This post is dedicated to Eric James Borges, 19, and Phillip Parker, 14, the two most recent victims of bullying and anti-gay sentiment.
Being gay makes a person question everything. A lot of people assume that when one comes out of the closet, they automatically go “off the Derech”, or lose their religiosity/ most of the Jewish practices they had previously kept. While I may not have left the community, anyone who knows me, or anyone who has read the Blog for the past two and a half years, knows that I have changed, and yes, have become what many would call “less” religious.
Why is there this perceived trend? Not because it’s not true- it really is true that most people will leave their Orthodox communities and change many of their beliefs and practices once they come out of the closet. I used to think this was because they felt rejected from orthodoxy. And while this does have something to do with it, I want to posit something a bit deeper. Being gay, acknowledging that there is a part of you, created by God or developed as you grew up, that inherently desires you to act against religion makes you question why and how this is possible. One is forced to acknowledge the possibility that the Torah, at the very least, has been misinterpreted over the past few thousand years, or maybe even be wrong, and that makes you change your thoughts, beliefs and behaviors.
How can a person be gay and religious? How can God create someone gay, or develop a gay identity within a person and then tell them that they cannot act on it? This question rocks so much of the foundation of everything the Orthodox community raised me to believe. For that reason many of my gay friends and I will all question things about religion that we hadn’t before acknowledging our sexuality. I question how accurate the Rabbis were in their interpretations and what biases were brought into the Talmud and codified law. Many others in today’s world think and question the same way, but for myself, and maybe for other gay people as well, it’s the underpinning of being gay that drives these questions. These questions that make a person rethink every law, not just the law and interpretation of homosexuality. For anyone that's ever experienced the dissonance with the Torah- that a part of their being and who they are is delegitimized by the Torah, they understand what I'm talking about.
And if they haven't experienced such a challenge, they cannot possibly understand what those who have go through. As I have written about many times before- it is not any one person's place to judge another person's thoughts or behaviors about religion, especially when they are not in that person’s exact shoes.