Monday, December 27, 2010

Gender Roles

Anyone who knows me personally, knows that one of my "favorite" topics to discuss is gender roles. Unfortunately, especially in Orthodox Judaism, men and women are restricted to specific limitations based on what there gender's can or cannot do.

The Torah certainly defines specific things for men and for women to do- but over the past millenia, those laws have turned into men having specific strengths, hobbies, and persona's that women and men must fill. While certain things may be true on a general basis, the idea that one person can or cannot do something based on their gender is ridiculous. Physical differences aside, there is no real codified law specifying gender roles. There is however, socially created limitations for what is 'acceptable' or not for men and women to do. There are people who do nothing but joke and make fun and perpetuate stereotypes of what a man should do and what a woman should do. Is this acceptable? Does every man and woman meet every criteria of their social expectations? Do they even have to?

This isn't to say that men and women can't do what society has set as their "place", but it is to realize that men and women by no means have to do what society tells them.
Personally, I have to mention the toll that gender roles can take on the life of someone who doesn't conform to what society believes they should or should not be doing. Be it hobbies, interests, skills or behaviors- too often I was judged based on societies "norms" and "standards" for how a man should act and what they should be interested in. I can tell you that not everyone fits that mold- and forcing them too, or expecting them too, or challenging them to- or making fun of them if they don't, will NOT impact who they are and how they behave. It will only hurt them.

It is up to us to look at each other, regardless of sex, to choose our friends, hire our employees, and just to relate to each other as individuals. Before we comment on what a man or woman can or cannot do, or who is meeting social norms appropriately or not, just think- how much does it really matter?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Monogamy (My Future)

This may be my least ‘sensical’ and most ‘opinionated’ post. I don’t have facts, I don't have stats, I just have experience. I started graduate school about four months ago, a profession dominated by women and gay men. I thought I could meet some cute guys and enjoy the social experience in addition to the educational experience. That’s definitely holding true- but I realized that almost none of the men are single.

Even though a lot of them are gay, most of them are taken and in committed relationships. Similarly, I have awesome neighbors in a committed (gay) relationship. But this shouldn’t be possible! When I came out, or when I was struggling in high school, all I heard was- you don’t want that lifestyle- no one is truly happy, gay and lesbian individuals, specifically, don’t settle down- they live a life of misery, alone. Well I’m here to tell you, purely based of my experiences- that is not true. Homosexuals are just as capable of building stable lives, with friends and families, just like any heterosexual couple. For some of you this may be obvious, but for many people who grew up, like myself, hearing that homosexuals are never happy, never find stability, and definitely don’t settle down- just had to say it’s false.

I do hope to have a family one day, even a religious one. I think that a partner and I can raise children in the Orthodox world better than many of today’s parents and couples, and hopefully half as decent as my siblings do it- they’re the most incredible parents ever, all of them. As far as community- I know Yeshiva’s that will accept my children, and what more can I hope for? Will my child/children be made fun of? Perhaps, but what child isn’t? I also want to live in Israel, where I know other religious gay couples building families and lives. Everyone’s home lives are different- divorced parents, non-Kosher homes- all my friends growing up had their own story “in” the Orthodox world. My kids will have their own story.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm Sad and Kinda Angry

And I'll tell you why I'm sad. This is why I'm sad. ARTICLE. I will deconstruct the lies, and the most bothersome statements in the article, then end with my overall feelings.

"The Torah is very much based on the concept of Na'aseh V'nishmah. Who you are is predicated upon your actions. If a man or a woman is in an exclusively heterosexual relationship, by Torah definition he or she is not gay."

-I'm not sure how she gets this Torah definition, but by no means does being in a heterosexual relationship define where someone's attraction actually stands. Just ask the thousands of men and women who are married or in hetero relationships, and cheating on their partners with members of the same sex.

"Which brings me to the first obstacles for change. There are gay men who are making it their life's cause to keep people from attempting therapy, by decrying the efficacy of change therapies in the media. They do this because of their own inability to achieve success in these therapies. "

-Her generality here is appalling. There are many who have spoken out against reparative therapy, yes, but who is this woman to just pretend that she knows each and every one of their motives? I know a few men who have had the courage to speak out against these therapies, and it's not because of their failures. It's because they were hurt, physically molested, and emotionally destroyed in the process, and felt the need to make sure others knew of these issues before they went for this therapy.

"But when a gay man succeeds in changing his lifestyle, he is met with displeasure and even coercion from the gay community in the form of social hostility for having betrayed them. On the other hand there is a tremendous amount of support among strugglers and ex-strugglers themselves."

-Excuse me, but define "succeeds in changing his lifestyle"? If, for any reason, the individual who has changed is involved in a gay community, they are going to doubt his successful change, knowing him and wondering how this was possible. Most likely because some of them have been physically intimate with this person. How can you just sit back, have someone simply say that now they have changed? She even admits herself, later in the article, that change is hard to come by and we should just accept attraction to the opposite sex whenever possible. If so, of cours the gay community is going to be confused when someone suddenly says they are straight.

She then gives the case of Reuven, a "textbook case" of a person with SSA: divorced parents, overbearing mother, submissive father, molested as a young child- as if this is the situation with every homosexual.
"If a homosexual lifestyle were a foregone conclusion of the above personal history then Reuven would never have had a chance. Today, Reuven enjoys a healthy marriage, Baruch Hashem, to a woman he is attracted to."

-What bothers me is not the ignorant assumptions of what every homosexual's history is, but more the implication, that anyone "suffering" with "SSA" (same-sex attraction) is automatically subject to a "lifestyle". In fact, what is a lifestyle? Because for me, who I am or am not attracted to is not a lifestyle. It's simply one aspect of who I am.

"Rabbi Rosenberg adds: "There's a message out there that if you have homosexual attraction you must be gay and will only be fulfilled in a homosexual life. There are sanctioned gay clubs in high schools and universities which make that claim and give legitimacy to a homosexual lifestyle."

-Here's that word "lifestyle" again. Homosexuality doesn't mean a lifestyle. Second of all, there is no message that one attraction means a sexual orientation. As I have said many times on this blog, sexuality is someone's to explore- it doesn't mean one thing or another. And if it wasn't for these clubs, you can guarantee the suicide rate would go up, from people like this Rabbi Rosenberg, constantly telling these kids and teens that their feelings are not acceptable and need to be changed.

" 'They need to see that marriage is a lifestyle and not about sexual prowess like the messages propagated in the media,' says Rosenberg."

-Who the hell in the media says marriage is about sexual prowess? If anything, Orthodox Judaism which prohibits premarital sex promotes getting married just for the sake of intimacy. And again, marriage is not a lifestyle. It's one fact about a person.

"But despite all these roadblocks, there is a great deal of change taking place out there, both in people's perceptions and in their willingness to embrace change. The road to teshuva, the road to mental health and the road to finding one's bashert are very, very long. "

- So wait, not only does homosexuality (which is just an attraction) need to be repented for (something I discussed HERE, but mental health is something that needs to be completely attained? There are many mentally unstable people who work hard and long on their lives but never achieve mental health. And is she saying homosexuality is a mental illness? Check the DSM, honey, it was removed in the 70s.

"Alan has gone from not being attracted to women to being attracted to this amazing one (who knows of his issues), and looking forward to spending the coming years growing in his relationship with her... If we're going to wait for 100% success rate for any life change or a life altering decision, we'll never be espousing change at all."

- Okay wait, so after an entire article about changing someone's life and l"lifestyle", we should never expect real change?! Are you kidding me? Let's see what would happen if this Alan wanted to marry this author's daughter.

But forgot about the ignorance, lies and presumptions, but I'm mostly saddened for parents and teens who read such articles and think the answer is right there, that it's so easy to change, that if someone's child is gay, it's not a big deal because they just need to get on this "proper path" to Teshuva and mental health, and they'll be fine.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Superhero?

For so many people, being gay is not an option. It doesn’t fit with their lives, with their plans, with their communities, with their friends, with their families or even with themselves. In addition to just the generic societal values, classic Orthodox Jewish law and belief are almost entirely heterocentric. This is what complicated my life growing up. At the early onset of my teenage year, I began to feel different from everyone around me. I wasn’t like the other boys for whatever the reason, and I wasn’t attracted to girls like my guy friends always talked about. When I came to realize I was gay, at about 15, I never thought in a million years that I would ever be able to accept such a reality. I fought and fought, until finally I realized that I was fighting no one. That there was no one in the world that had the right to tell me that I could not be religious and gay. So at the age of 21, I came out of the closet. However, that was not the end of the struggle- it was the beginning of a whole new one.

My closed Orthodox community was not used to someone trying to break the mold like I was, so I found a gay Jewish community that I made my closest friends- but went home every day to my Orthodox community where I had close friends that would always love me, but had so many other people I wanted in my life, but who didn't necessarily want me in theirs, or that's how I felt. I love my friends in the my Jewish community and I love my friends in the gay community- and I ended up creating for myself a double lifestyle. Many people, especially those in the closet- even create fake facebook pages for finding gay men and the gay events for them to attend, all under a pseudonym so they never have to come out, while still having their other profiles with their other friends and their more public lives. I’ve heard it described as a superhero syndrome- one world by day, another world by night. To a certain extent this is how I felt for a very long time. There was the part of me that went out with my gay friends and he was this very different person from the man that hung out with his straight friends. For me, and many people in the shoes of growing up in a heteronormative world, but attempting to be true to themselves and create and supportive LGBTQ community to be part of, there is a daily balancing act. Which group of friends do I hang out with tonight? Who haven’t I seen in a longer time? Which identity do I want to assume today? The important part is integrating the identities within ones self, until you’re comfortable enough on the inside to make the right decisions on the outside.

Why does one have to choose? Why does someone have to feel so pulled between two worlds? In my life, thank God, the choice has not been too difficult as I create that community that accepts gay Jews, while still upholding the religious values and being a part of the Orthodox community I grew up and and know and love. This way I don't have to feel like I'm living a double life anymore.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The other side of the fence

I know I'm on the other side. And a good friend argued in his post HERE that it's easy to be on the other side looking in, which is true, but there is so much more to say. I know I represent a minority, not majority, of gay Orthodox Jews who have chosen to come out and be honest about their true feelings. But I don’t look back and judge those in the closet, and I empathize with their plight as I too have been there. But a situation of someone older than me, who has been struggling longer than me and who is in a more commitment-prone life stage, in a relationship with a guy but still dating girls does upset me, and I think I have that right to be upset by that.

Some say coming out is one of the most selfish things a person can do- and I agree. But in my case, I think it was selfish and also extremely selfless. Because there is a huge part of me that is so happy to be out, solely because of the impact and influence I can have on others. Call it haughty, call it egocentric,call it stupid, but I believe in inspiring people. And when I know people doing the more difficult and complex thing, by pretending to be something they are not for years longer than I have, I get upset. And no, they don’t have to come out- but think about the girls who meet the man of their dreams, but for come reason this man can’t love them back. And he gets frustrated that he still hasn’t found the right one. And he’s in “Shidduch Crisis” because he can’t meet his true soul mate. There’s a reason for that! Because it’s not going to be someone of the opposite gender.

I never push anyone out. If someone doesn’t want to come out of the closet, that is their right and choice. But for someone to continue dating girls, while in a relationship with a man “on the DL” is not fair to anyone involved, especially not the person themselves. And if someone does come out, it doesn’t mean that they can’t pursue relationships with a person of the opposite gender. Since I’ve come I have built many new relationships with women, and with every one of them I do think about what my feelings are and if they’re platonic or something more. Because no matter what I “identify” as, I know that I still have the right to decide what's best for me. And even in the closet, it’s one thing to know you have a strong relationship with a man and be okay with that, but don’t be scared to have feelings for a girl- and if you do follow through with them, but not at the same time you have stronger feelings for a man.

If a homosexual is giving himself the opportunity to be in a heterosexual relationship, that’s great, but give yourself the true opportunity to be invested in one relationship- be it a homosexual one or a heterosexual one. Don’t pretend you can pull off both.

It Gets Better- Gay Orthodox Jews