Wednesday, September 21, 2011


A few days ago I got a text message from a dear friend with a story. A tragedy, actually. The story, as I had heard it, was nothing new- but I hadn't heard something like it since last October. Since I last visited the issue of teen suicide and bullying here. A rampant wave of teen suicides had taken the nation, and they were all LGBT youth who felt there was no room for them in a heterocentric world. Who felt that the pressure to be straight, the bullying, and being made fun of by all who surrounded them was just to much to handle, so they took their own lives. I thank SA, EC and EA for getting me through that day.
Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller began a project called "It Gets Better".  Hundreds and thousands of videos were submitted to youtube, from the President to gay Orthodox Jews, from celebrities to the average Jamey.  He swore he'd fight off bullying. He swore he wouldn't let them get to him anymore, and he swore that he understood it would get better.  So many people put so much effort into making the world a safer place for LGBT youth and adolescents, and so many people seemed to be on board with the cause. It was a remarkable project.

When I heard the news about Jamey Rodemeyer, a fourteen year old from Buffalo, New York who had taken his own life, I did some research. Jamey was a blogger, Jamey was a youtube vlogger, Jamey was an activist, Jamey was only fourteen. Jamey inspired hundreds with his posts and writings, myself included. Somewhere along the way it became too much for him. So on September 18th at 2am, Jamey Rodemeyer tweeted goodbye to his support system, the ever wonderful Lady Gaga, for her work and belief in equal rights for all. He said goodbye to his "mother" and raised his "paws up" forever. Jamey took his own life at fourteen years old.
This story is one of many. This story makes me cry not simply because a child committed suicide, not simply because he was bullied, not simply because he was gay, but touches my heart because he was an activist like me. He was strong. His friends have spoken wonderfully about how strong their friend Jamey was.
I wish I could've met Jamey. I wish I could've spoken to Jamey. I wish to God that he watched the It Gets Better video I released last year, just in hopes that he knew there was and is hope out there. I will miss this boy I had never met. I will miss the impact he was capable of having on the world. I will miss his strength and I will miss the hundred years of life he did not get to live because people decided he wasn't worth it. Because other people decided that he was a joke.
A few hours ago, Lady GaGa began a campaign, which is now trending on Twitter, to spur the movement for anti-bullying legislation. Tonight, Anderson Cooper, joined by Tracy and Tim Rodemeyer, Jamey's parents, hosted a segment about the incredible life of Jamey (here).  Although it took a few days, the news of Jamey Rodemeyer has finally reached the national public, and should not fade until the bullying stops. Until the hatred and the violence stops. Until the Jameys of the world get to live past 14 years old.
Here are some links about Jamey and the interviews/articles/campaigns his untimely death has sparked:!/ladygaga/status/116634542135189504

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Frum, Confused and Engaged

Yesterday my Facebook read: "three weeks ago he *tried* to have cyber sex with me. today he's engaged to a woman." Just to clarify this individual, nor his fiance, are on Facebook, so there is no way for anyone to know who I'm talking about or for them to know there's a conversation going on about them. They are also not on onlysimchas, so no need to go searching.

Over the past few years of friendship with this person, just an acquaintance who I spoke to online sometimes or when I saw him around, turned into sexual conversation where he would ask me what type of things were considered "normal" (sexually) by secular social standards, by Modern Orthodox standards and by Orthodox standards. He had told me some of his struggles not sure what gender or sex he was attracted to, or how to live his life. He had attraction to women, men, and had sexual experiences with both. Often, the conversation would get too sexual and he would try to lead me into cyber-sex, which was not something I would do, he would get angry at me and I wouldn't hear from him for a few weeks until he felt lonely again. He asked me introduce him to my friends via the internet or phone, but I refused, not being comfortable with him approaching my friends, especially when he was so unclear of who he was himself. I recommended therapy, but he felt it was too taboo in his community, and I recommended speaking to a Rabbi or other leader and he said he wouldn't feel comfortable. This went on for about 8-9 months.

Our most recent conversation again began with him begging me to introduce him to a friend he could talk to about sexual things or just to help him with his loneliness, and eventually he tried to lead the conversation to places I was uncomfortable with, so it stopped and he again stopped talking to me for a few weeks. So yesterday he texts me with an apology for his behavior but I assure him I won't be setting him up to talk with any of my friends, and he responds he found an outlet for his loneliness, and frankly, his horniness, and that he was engaged. My concerns are for his wife- that he will be with her for the wrong reasons, that the community pressure has gotten to him. There is so much pressure in Orthodox and Modern Orthodox communities to get married at 22/23/24, that too many just rush into it. I also worry that he will get tired of her and cheat on her and worst case, bring home a virus of some sort because he will be fulfilling certain desires outside of his marriage. I hope this is not the case. I hope this is not what happens. Because I do not know where he is sexually or emotionally, I can't "break up" the relationship or anything. I have tried and tried to help him through his issues and tried to get him to see a more professional person, but he refuses. His life is now his, and I really do wish him and his wife luck in their future together.

A concern and area of struggle for me in all this, is knowing that I tried and failed, knowing that I really wanted to help him and speak with him and attempt to help him understand himself. I had no idea he was dating someone and I also have no idea how long he was dating her for. All I know is that he was hitting on me, attracted to men and women and not sure where his emotions lied. And it just doesn't feel good knowing that he's just getting married, as if that will make everything better.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

One Hundred

This post is dedicated to my boyfriend who has changed my life so much, and makes me a better person every second of every minute of every day. For my one hundredth blog post, I’d like to, for the first time, write about being in a Frum and gay relationship. There’s a lot of work that goes into any relationship, and in my opinion, even more work in a gay relationship, and even more work in a religious and gay relationship.

I want to express some of the difficulty of being a Frum and gay couple. For me, it’s easy to parade around New York City holding his hand, being part of a couple like so many others. But with a Yarmulka on both our heads, it changes how people look at us. There’s the opportunity to make a tremendous Kiddush Hashem, or sanctification of God’s name, by being a happy gay and religious couple, although many more religious people would argue that it is a desecration of God’s name for me to be in a relationship in public. But for most in 2011 New York City people will say “Wow- even religious Jews can be homosexual and happy and in a relationship.” For others, it says- “Wow, homosexuality even exists in the Jewish community, who knew?” For others it says “Ew, gay people, what an abomination”. But for my friends and my community, and for his as well, I hope it says- I’m happy that they’re happy.

But within a religious community there is an added level of discomfort for a gay couple. It was one thing as a single person, but now it is likely that others will feel more uncomfortable because I’m in a relationship. A large percentage of my Orthodox friends have never interacted with a gay couple before, so comfort levels will vary and I acknowledge that. Do I act the way I want to act? Do I inhibit certain behaviors in front of certain friends? More so, it’s one thing for someone to stay in the closet and for me to out- and for both of us to interact, but it’s another thing for me to interact with my boyfriend in front of someone in the closet, and I would hate to cause them discomfort. But it’s my right to be who I am, and my right to be happy with my boyfriend.

As many other blog posts have ended, there’s a balancing act. Sometimes I can be however I want with my boyfriend, and sometimes I’m better off acting less like a couple in front of specific people. My boyfriend and I work to make sure no one is uncomfortable with us, but we also try to keep our own rights and happiness in mind.

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.

It Gets Better- Gay Orthodox Jews