Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Shabbat Table

I’ve mentioned before how every weekend, the Shabbat Table conversation will very often revolve around topics like who’s getting married, who’s dating, what’s going on in the community and gossip like that. Growing up, once or twice the question of “who’s gay” also came up a few times, and it is slightly offensive to think that now my name is brought up around Shabbat Tables. But people will talk.

More than people talking, however, are people asking questions. I attend many meals, and anyone who knows me knows that I am an open and proud homosexual. Generally, within minutes of meeting me, many will ask about others they suspect who may or may not be gay. They ask me to confirm rumors, to voice my suspicions- and make no mistake, it’s a really difficult position for me to be in. I will never out someone, but often feel that I do not want to lie or I feel pressure to answer honestly, in hopes of building trust and friendship with the people I’m spending time with. But I fight myself, because I know how hard it can be for someone to be in the closet- especially when others are talking and speculating about him or her. I don’t out people, and have been working on myself to keep a poker face and not make backhanded comments that can really ruin someone’s reputation.

But the bigger picture issue here is- why am I even being asked these questions? It’s not my job, nor other people’s jobs to question someone’s sexuality. It’s not my job, nor anyone else’s job, to force someone out of the closet. I do hope, with my activism and my blog, that I encourage people to come out and not run away from who they are. I hope people see that it is possible to be gay and religious and out at the same time. But if someone chooses not to, it is not the community’s job to speculate, spread rumors, or to discuss around the Shabbos Table what someone’s sexuality is.


  1. So much agreeing. It always bothers me so much when people talk about others, asking if they're gay or not. It's none of their business, and whether they intend it or not, asking about that person WILL end up causing rumors to fly every which way. A person's sexuality is theirs to divulge- or not.

  2. People can't be blamed for their curiosity. I think you're being silly for thinking you have to answer. Tell the questioner to go talk to the person in question and get to know them instead of asking others behind their backs.

  3. Poignant as usual, love ya!

  4. I gotta say, one reason I love eating at the Shabbos tables of "the chareidim" is that their conversations don't generally revolve around who is dating who or speculating on people's sexuality. These topics are considered wholly inappropriate, especially on the holy Shabbos, and are off limits (at least in my experience) at Shabbos tables of chassidim and real yeshivish people.

  5. Ely, you make a great point.

    I think the issue you're addressing is part of an even larger one, which is that unfortunately the Shabbos Table has become a forum for the peanut gallery to exchange information. We've all been to those Shabbos Tables that were just amazing- people talking about deep topics, perhaps the Parsha, spirituality- and we certainly don't walk away from those tables feeling deprived because it wasn't full of gossip.

    I find that people in general have become nosier and nosier...maybe Facebook is part to blame. I mean, we advertise our lives and make so much of it public, but then get upset when people speculate and wanna know more. I am at fault in this as well; I have a Facebook account and certainly enjoy how it makes me feel connected to other peoples' lives.

    But does it really connect me to their lives, or does it just add me as part of the audience of people who watch their lives? Don't I feel more connected to a friend when I actually call her on the phone and catch up in a genuine conversation about what's going on in our lives?

    I like your post because it has gotten me thinking about privacy in general, and how much we try to stick our noses into other peoples' lives. It's certainly a nice distracton from our own lives, but it doesn't really end anywhere positive.

    When I got engaged, I was shocked by how many people asked me point-blank about my personal finances, such as whether our parents would be giving us money etc. I've had friends ask me if I'm pregnant. I've had friends ask me about my sex life with my husband. And I should feel guilty telling them it's none of their business? Yet it still is hard for me to politely tell someone that their question is inappropriate without sounding like I have a pole up my butt.

    Thanks for raising my sensitivity not only about talking about other people, but about how our Shabbos Table- the special trademark that sets us apart- has become so adulterated.

  6. Anonymous, you say pole up your butt like it's a bad thing... Have you forgotten which blog you're on?

    Serious note, my parents' shabbos table had no gossip just dvar Torah and it was dull as death. I learned at the table to basically hold in all my comments and not speak normally with people.


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