The TV announcers commenting on the 130th Tournament of Roses Parade on Tuesday morning, January 1, 2019 in Pasadena noted that Rose Parade Queen Louise Deser Siskel of San Marino, California represents a lot of “firsts” for the New Year tradition: first Queen to wear glasses, first member of the Jewish faith – and first member of the LGBT community to preside over the Parade. LGBT folks have another word for it: history!
“Once the exclusive bastion of a narrow segment of society, the traditions of the parade have changed gradually. The first African American Rose Queen was named in 1985. The Tournament of Roses had its first female president in 2006. The first African American president, Gerald Freeny, is serving this year. And in 2026, the association will be led by the first president who is part of the LGBTQ community. With each passing year, the Rose Parade and Royal Court look a bit more diverse, a bit more like America,” Siskel wrote in a Dec. 31 op-ed for the Los Angeles Times entitled “I am Jewish. I wear glasses. I am bisexual — and I’m the Rose Queen.”
Earlier, Siskel told the Pasadena Star News she “entered (the Rose Court search) on sort of a whim, but as I continued to return for the interview rounds, and throughout the whole process, I realized the value of the Tournament of Roses, and the role it plays in our community….Each year, the (Tournament) selects seven young women (for the Royal Court) and gives them a real voice; for that I feel very thankful.”
The senior at Pasadena’s Sequoyah High School, who has researched breast cancer under Dr. Shehla Pervin at The Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, told the paper: “What was important to me throughout the interview process was that I was completely transparent about who I was, about the things that I value, and about the things that I advocate for.”
As the Los Angeles Blade reported earlier, there have been numerous LGBT “moments” during the internationally televised Rose Parade – from ACT UP/LA stopping the parade to protest the lack of attention to AIDS to AIDS Healthcare Foundation featuring an annual float devoted to a person such as actress Elizabeth Taylor to causes, such as this year’s focus on LA’s housing crisis.
While there was no official explanation from organizers as to why Parade organizers chose Siskel over other contenders, in at least three ways she represents hope for the New Year in a difficult political climate. As Queen, she stands for triumph over the bully—the mean kids who make fun of someone wearing glasses or who grow up to be anti-Semites or homophobes.
Siskel’s message as Queen? “I encourage everyone to stay engaged and active within your community, advocate and fight for the things you believe in, regardless of whether other people respond or care about those things in the way you do,” she told the Pasadena Star News. “I think it can be easy to get discouraged when people don’t share the same passion for your values or for the things that you care about, but I hope that people continue to fight for the things that are important to them, regardless of the support they see from others.”
Happy New Year!