Why Shabbat Is My Favorite Part Of Pride
It’s Pride Month, and that means rainbow flags everywhere and Big Gay Unicorn-themed tank tops in every Target. Let’s face it — Pride Month can be stressful. As a queer woman, I often find that I go through Pride Month trying to make a point to the rest of society, loudly and clearly declaring the validity of my existence in the hopes of securing some representation that might go on to benefit other queer folk.
Even at the parades I’ve marched in, there’s stress in the air — there’s pressure to dress in a way that shows off your queerness (yes, I too am the proud owner of a rainbow tutu), companies go all out to demonstrate their inclusivity with big banners and floats (#corporatepride), and in the midst of streets exploding with rainbows and pop music, a whole crowd ready to dance like there’s no tomorrow, it feels almost as though others are measuring your pride by the size of your smile. Don’t get me wrong; parades are a fantastic way to show off the way we won’t hide the very real truth that we exist, that we aren’t going to change and are ready to love ourselves the way we are, and that we will never stop fighting for our rights. But I come home from every parade emotionally exhausted. Sometimes it’s hard to dance for five hours straight (albeit in a literal tutu) just to make a point — even if that point is that I’m here to show off my queer joy.
That’s where Shabbat comes in. As a child, my parents always framed Shabbat as a day of rest. We practiced a lot of the traditional customs of Shabbat — going to synagogue, having a fancy-ish dinner, saying the blessings over the challah and wine — but at its core, I was told, Shabbat was a day to take a break from the rest of the week and even the rest of the world, and dedicate time to sitting back and just breathing.
During Pride Month, it’s really important to me to dedicate time to just breathing. Taking a break from the stress of the rest of the week allows me to focus on myself, and during Pride Month, I like to give special attention to what my own personal queer identity means to me. I gently put aside my obligations to the rest of the queer community, and to the straight community that I hoped would be moved by the LGBTQ+ gatherings. On Shabbat, I give myself permission to let myself just be my queer self.
Practically this means I like to have dinner with friends, play games, and on Saturday take a looong Shabbat nap. When I practice Shabbat in this way, I am still queer, and I don’t put that queerness aside, but I get to be queer for myself. I am simply taking the time to be a person with other interests, who doesn’t have to wear a tutu, who can talk about her queerness without parsing her words in order to make the biggest political impact. On Shabbat, I am mindful of both my queerness and all the other parts of me that comprise my identity. On Shabbat, the person I am, with interests and personality traits as bright and diverse as a sparkling rainbow flag, doesn’t disappear. But instead of dancing with thousands of other queer folk and allies to Katy Perry, I can sit with a smaller group of friends, old and new, who love and accept me and take the time to sit back . . . and just breathe.