly-yet-sensible choice of footwear, and my arms felt like rainbow jello after waving my “PROUD 2 B N ALLY” sign around like a cheerleader at homecoming for thirty city blocks.
Yesterday Lab/Shul marched alongside our Judson Memorial Church family in the “Resistance” section of the NYC’s Pride Parade. It was definitely my first, and the first for many of our group. After sign making and an inspiring mini prayer service with Judson (featuring perhaps the best full choral rendition of “True Colors” I’ve ever heard), we set off with a mighty little group to pray with our feet.
Six hours later, as I pseudo salsa danced my way past a throng of spectators, desperate for the end and honestly praying only for some ice water and a margarita, a man wearing nothing but a speedo, sequins, and heels yelled after me, “Yas, you get it you sexy ally!” And I just froze. The next few thoughts fired off rapidly. First: Not bad Ezra, you still got it even when you’re sunburned, soaked with sweat, and wearing ugly-yet sensible shoes. Second: Hey, he actually read my sign!
Then, guilt swooped in fast: Is that the only reason I’ve been cheering so loudly and putting all this energy into the parade – to be noticed? I don’t deserve this attention. This isn’t my parade. This parade belongs to the rabbi behind me, 70 years old, marching for the first time, who bravely came out before Conservative rabbis were even allowed to be publicly gay. This parade belongs to the the thousands of LGTBQ teens who attempt suicide each year, four times more likely than their straight peers. Like Rabbi Amichai said, every step of pride in this parade helps banish every step of shame the LGBTQ community has been forced to take, and those are shoes that I never have had to walk in.
It was truly, truly an honor to march, and I am PROUD 2 B N ALLY. But I am still learning what that means. How to lend my voice by listening. How to support as loudly as possible without hogging the mic. How to celebrate with passion without demanding the spotlight. How to remember that “ally” is not a noun but a verb.
After the wave of guilt, I spun around to face my besequined admirer. I stammered out a shy thank you and he fired right back, “No, thank YOU!” I protested, “No, really, thank you. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you. And it’s really great to be here.” He pulled me in for a big generous hug, and I could feel myself getting a little teary.
Maybe it was just all the glitter in my eyes, but also, maybe not. Either way, I pseudo salsa’d my way all the way to the end with some new energy – proud to have the opportunity, and humble that I wasn’t wearing my new friend’s heels.
– Ezra Bookman
Big thank you to Yoni Vendriger for all the photos!