“Bloody Mary party at 11 o’ clock!” a voice chirruped from the float to our left.
Lilah, skipping along beside me in her bobbing ponytail and little purple Keens, pulled on my arm. “Mommy, what’s a Bloody Mary party?”
One of the women behind us laughed and I turned to smile at her. “They always learn something new at Pride,” I said.
This was our third year walking in Boston’s Gay Pride Parade with our synagogue. Every year, the wait to get started is interminable, so after we’ve painted on our rainbows, I take my three kids around to see the different groups lining up. Balloons, body suits, feathers, platform shoes, and hot pants abound. This one’s juggling, that group is line-dancing, and the group over there is trying to coordinate the footsteps of a giant pair of lips down the sidewalk. You kinda had to be there on that last one.
If you’ve been to Pride in other cities, you have to understand that Boston’s Pride parade is different. It’s not quite as raucous. It’s rated PG, at most. And it’s Unitarian. I’m not joking. There are so many Unitarian churches that walk in Boston’s Pride parade that it’s referred to as the Unitarian Pride.
What there aren’t a lot of are Jewish groups. Our synagogue is one of three.
A lot of it has to do with timing. Pride is on a Saturday. Jewish groups have other things going on most Saturdays. Only Reform synagogues can get away with organizing a secular event on Shabbat. Our rabbi–while very supportive–can never come, as the bar mitzvahs are scheduled years in advance and he’s rather necessary at those.
Nonetheless, our synagogue is there. And, like every group at Pride, we have our schtick. Some bring rainbow streamers, and some dance in flapper dresses to blaring disco. My synagogue? We bring our kids.
We bring our kids because some of them are likely to grow up to be somewhere in the LGBT range. We want them to know from their earliest days that we’re down with that. Being gay or bi or trans is something you’ll figure out someday, and it has no bearing on our love for you or your Jewish identity.
We bring our kids because we want our gay families to be able to walk alongside our straight families in joy and celebration. Because we remember that not so many years ago our gay families didn’t even legally exist and that many of our gay members grew up assuming they would spend their lives in the closet.
We bring our kids to signal that we consider Pride to be a family event. We don’t hide gayness from our children, like some dirty little secret they’ll learn about when they are older and can handle it.
We also bring our kids because they have a rocking good time. They hand out bracelets and they wave to the bystanders. They see their teachers watching, and they run over to hug them and take a picture. Near the end, as the crowds thicken, the kids keep their hands out and run along giving out high-fives.
And we bring our kids because the Jewish LGBT community is our community. Last year, we spent a long time trying to come up with a catchy slogan for our t-shirts. Finally, we settled on “Shalom.” And it is perfect. The delighted calls of “shalom” as we pass are so appreciative, because in that sea of Unitarian churches there is a synagogue.
Yes, my children always learn something at Pride. They met their first drag queens at Pride two years ago. They practice patience as they wait for us to move out. They connect with their gay teachers who apparently do not live at the school. And, yes, sometimes they learn about things like Bloody Marys.
Most importantly, however, they learn that being Jewish is not about tolerance, not even about acceptance, but about love and community.