Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Struggle, pt. III

I've grown. I'll admit it and I'm proud of it. I've grown so much over the past few years, and as this post marks my second year of the blog, I'll admit that things have changed; that I've changed, that the community has changed, that life got a lot better. And I am extremely thankful for the love and support of those around me.

But it's not over. The struggle isn't over because I've found a semblance of peace and happiness. Because sometimes, I still feel off. Sometimes, I still feel out of place. I feel alone. Not because I am alone, but because I live in a community that sometimes makes me feel alone. It's not that I want acceptance- I have that. It's not that I want a relationship- I have one. But when it comes down to it, the Orthodox Jewish community is a heterocentric hub with 2000 years of tradition. Almost always, men will marry women in Orthodox communities. Shabbat tables will discuss the latest boy-girl couples and engagements and weddings. And I can't change that. But I also can't change who I am. Am I selfish for expecting everyone to help me feel comfortable? Perhaps. But no matter how much my straight friends love me, I will always feel different. No matter how much of a place I have in my community, I will never feel like I fully belong.

There are times when I get hugs from my friends and wonder- will they hug their children if one day their kids come out of the closet? There's so much more growth and work to be done because in reality, while my community has accepted me, have they accepted homosexuality? The answer is obviously no. And the answer probably will be no for a long time, and that's a really hard fact for me to face. That's another aspect of feeling alone, that I am alone in being accepted, that there are so few Orthodox gay Jews out there who are happy and comfortable in their communities.

I was warned about this years ago, when gay friends told me I would never be able to stay in the community I love so much. I was warned that I would feel out of place or rejected. Thank God I didn't. And I don't. I know my friends love me and my community loves me. But that doesn't help me feel like everyone else, because I will never be like everyone else. There are neighborhoods and communities out there where majority of the population is gay, or it's 50/50, and that's when someone doesn't feel alone. But when someone goes against their society's created standard for "normal" (ie- being Frum and gay), they will feel alone.  And that's part of the dissonance, discomfort and disparity of being gay in a Frum community.


  1. your right. I understand your need to feel like you belong, it is one of the most basic human needs to feel like you are a part of a community. It must be very difficult to feel different, or that people around you think differently, feel differently and are different in terms of whats "typical" in their life. As a hetero person I think I have totally taken advantage of it. Until this post I doubt I have ever thought about this issue from a homosexual perspective(specifically feeling alienated due to conversations about relationships or ways of being that are I can never achieve). I guess that's the reality though- our community is a heterocentric community, and though people may accept you, love you and be proud of you, they are not the same in that way. Maybe focus on the other wonderful things that you do have in common like shared values, love of am yisrael, torah and social justice.

  2. It's important to separate the sin from the desire, but a sin is still a sin. An orthodox community should never accept homosexuality (while it should accept people who have homosexual desires), just like it should never accept Chillul Shabbos (while it should accept a person who finds it difficult to keep Shabbos).

  3. anon 9:04,
    I'm not sure what point you were trying to make, I agree with what you said but that was not the point of this blogpost.

  4. Ely,
    Well put. I agree and 100% understand the continuing struggles you face.

  5. I am so sorry for the way you feel Ely. You are blessed though to have figured this out while you were young enough. Others such as myself, married and in the closet have that loneliness compounded a million times over. I guess everyone will have someone whose shoes they'd like to walk in. In many ways I wish I could have what you have.

    I wish us continued luck in our respective journeys.

  6. Ely-first, I want to say that I'm so proud of you. I've been blessed to know you for the past few years, and to see how you've struggled and grown. You're an incredible person, and this post is evidence of that.

    Second-what do you think heterosexuals within the Orthodox community can do to change this? What can we do to make sure that when some of children come out of the closet, as they inevitably will, they will feel less discomfort within the Orthodox world if they choose to remain in it? Do you think that there IS anything that can be done, or should be done, to make that happen?

  7. Ely,

    I think you will always have to accept this reality until you can find a way to convince the Orthodox community that being Homosexual can actually fall under Orthodox Halachic guidelines. Even past the Issur of homosexual actions that the Torah dictates explicitly, (which I do understand, are not actions that we can't immediately assume Frum individuals with homosexuality will commit), there is still the Issur of wasting seed. And I honestly can't at all imagine how a homosexual couple will get past that Issur. We all have sexual needs, and a need to release ourselves in that way. I can't be convinced that a homosexual Frum couple is actually abstaining from wasting seed as well when they are intimate with each other. An Orthodox community can't just take that Issur away. The community can't change halachas such as those that have been passed down for thousands of years as I am sure you know.

    So your only options seem to either 1) accept the fact that you will have to live with the reality you are describing in the post for the rest of your life while continuing to associate with the Orthodox community, 2) Find a community outside Orthodoxy, 3) or find a way to change, which the suggestion itself probably ruffles your feathers to no end, and only can make sense to you if you believe that it can work. But I am just being honest here. Sorry if it is too blunt.

  8. Hehehe. Wasting seed. What a ridiculous phrase...

  9. What a wonderful journey... hard as it may be. I found your post inspiring. You are a very brave person who is obviously very commited to the Orthodox faith and is honest about who he is. My one suggestion would be this, and it may offend some. The approval of the Orthodox community is not synonomous with Hashem's approval. You obviously know this on some level. Fight the good fight, my friend. I wish you all the best.

  10. So I'm not sure if you like the Orthodox community because it's YOUR community or because it's Orthodox. If you like it because it's Orthodox, then hoping it will "accept homosexuality" will make it no longer be Orthodox. If you like it because it's YOUR community, then find a new community that suits your values and make it yours.

    "But it's not over. The struggle isn't over because I've found a semblance of peace and happiness. Because sometimes, I still feel off. Sometimes, I still feel out of place. I feel alone. Not because I am alone, but because I live in a community that sometimes makes me feel alone."

    That paragraph is relevant to just about every person I know, gay or straight. We all feel alone at times, we feel out of place at times, and we all definitely have our off moments. Many people feel alone and I don't think we can easily blame it on the community.

    Also, you've mentioned earlier posts that you're suffered through depression. As such, you've clearly struggled with your cognitions and how they make you feel about yourself. I encourage you to examine your thought distortions about what you think you need to be fully happy, because if it's always based on external circumstances, you'll never be at peace.

  11. Anon 1:06-
    I have explained a number of times that I like my community because it is Orthodox and because I am Orthodox. A community accepting open homosexuals does not define that community as no longer Orthodox. I'm not sure who's definitions you're going by. My whole blog is about not finding a new community, because I am Orthodox.

    Secondly, I know straight people feel lonely, and everyone feels out of place sometimes, but the point of this post is to enumerate the consistent feeling of isolation I feel, that I know my friends don't feel. It is in no way the same as regular "loneliness", sorry.

    Third, while I have shared personal information with you, I still do not believe that gives you the right to comment on my emotional make-up, cognition, or "distortions". Reading my blog does not mean you know me.

  12. Acceptance first must come within. If you love yourself you will find that your self-esteem does not depend on others. Like you said it is vital to feel accepted in your own community. Your way ahead of the game by expressing yourself in public that this is who (Ely Winkler) I am and I am not afraid to be myself even around others who may totally disagree with what I believe in. That way you know where you stand in who your friends are and who are not. Yet even if you don't feel wanted in a shul or congregation I got the feeling that practicing your religion the way you are most comfortable and which is most recognizable should make you feel wholesome. It's what you believe is the right thing to do. Now a shul that is completely gay and orthodox would make a world of difference. But you don't need one to be you. Avi

  13. These feelings you write about are just emotions. It's just your ego trying to take hold of you. The true self doesn't need acceptance from others because you are others. And it's other people's egos that try to exclude you from what they believe is genuine community but in reality, they are the ones that need your prayers. They need your prayers that they can break away from their egos and just accept things as they are. Life doesn't have to make sense within the confines of halacha. When everyone else recognizes that we'll all be able to find more love and compassion in our hearts.


It Gets Better- Gay Orthodox Jews