Sunday, March 3, 2013

Blogging for Me


When I came out, it wasn’t for anyone but myself. I came out to be true to who I was, because there was something inside of me that kept me from being myself around those I cared about most. Little did I know, coming out in the Orthodox community, and starting a blog, would change me forever.

Call me na├»ve, call me ignorant, call me what you will, but I honestly believed coming out wouldn’t change me at all. I was always gay; I was just letting people know at this point. I didn’t think about repercussions, but more than that, I didn’t think that there would even be repercussions. I didn’t think that within days I’d have numerous emails, text messages, and Facebook messages all with the same three words: “is it true?”

So I started a blog. I started a blog not to change the face of Orthodoxy and homosexuality, but simply so I could stop answering questions day in and day out- how’d you come out, why’d you come out, “is it true”. So instead, all those answers can be found in the last 120 or so postings. 

However, I soon learned an important lesson. Coming out was intended to be for me, to find my own inner peace, sense of self and happiness, and translate those emotions through my blog. Eventually, though, the blog transformed my coming out and my story, into the resource for all things religious and gay and I had all the answers and everyone should read my blog. The community began to talk and it became clear to me that what I had just done, changed the face of YU and of modern Orthodoxy because there had been so few who had done this before me.  

The greater impact of coming out was not on myself, but apparently, on those around me.  I let the blog take a life of it's own, and become a resource for those seeking answers. But there was never an intention to change the community or the world. And I lost sight of that after writing for a few months. I wrote as if I spoke for everyone, as if my word should change the world and as if I speak for all gay Jews. Looking back on this process, I understand now more than ever, that my writing is just for me and never intended to represent anyone else.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Comfort

I stand by a few rules in life; one of them being, "no should ever be forced to do something or forced to be in a situation they are uncomfortable with." The key word in this thought is the word "DO".

Too many people hide behind "discomfort". One might say, "I don't like gay people, they make me uncomfortable. I don't like people who are of a different race, they make me uncomfortable." Well, here's the thing, if you don't like these people, then don't BE them. No one's asking you to be gay or to be a different race. But simply denouncing someone's rights to exist, their rights to equality, and their rights to BE, is not because you're uncomfortable, but more likely comes from a place of ignorance.

I was very uncomfortable, for many years, with being gay. And that was my right to be uncomfortable with- it wasn't something I had grown up hearing about, believing in, understanding, or something I was okay with. So I was uncomfortable that it was a part of me. Over time, I worked and strove to find comfort with who I am, and still work to this day to test my limits and learn my comforts and discomforts as part of being gay. But most importantly, not understanding something for whatever reason- because it's new to you, because it goes against your religion, or just because you don't know enough- shouldn't make you "uncomfortable", and doesn't give you a right to hate. It gives reason to avoid someone or something that makes you uncomfortable- a gay bar, perhaps- but not a right to be hurtful.

There is a fine line between discomfort and ignorance. Often times, I find myself "uncomfortable" with something, simply because I was/am ignorant to it. I don't know about this other culture, other lifestyle, other way of behaving, and my initial reaction is "it makes me uncomfortable". But more recently I learn to express my discomfort by asking questions, striving to grow and to learn instead of running away in discomfort. I seek to become less ignorant, and therefore more "comfortable".

If you don't like gay people, don't be gay. If you don't like gay marriage, don't get gay married. But don't go around claiming "discomfort" as a rationalization for your ignorance and hate. Acknowledge your flaw, and if you so choose, strive to grow to a place of tolerance and comfort.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"Gay"


A few weeks ago, I received a Facebook message from a friend. Well, a Facebook friend, an acquaintance; someone I knew in college, was never particularly close with, but I always had a great friendly relationship with him. 
In one of our psych classes, I repeatedly called you gay in a derogatory fashion. I honestly don't remember what prompted it, but I kept annoyingly saying it to you for an entire class period. I know it seriously upset you, and in hindsight, it was probably one of the most insensitive things I could have done.
I sincerely appreciate his sensitivity and thoughtfulness, and really appreciate the message. I appreciate seeing his growth as a person, particularly to this plight, and his apology. But if I’m being completely honest, I don’t remember the incident in question, and, I don’t remember having any negative feelings towards this person at all. That doesn't mean he didn’t say those things to me or call me names, but instead, I think, because it simply didn’t matter to me.

When people have asked me to tell my story or, once or twice, to speak publicly, it hasn't been easy for me. I don’t have these “backpocket stories” of being called names or treated inappropriately. Only a few times in my life did I truly feel I was a victim of “bullying”, but in no way can I recount those memories clearly. By moving past these challenges and incidents, by making peace and keeping on my own path, I gave myself the power to overcome the difficulties and ignore any negativity that so many others seem to struggle with, like being called gay in a derogatory fashion. I have no list to avenge, no book of stories to describe the pain and suffering or any hurt that I’ve been caused by others.

It’s too easy, especially in a marginalized community such as the LGBT community, to victimize ones self. I find it a waste of time and horrifyingly self-absorbed (says the man writing a blog about himself) to run around pointing fingers at everyone who may have caused you pain. I find all too often, people will victimize themselves to get what they want, or to further an “agenda” (for lack of a better term).
The way I see it, the way to get somewhere in life is not by playing the victim, but instead by showing strength and growth in the face of adversity. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

God Doesn't Challenge...


Recently I’ve come to the conclusions that haters are going to hate, no matter what. And usually there’s nothing you can do about it, but advocate the positive things you have to contribute instead of constantly responding to negative attacks. However, there is one constant phrase that plagued me while I was in the closet, and now follows me that I’m out. There is a popular Jewish/ philosophical concept: God doesn’t give someone a challenge they cannot overcome.

The first thing to understand is what is a challenge? Is being blind a challenge? I would say so. Is having a mental disorder a challenge? I would say yes to that as well. But is being a homosexual a challenge? From a religious perspective it certainly is, but from a sociological perspective it doesn’t have to be. But we’re on the religious page now. So if it is indeed a religious challenge, what does it mean to overcome it- To be a celibate person? To “cure” one’s sexuality? Those options don’t seem like “overcoming” anything. The deaf cannot fulfill numerous commandments of God that require listening, but are they told that God handed them a challenge and they must overcome it? No. They must do the best they can with what they were given.

I was given homosexuality. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t go looking for it, I just felt it. Overcoming the challenge of homosexuality, to me, even from a religious perspective, means getting to a place where it is no longer a challenge. Accepting, understanding and analyzing who you are and where your attractions lie, to me, is overcoming the challenge. As I have said so many times before, it’s very easy for someone who has not struggled with sexuality to say “get over it, God wouldn’t give you a challenge you couldn’t overcome”. But until the person saying that understands this particular issue, they never really have the right to say “get over it”.

Coming from someone who did face a challenge and struggled for so many years with sexuality, let ME tell YOU, I have overcome it.

It Gets Better- Gay Orthodox Jews