Saturday, December 17, 2011

There's something wrong

There's something wrong when 85 men are undergoing a sexual abuse scandal in Brooklyn's Orthodox community, but "24 have walked free. They got probation, pleaded to minor charges, or saw their cases dismissed — often because victims or their parents backed out under community pressure. Agudath Israel of America, a prominent body of Torah sages, requires anyone alleging sex abuse by a fellow observant Jew to first report to its rabbis, who decide whether the case should go to secular authorities."

But yet, men trying to understand their sexuality in college suddenly can't control themselves and a pornography filter needs to be instituted for these university students. I wonder how many of the 85 above had filters growing up? Probably all. (editors note: I realize this is a harsh generalization and overall inappropriate statement, but my point is how can you expect people to know what to do with their sexuality or appropriate outlets when you censor them from anything remotely erotic?)

There's something wrong when one minor literary piece about heterosexual sex in a private university publication gets national media attention.

There's something wrong when all this is going on, and a Rabbi trying to perform a civil union in Orthodox tradition sparks THREE different groups of Rabbi's to feel the need to sign "letters", "statements", and "petitions".

There's something wrong.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

News & Community Updates

Orthodox Ordained Rabbi, who is gay, performs Orthodox ceremony for two men:

Rabbi’s respond this past week:

-As my readers know, I do not believe that Orthodoxy can have a gay marriage. There are no Halachic guidelines for it set by the Rabbis who codified Jewish law so many years ago. That being said, I respect R’ Greenberg and his right to perform a gay marriage in Orthodox tradition. I am frustrated that these 100 Rabbis felt the need to sign a document saying that the marriage was not Orthodox. Anyone within the community has the right to choose for themselves how they feel about the union and ceremony. A signed article won’t change the mind of those that perceive this wedding as Orthodox.
Rabbi’s attempt to denounce homosexuality in the Orthodox community, saying the only option is for Teshuva and change. No mental health sources were cited, only biblical.

Orthodox mental health conference, JQ Youth represented, JONAH declines invitation:

JONAH director Arthur Goldberg acknowledges therapy conducted (without license) asking patients to take their clothes off.
- I am proud that JQ Youth, an organization I am very involved with (link has been in the sidebar for about a year), had representatives of being Orthodox and gay at this conference. Although for technical reasons it wasn’t the organization that was represented, it’s important that the community was represented.

- I have written many times about reparative therapy. I respect and admire individuals who choose to go through this process of changing their sexuality. I also respect some of the therapy and the process, which can have some positive effects. However, I do not respect “naked” therapy. I do not respect working on such an important issue with a “life coach” (non-licensed therapist). I think this can be very damaging. And while I acknowledge that sexuality is fluid and the possibility of a shift from those with a tendency of homosexuality to a tendency of heterosexuality, I know that for most individuals (like myself) who have strong homosexual feelings, the shift is not possible, and can cause severe mental health problems as numerous studies have reported. 

In 2009, the American Psychological Association (APA) urged therapists not to support reparative therapy, or, more specifically, not claim that when a person comes to them that their sexuality can and will be changed. I found this quote particularly important- “The religious psychotherapists have to open up their eyes to the potential positive aspects of being gay or lesbian. Secular therapists have to recognize that some people will choose their faith over their sexuality.”

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hide and Seek

It's that time again- where Ely posts rants and angry blog posts that stir up a lot of people and cause trouble, because I'm actually speaking from my heart. Well it's been a while since I've done that, so here goes again.

Rant One- Being fake. I can't stand being fake, but I am. And all my friends are, and I feel like most of my community is, and there are only a few people who I trust to not be that way. Most of us lie, we hide things, we're not honest about our true selves because we're scared of what other people will think of us. Everyone tiptoes around each other and pretends to be happy just to avoid the judgment of their so called "friends".  Well let me tell you something, if they judge you, they're not your real friends. If they look down on you for one behavior or another, they're not your real friends. And I find this in every corner of my community. People pretending to be something they're not just to please others. I thought when I came out of the closet that my biggest secret was out there, and I would never have to hide anymore. But that's not true. I hide things on a daily basis, and it sucks.

Rant Two- Assumptions. I've said it once, and I'll say it again. Everyone loves making assumptions about each other. This boy and this girl have been seen together twice and therefore they must be a couple. This gay guy is really good friends with this straight person, and therefore, the straight person must actually be gay. Well, it's not always that simple. So however much society likes to group people or box things into neat little packages in order to better understand them, they're usually and most often WRONG. They hurt people by making accusations, they spread rumors and gossip and it only makes people suffer.

So I guess these two connect. In an ideal world- Everyone would stop being fake. If people are finally able to show their true selves, and speak out about who they are, maybe some of the judgments will stop.  If we no longer lie, and hide, to accept others for who they are, then others will stop having to label and assume things which are wrong.  But this world is not ideal, and the Orthodox Jewish community is certainly not. So I suggest, try and be yourselves, try and find a community and friends where you feel the absolute most comfortable to be yourself. And stop trying to label others, stop assuming what's going on in someone else's life and realize that if people want you to know something, hopefully they'll tell you. But if they don't, it is NOT your place to judge.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Center of the Universe (Pt. II)

So the second part of this post has a unique perspective. I have no shame admitting a problem that I have, and a problem that I've heard people associate with gay people in general- and that is- being self centered. Thinking mostly about the self, talking mostly about the self, and some may argue, caring only about ones self. This is something that I have been working on, with the help of my friends, as I contend with the world around me. But why? Why is it my persona to be self-centered? Why do gay people have a reputation of being selfish and self-serving?

I argue not to justify my own behavior but only to understand it and perhaps enlighten other to a unique situation. Everyone has struggles in life - internal and external. Everyone has things they grapple with, and very often they figure it out on their own.  But these are difficult choices or complex decisions. The struggle a gay person goes through on the inside isn't one to just "get over" or make a decision and have everything be okay. Being gay, and for some people spending years in the closet, can be extremely taxing and difficult. It requires tremendous amount of strength and courage to deal with on the inside, and even more to go through the process of coming out, if that's what one chooses.  And with all this strength, comes self-reliance.

Self-reliance is understanding that when the world won't accept you, you must accept yourself. That when it feels like no one else will support you, you must support yourself. And that self-reliance can be misconstrued. When finally coming out, all a gay person knows, or at least all I knew, was myself. I was the only one I trusted, the only one that was important and the only that needed to be important. Why? Because I was the only one who could support myself. And that is why some may call me self-centered and that is why I may be a bit egotistical.

The most difficult struggle for me at this current time, is perhaps realizing that there are others to be trusted, there are others to let in, and that there are others who will support me in my greatest times of need.  And perhaps understanding that will help me become a bit less "self-centered". 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Center of the Universe (pt. I)

I’ve heard people- straight and gay- say that the problem with gay people is that they’re self centered. They think they’re the center of the universe and that everything revolves around them, and everyone must change who they are to accept gay people. And every political debate, and every parade, must be about gay people.

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but here’s my perspective on a communal level. The gay community does not see itself as anything special. The gay community is just full of pride. To better understand, many gay people have felt rejection their whole lives. They’ve felt unaccepted and pushed away from friends, family and loved ones. So given the opportunity to build and be part of a community that accepts who you are, will develop a sense of pride and strength, to finally feel “normal” and “accepted” like everyone else.

So that’s step one. Pride, and parades, are about being part of a community with love and respect for each other, as opposed to the hurt and pain so many have suffered. Secondly is the political level. Are people self centered when they sue for discrimination against company who doesn’t let women or African Americas make over a certain figure, and only allows white people or men into the upper-echelons of the organization? No, of course not. In 2011, everyone is equal. And gay people are as well, but the government has yet to recognize it. Gay people fight for discrimination policies in the work place, and the right to legally partner with someone they love.

So why are these rights, afforded to every human being, women ~100 years ago and African Americans ~50 years ago, make the gay community self-centered when we try to achieve them?

Come back next week for a more personal narrative on being “self-centered”.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's Yours, Pt. II (or, No Day But Today)

Roughly 16 months ago I posted "It's Yours" to encourage my friends to understand their sexuality and understand where they are in their sexual lives, in order to ease the tension of painful marriages and uncomfortable situations of homosexuals dating heterosexuals and not even knowing themselves that they're not actually attracted to the other.

To expand on that, over the past few years I've been watching how many struggles so many people go through because they feel the need to act a certain way when that's not really who they are or how they feel. This post isn't just about sexuality. It's about your life. Your life is yours to own, yours to control, and yours to make decisions with. Too many people suffer because they insist on doing things other people expect of them, instead of doing what they need to do for themselves.

So many just succumb to their "roles"- be it in their families, with their peers, based on their religion or their gender expectations- but not because it's the role they are meant to fill. People expect that if someone follows societal norms or does whatever is expected of them, everything will magically work out.  They do not take the time to think what would be best for them- and how to integrate who they are with their everyday lives. They will find happiness, love, or whatever they desire- because that's what "everyone else" has. But no one really has any of those things unless they take the time to understand who they are themselves, what they want for themselves, and how to go about getting those things.

So the next time you rethink a decision because it's not what is expected of you, ask yourself what you truly want. Don't expect that being perfect in the eyes of others will make you perfect in your own eyes. Find out what career path is best for you, what hobbies you are most interested in, and, yes, find out what gender you're attracted to. Because your life is yours to understand, yours to control, and yours to own. And no one can tell you otherwise.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Frum Gay Marriage

I readily acknowledge, as most people do, that their communities and cultures impact decisions they make in their lives. For some people, it's at what age to get married, for some people it's what standards of dress to adhere to. These are things we look to society to help us decide how to behave or appropriate etiquette. As I take steps in my life, and as I take steps in my relationship, I often find myself wondering what is the Frum and gay society? What are the standards and "norms" that can help inform the decisions I make in my own life? And I know the answer, there are none. Since being Frum and gay is very unique, there is no societal norm or cultural standards to help decisions I need to make.

For one example, there is the issue of marriage. In most Frum communities, marriage is expected of a couple anywhere from the ages of 21-24. After that is fine, but generally many people put the most pressure on themselves during that stage in their lives because society dictated it. In the gay world, the emphasis on marriage is later in one's life, usually a person's early thirties. So which standards should I be adhering to? Religious people get married out of love, and in order for it to be socially acceptable for them to be sharing a life and a home as part of the religious community they must get married. But a religious gay person has no standards for how and when or even if the community will accept them as a couple.

An blogger this week, found here (Loveless Marriages), argues that secular marriages revolve around love and intimacy while Jewish marriages revolve more around community and family, and for this reason, it may not be such a bad idea for same-sex attracted men and women to marry each other as part of continuing our communities and traditions. In addition, the author hypothesizes that this is why secular marriages breakup, while more religious marriages stay together- because of community. I strongly disagree with this, and felt my opinion complements what I have written above.

To build the foundation of a marriage simply on community and platonic love, is not enough to sustain it, in my opinion.  What it takes is community and intimate love, together. Frum and gay people need to start building standards and setting norms to support each other. It is extremely confusing for a gay man or gay woman in the orthodox community, and while pressures to adhere to norms are strong, I think (yes, my own opinion) that everyone needs love and intimacy to sustain a marriage- even religious people- and for that reason, opposite-sex homosexuals marrying one another is not a solution, but only perpetuates the problem of orthodox Jews unwilling to address the issues of gay people in the community. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Recently, a new "wave" of Orthodox Judaism has come to light in my life, something that I know a lot of people are going to take issue with, but is still worth mentioning. I just would like to remind everyone to try and open their minds, as I have always done, and remember- live and let live- no one person, group or community has the right to judge another.

Halachic Orthodoxy is how I grew up.  Communities where everyone in it were assumed to be Orthodox by practice, keeping the law to Orthodox standards, and while some may be more strict than others, everyone belongs to one synagogue and is more or less on the same practicing religious level. Recently, however, I've noticed some things in a number of communities throughout the country, that has led me to come up with another category of Orthodoxy- communal Orthodoxy. In communal Orthodoxy, many grew up practicing Halachic Orthodoxy and some haven't, but everyone- whatever level of practicing they uphold- belong in this community.  It is an Orthodox community, but everyone has the right to uphold whatever standards of Orthodoxy they may or may not practice.

I know, "if people do this, it's not an Orthodox community". Or, "that's traditional, that's not Orthodox", or, "you can't pick and choose in Orthodox Judaism". And you may be right according to your own personal definitions of Orthodoxy, or your community's definition of Orthodoxy, but there are many people in an increasingly diverse world, that disagree. And there are many community's that are more and more willing to accept people in their doors, even if it's never expected of them to uphold Orthodox practices.  There's such a thing as Orthodox values, without upholding every letter of the law, or just wanting to be part of an Orthodox community without necessarily upholding every practice or Halacha that generic Orthodox communities have subscribed to or come to expect from their members.

And I'll tell you why I prefer these "communal" Orthodox communities, and it's not just because they should obviously be more accepting of LGBTQ members. It's because in general, most members of Orthodox communities are not upholding every letter of the law- but instead they go to synagogue and interact with so many others on the most superficial of levels, just pretending that they're all the same level of practicing Orthodox Jews. Instead, in some newer communities, I find that no one assumes anything about their friends, no one has the right to judge, and everyone is open to everyone else. Regardless of what specific laws they may or may not keep.  

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.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day. A day where activists and LGBT organizations all across the country urge those who are suffering or struggling, fearful of insecurity and rejection, to come out. I wish everyone a happy coming out day- for those who feel it applies to them. I have always said that I never advocate someone coming out unless they feel it's the best thing for them to do.

With that in mind, I now want to mention that many people don't come out- not because of fear of rejection or fear of the unknown, but because of the stigma associated with it. So many people assume that "coming out" means they suddenly need to act a certain way, behave a certain way, dress a certain way and march in their local Pride Parade. This does not have to be the truth. Coming out doesn't mean any of that. Coming out simply means acknowledging who you are, and understanding that part of you or all of you is same-sex attracted. That's all it means. Where you go from there is your choice. Whether you act differently, dress differently, is all a personal choice.

Many people become "different" when they come out because they are finally letting out a side of them that had been suppressed for so long, which is why they act so "gay".  But just because you come out does not mean you have to do that. Someone who comes out can be the same person they were before, and nothing has to be any different unless you want it to be. Many people will admit to being homosexual but are so scared of being "gay".  There doesn't have to be this difference. The more we stigmatize and develop a rift between these two categories, the worse off the LGBT community will be by dividing itself and limiting its numbers.

Being gay, or being homosexual, should be one in the same. Many people I know simply come come out as queer- a label many straight people subscribe to as well, just to avoid socially constructed labels of being "straight" or "gay". So happy coming out day- whoever you are- straight, gay, or homosexual. And remember- a label doesn't have to change who you are.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

High Holidays

My New Year's Resolution- to blog more consistently. I've been pretty good about posting four times a month, but I really want to try and get consistent with one blog post each week.

Anyway, on to the fun stuff. This holiday season causes a lot of trouble for a lot of people. A lot of people don't know how to face God on these days because of all the sins they've committed and because they haven't spoken with the Almighty in a while, and because aince we were little, at least my friends and I, were taught to be in fear of these days. Dread the long prayers, be fearful that God will slam his book shut and seal us in the Book of... notlife (is it the book of death? I don't think that was ever explained to me). This year, more than ever, I take the perspective of - what kind of religion is this? That taught us to fear our lives on it's holiest day? That taught us to pray and cry that all be forgiven for we are terrible people? No one is perfect, no Jew, no person, no one is perfect and no one is perfectly evil. So why do we sit there in shame and fear?

On Rosh Hashana- the day is simply about God. Acknowledging the divine presence in our lives, if we choose to do so, and remind ourselves and the Lord that we believe in the divine presence in our lives, whether or not we speak to God every day or whether or not we follow every law that Judaism prescribes for us.  On Yom Kippur, I have learned to acknowledge my wrongs, my shortcomings and the like. But I have also come to believe that God knows all these things I've done, God knows the inner workings of my heart, what I believe and what I do not believe, what I feel badly about and what I don't think was so terrible. And in Yom Kippur prayers I look for areas of my life that I'm not so proud of, things that need improvement, and places I can do better. And saying these things out loud, or silently to God, helps my introspective and growing process.

So on Rosh Hashanah I renew my connection to HaShem- I believe in the Almighty's existence and that I respect and understand God's presence in my life and in the world. and on Yom Kippur I look at my own actions and behaviors. Where I find fault, I admit them and think about how to improve them. Where I find good, I am thankful that there are areas of my life that don't need improving. And when I think about being gay and religious, I simply say "I'm doing the best I can". 

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.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

One for August, year two

Sorry about the break everyone, but as last summer, I took a month off from blogging to allow myself some personal time and time to reflect on all that has developed in the past year. I attended two weddings of very close friends this summer- and I wanted to share some of my emotions from those experiences.

In the Orthodox community, I was raised to be married by 23, a goal I did not reach, and it was always understood that at the end of college I would settle down and start a married life like so many of my friends have done and are doing. Because I'm gay, what may happen for me some day is not the traditional Modern Orthodox wedding and this used to make me very sad. This is why I used to cry at friend's celebrations, out of sadness. However, this summer a few people helped me realize that whatever wedding I do have will just be another growth and development on my part and on the part of those who choose to share it with me. It may not be the traditional celebration I grew up to know- or the ones my friends had, but I can no longer let that bring me down- because whatever I do have will be more than special enough.

On that note, I finally experienced true tears of joy, instead of sadness. Tears of joy are probably one of the most complicated and incredible emotions a person can experience. As I watched my best friend of ten years walk down the aisle, looking more beautiful than anyone I've ever seen in the world, I felt such joy and happiness that smiling wasn't enough. My smile was from ear to ear, but I had more emotion to express and I began crying. I began sobbing, actually. But I wasn't sad, I wasn't upset, I wasn't jealous, I was just truly happy for my best friend.

Finally, I wanted to share how at many Jewish weddings, the Bride and Groom may privately bless some who attend, to share the purity of their day with their friends. At these two close weddings, I finally got the blessings I had been waiting for after the scores of other wedding blessings I had received. I was blessed to find the one, whomever it may be. I was blessed to find the happiness that every bride and groom find on their wedding day, and I was blessed to continue my life with the pride I've always expressed. And those blessings meant the world to me. No "may you find your path" "may God help you be happy", but just to find happiness and someone to share my life with and do it with strength. Because true love is out there for everyone, and so is happiness- as I have always said. I think that's the essence of our religion and that's the essence of what God wants for His children.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Here's the problem. The problem is many religious communities insist on being "amidst" others, to be "a light unto the nations" (a very Jewish concept) and exemplify Jewish way of life as the most befitting in God's eyes. Somewhere along the way, however, this was lost. Somewhere along the way, people decided not just to be a light for others, but to protest, to denounce and to look down upon others for simply being different.

Nowhere in the Torah does it say to look down on others. Does it say to watch over and protect other members of their own nation? Yes. Do many Jews feel the obligation to scold and scorn members of their own communities for wrongdoings? Yes. But the problem is that too many individuals and communities took it upon themselves to be the judge of others and to decide what is best for the rest of the world as well. We have Jews who protest their own Jewish companies because the companies support building a homeland in Israel. We have Jews who say that an innocent sweet boy was murdered because communities didn't protest gay marriage or because Jews let a convicted child molester from their own community go to jail, they are being punished by losing an innocent child. But forget about issues pertaining to their own communities, we have Jews who run out and protest civil gay marriage, when that's not their right, nor does it impact the way they practice their religion.

To me, this does not exemplify any aspect of Judaism or human decency. What ever happened to live and let live? I understand wanting one's own little bubble to be perfect, but individuals who violate one or two standards of "norm", established hundreds or thousands of years ago, should not be criticized as too often happens. In addition, when other people make decisions for their own lives, more religious communities simply have no right to protest or scorn or scold. It is simply a matter of human decency to let someone go about their life as they choose, and not protest it, especially when it doesn't directly impact them.

I know this post comes off as harsh, or as attacking, but it is simply meant to establish the way I feel about respect and equal rights for every person in this country and in this world - without judgment by "others".

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Role Reversal

I've been thinking lately- gay and Frum, Frum and gay, my perspective has always been about the problems I have with Orthodoxy and how to be more accepted in my communities and all that. But I recently came to realize that there is a whole other perspective to take into account. The gay community needs to have room for Orthodoxy!

Too often, friends and I are uncomfortable wearing our Yarmulkas and other religious articles in public, because we're scared of being pigeonholed into the negative views that so many people have of Orthodox Jews. This shouldn't be so. The LGBT community is one of acceptance, love and tolerance for all- including various religious beliefs- so why should I feel uncomfortable in my yarmulka? I too often feel that if I walk into a gay bar with a head covering, people will look at me differently or be scared to approach me because I don't fit the LGBT stereotype- I defy it by imposing religion into that community. However, I feel strongly that the two need to go hand in hand and for that reason I do not take off my Yarmulka.

My point is simple. I feel that my religious beliefs should not exclude me from being part of any LGBT community, the same way I feel that sexuality should never exclude me from a religious community. People judging is part of this 21st century life we lead- but we need to make sure other's judgments aren't something we let bother us or we let control our actions and behaviors. As much as I want to be openly gay in my religious communities, I want to be openly religious in my gay communities.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I want to share an aspect of understanding my sexuality that was probably one of the last things I ever really had a grasp on: attraction. For years, throughout elementary school and high school, I thought every girl I met was special. Every time I built a relationship with a girl, I inevitably crushed on them within a few months, and some I even dated. But what were those feelings?

After understanding that I was gay, I realized that these relationships I had built were normal friendships. When a girl got me giddy and I was all excited to hang out with them- they were good friends. I always thought I had an attraction to men and women, the attraction to women was normal and to men was weird, raw, emotional, clearly messed up and therefore needed to be fixed. But when I finally accepted who I was, for myself, I realized that the raw, emotional attraction I had towards men, that I thought was unhealthy and bad- was what heterosexual men feel towards women. And the fun, light, and chill attraction I had towards women was actually friendship, and what heterosexual men felt towards each other.

For so many years I wanted so badly to be straight that I never understood my own emotions- I thought women were "normal" and my feelings towards men were "unhealthy". Many would argue that my feelings still are that way, but from my own personal experience I can tell you- for me, my feelings towards men are the ones that feel real and strong. The ones towards women, as much as I love my best friends, are not nearly as beautiful and emotional for me.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Last summer, I was thrilled to have bought a little $2 bracelet at my first ever pride. One of those rubber-y livestrong types- simply in rainbow colors. I wore it for a few months until it broke, and it was a sad day. I felt balanced, with a Yarmulka on my head and a pride bracelet on my wrist.

The head covering symbolizes God's presence in my life, my reminder that he in constantly above me and the feeling that he's watching over me. Not to mention the obligation it puts on me to be a Jew and act appropriately in the eyes of God at all times. These are all things I have been taught that the Yarmulka symbolizes, and I remember it as often as I can. However, there's another part of me that is also very important. Unfortunately, people box and stereotype and pigeonhole, all of which I have discussed on here earlier, and when someone sees me in a Yarmulka they automatically make assumptions about who I am. As I have pointed out before, I like to challenge those assumptions and teach people that not everything the believe to be true is automatically, always true. For that reason I like the Pride bracelet.

This summer I bought another one, that will hopefully last a bit long than the last one. I like to show the world that I don't necessarily fit the mold and can't always be held to preconceived notions about Jews or Orthodoxy. I understand that it seems self centered and maybe crying for attention, but it's really not. It's just about having a comprehensive sense of who I am. If I have to wear the Kippah over my head at all times, I want to wear the bracelet on my wrist.
I realized today that for me, being proud is not about my sexual desires or "deviance" from "norms". However, being proud is about opposing shame. It's about telling myself that all those years of hate and shame for who I was are no longer, and all the hurt of hiding doesn't have to be true. By marching in pride, and by wearing this bracelet, I understand and in essence reach out to my high school self to tell him it's okay. I don't have to feel shame any more.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gay Marriage and Pride

Last Friday, history was made in New York State as the State Senate voted to become the sixth state in the US to legalize same-sex marriages. I found this out Shabbat morning as the paper was delivered and felt my heart swell with emotion as tears began to flow. It's a beautiful thing to know that one day, I will be able to have a New York "husband", even though I do know that I will never have an Orthodox Jewish marriage to a man. I know that we will be respected with the same rights every heterosexual couple has, taxes, insurance, employment benefits and the like- the things that I grew up knowing that every normal adult heterosexual couple has to deal with, are now relevant for homosexual couples as well. It helps me feel as "normal" as I know that I am.

Sunday morning I awoke and got down to Bryant Park where I met up with many gay friends- Orthodox and non-Orthodox, to have a bagel and cream cheese brunch followed by the New York City Pride Parade. The group of us stood by 34th for about an hour or two, watching gorgeous celebrations of men, women, children and the like, show their support and their pride for the lifestyle they lead. I got caught up in emotion as Governor Cuomo, a proponent of same-sex marriage, passed by, and the crowd roared with cheers of thanks and excitement, for a politician who actually kept to his promise. The tears began to flow once again, and only continued as a car passed by with Dan Savage, and his partner Terry Miller, the founders of the "It Gets Better" project. From a distance, they noticed the contingency of Yarmulkes on the side and held up a sign that said "thank you" and pointed it at us.

Soon Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the largest Jewish LGBT congregation in New York, passed by with their float and members of JQ Youth ran out into the streets to dance with them. I was particularly encouraged to march with a flag I borrowed from a friend- a pride flag with a Jewish star in the middle, brought directly from Tel-Aviv. The march was invigorating and exciting as onlookers were shocked to see religious individuals and people celebrating religion while celebrating their sexuality. I posed for hundreds of cameras who simply pointed to the flag in awe. By the end, my feet were killing me but my heart was full. I understood the word "pride"- from a Jewish sense and a gay sense.

Last year, I couldn't bring myself to march. I thought it was inappropriate, I thought religion and sexuality could never be mixed. But as I have grown over the past few years, the two have finally seemed to find a resting place within me, and I couldn't be more proud.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Every Step I Take

Why do I do it?
I've often questioned the reasons why I stay Orthodox. And for a while, I had little to no answer. The community tries to reject me, leaders put me down, and people consistently disappoint me in the Orthodox world. So why do I put myself through this? Reasons in the past have included family, friends, just because it was all I had ever known- I didn't want it to change.

However, last week I celebrated Shavuot, commemorating the day God gave the Torah to the Jewish people. I heard a unique perspective that help me put something into words that I was never able to articulate before. I realized that while various aspects of what laws to keep and what defines "Orthodoxy" are confusing to the nth degree, being Orthodox, and identifying myself as such helps me feel part of a bigger picture. Each day I am able to belong to a strong movement of people, to a larger nation that believes in something, that has a passion and commitment that has lasted close to 6,000 years. Being Orthodox makes every step I take purposeful. Almost everything I do has the ultimate goal of betterment of myself, of humanity, and of the Jewish nation. I have the goal of being close to God at the forefront of my mind, and it's something I wouldn't trade for anything else.

I believe in God, I believe in Judaism, I have pride in that and couldn't imagine my life not being Orthodox. It doesn't seem like an option. For the first year or so of being out, I would say I struggled greatly with whether or not I was going to be religious and how I could go to a gay bar with a yarmulka. But then I envisioned a life without a yarmulka and that was an even scarier thought. It was a process and it took time.

But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, June 6, 2011


I've been waiting for the right topic to hit me, and after a long weekend it finally did. I had a wonderful weekend. I spent Friday Night Dinner with over 250 LGBT identified Jews. Some Orthodox, some not, some older, some younger, a varying group of individuals, most of whom I was privileged to meet. It really was a great meal, with Shabbat themes and a feeling of Jewish communal warmth. The next day, I ate lunch in the park with over 20 of my Jewish and gay friends, most religious and some not, but again, a beautiful day. Saturday night I celebrated a friends birthday, and enjoyed the night out. Sunday was the Israeli day parade, but when I came home at around 5 pm, things slowed down.

I went back to my regular life, which right now is time between my school year and my summer job, and consists of hours of television watching, and going out to meet with friends. For me, too much time like this is detrimental. I'm one of those people who needs to be structured and working to feel happy and productive with their daily lives, which I do not have right now. So I sit thinking, staring at the TV and ultimately finding all the things in my life that worry me, stress me out, began to feel hopeless and helpless, and until a few friends helped me out of it, was a very painful time.

But in that time- something stuck out clear as day- weakness. I realized that for all my strength and courage, for all the support so many people in my life give me, I still sometimes feel weak. I feel confused, scared, uncomfortable, worried about so many different things in my life and thought there was no way out. But then I realized that it was okay, and that it was "normal" to struggle and even to hurt sometimes. I wanted to share on the blog, that it's okay to feel sadness and to struggle- because we all do. The important thing is to pick ourselves up and continue being strong, in spite of the struggle and regardless of the troubles we may have.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ain't life funny?

Something that always bothered me about homosexuality- whether in high school, when I was in the closet or when I came out 2 and a half years ago- is how funny it is. Let me explain. In most institutions that I went to, Jewish High School and college, being gay was funny. Being gay is funny. It's hilarious. For many straight men, and I can't speak for women because I don't know, being gay is hilarious- it's cool to inappropriately touch other men, it's funny to walk around holding another guy's hand or speaking with a lisp.

But I want to explain something- being gay is not funny. In fact, every time something like that happened in high school or any other time while I was in the closet, it made me uncomfortable. It made me hurt, because they were laughing not because being gay was an enjoyable pastime, but because it was a joke. But for me it wasn't a joke, for me it was reality. And when I was in the closet and someone would do something stereotypically gay to make fun of "the gays", it hurt me because they were making fun of me.

Now that I'm out of the closet it doesn't hurt, because I'm happy with who I am and if you want to make fun of me that's your choice. All the more so, I know that when someone makes fun of someone else they're usually doing it because of insecurities within themselves, especially the older someone gets, because a person should be free to live as they choose, and others should never be judging them. But anyway, what doesn't hurt when I see making fun, is that to this day, I know that there are people still in the closet suffering in silence like I did for so many years, who are still hurt when people or "friends" run around, pretending to be gay, making funny jokes about being gay. Because when people make fun of someone else, they're essentially putting them beneath themselves, like gay people are less than them, and their feelings don't matter. And that's just not true.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


(note: apology for the blog lag this month, finals in school)
Agree to disagree, love to hate, hate to love, sick and tired of being tired and sick, there are so many contradictions in this world, how can we ever just get along? Well, we can. I've had the pleasure of discussions and conversations with people that I may never agree with. But you know what? That doesn't mean I don't respect their choices. I respect you if your opinion differs from mine, I respect you if you don't "approve" of my lifestyle, but I don't respect you if you talk down to me as if you are any better than me, because we all have our flaws, and homosexuality is not a flaw.

I preach tolerance, I preach open-mindedness and I preach discussion. I preach respect, honesty, and conviction. I implore all my readers to question everything and never believe without knowing why you believe. I respect people different from me and communities and cultures that are different from my own. However, there is something I don't respect- people who don't respect each other. Communities that don't provide equal rights to their members because of sex, age, orientation or any variety of other factors. People should never be told or commanded to to act by others around them without being able to make decisions and decide for themselves what they'd like to do. It's one thing for a community to have laws and rules, it's another to post signs in public that tell people how to behave. It's not Jewish law, it's not legal law, it's a communal restriction that can make many feel oppressed and uncomfortable. In addition, who is it that puts up these signs or makes these laws? Who has the power to control what others can and cannot do?

I choose to live in America, and therefore to follow American law. I choose to be an Orthodox Jew, and therefore follow Orthodox law. There are societies and communities worldwide, however, that do not have such freedom and such choices. I'm thankful to be in such an open country, and concerned for the communities that in a free world, choose to be oppressive to members of their own society. I am intolerant of intolerance.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Legal Matters

A question that I wanted to address is one that I've thought about for a while, but never realized some of you guys were thinking about it too. The question is- I preach open conversation about sexuality, acceptance and open-mindedness, but how can I then say that homosexual acts are wrong? Isn't it inevitable that more discussion and openness will lead to more people questioning and experimenting?

The answer is I don't know. I don't control how other people interpret openness and tolerance. I know that the more I open up to my friends and people in my life about sexuality, the more they feel comfortable talking about it. In no way do I control whether or not others will experiment or question their sexual attractions. All I hope with my posts is for people to entertain the thought that a same sex relationship may not be "disgusting" and that just because we may not have grown up dealing with a specific issue, doesn't mean we have to keep ignoring the issue as adults.
It also seems the more openly I discuss sexuality, the more closeted people come to me for sex or experimentation- but that's not my intention. Being open about sexuality and sexual matters does not mean one needs to go and act on every impulse or desire, it simply means that one can and should entertain the thought- but then let their moral or Torah conscience be their guide.

Honestly, my hope is as follows- if you start talking about sexuality and questioning, and you're a religious person, you will be in enough awe of the Torah and of Halakha (Jewish law) not to experiment just because you feel like it. You should be comfortable enough to entertain the thought of sexual tolerance and understanding, but that doesn't mean you have to go out and do everything you feel. That's part of living in a Halakhic society, self control and limitations. If you feel that your attraction is stronger to one sex as opposed to the other, or you feel that you sexual identity expresses itself in a very specific way, that's yours to confront and your decision how that will impact your life as an observant Jew.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Deal With It

Hey everyone- so it's been about a year and a half since I've started the blog, and I know there is something that I want to share with you all. I wanted to talk about how I've changed over the past year plus. The blog started with me saying that I'm here to discuss the struggle of being gay and religious. I was out of the closet for a year when I started the blog, so changes within me have to do not with coming out. but just my development as an adult and person.

The original header of the blog was "I'm not here to say I'm here, I'm queer, deal with it, but to say that I'm Frum and I'm gay and I'm trying to do the best I can with that. (or something to that extent)" Now, if you'll notice, the header reads: "I am a religious Jew, and I am gay, and I'm trying to do the best I can with those two seemingly conflicting identities." Why the change? Becuase I changed. Because I realized that what I do say to the world is that "I'm here, I'm queer, deal with it." And not just say that to the world, but say that to the Orthodox community. Deal with it. Deal with my presence. Deal with homosexuality.

Since figuring out so many different aspects of my life- like friends, family, relationships, future career and all- my growth as a person went from confused, young and scared shitless, to proud, strong and confident. Whether it's the amount of support I received via the blog, my friends and the people close to me, I really developed a sense of pride in who I am and the things I believe in. I think at a certain point in a person's life, they just start thinking- what do I need, what's good for me? While that may sound selfish, I think it's how we all develop ourselves and become the people we want to become, and that's just how I did it. I surrounded myself with people who supported me, I sought paths of growth, development and understanding instead of just standing still and forcing myself to accept everything at face value. I came to realize that what I want to say to the world is, I'm here, I'm queer, deal with it.

The blog now continues as I experience how the world and community responds to myself or someone like me, someone who challenges certain beliefs that they may have grown up with, and suggests new options they may never have considered. Someone who is Orthodox but also gay, and is not willing to give either of those up. Someone who is telling you to deal with it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

We R who We R

Recently I've been questioning my own self esteem, my own character and my own identity because of who I hang out with. For anyone who knows me personally, this is not like me. For the past 3 years I have felt nothing but confidence in who I am and what path my life is on. But I let judgments of others get to me until finally I understood what was actually going on.

I love my friends. I don't choose my friends because they run in the same social circle as me, I don't choose my friends because we have a,b,c or x,y,z in common. I choose my friends because of who they are, not because of who I am. I choose my friends because of them, what they believe in, not based on how they portray themselves of how they may appear to others. I pride myself in my ability to see beneath the surface of a person's external practices or behaviors, but instead to see who a person is on the inside, and that's why they are in my life. My friends are not, nor have ever been, part of one circle or one group. My friends have always spanned a spectrum of all different types of people, and this is why it's even hard to balance all the people that I want to have in my life because sometimes I come across the most amazing people, and just because someone may not see the good in a friend of mine, doesn't give them the right to question who I am based on that. And I certainly shouldn't be questioning myself because of them.

I take offense to those that have been questioning my own character and the character of different people I keep in my life. Who is anyone in this world to judge anyone else? We all have our flaws, but we all expect our friends to accept us knowing those flaws. I don't only write this blog to explain how because I'm gay, that doesn't mean I'm a bad person, or that you should accept me despite my sexuality, but I write this blog to say that in general, there's more to every person than meets the eye, and no one can ever assume or judge someone else because of something they may perceive. We all are who we are despite what others think of us, and we should always remember that before we question our friends' choices and behaviors.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thou Shalt Not...

I'm not going to lie. It's not easy to sit in synagogue listening to the reader clearly pronounce "Thou shalt not lie with a man as one lies with a woman." Year after year. When I was in the closet I would look around, hoping no one was looking at me, knowing my darkest secret and calling me out on it. Of course, that never happened. Now, it's a completely different story, and I sit in the synagogue with my head held high, or asleep as I usually am during the Torah reading (lol).

Why would I leave? Well, the Torah is once again denouncing "who I am". But in actuality, it's denouncing only an action- that a man may not lie with another man- which I agree with, because it's the law. It doesn't make sense to believe in it, because I'm gay, but as an Orthodox Jew I believe in the Torah and everything it says. Anything otherwise would be sacrilege. I don't have a problem with what is written, mostly because it's there, it's written and there's nothing I can do about it. The same way I feel that I'm gay, it's there and there's nothing I can do about that. However, if I was called up to the Torah for the section where that verse is written I would probably turn down the "honor" as I would rather not be in the spotlight for the verse, either.

There have been many interpretations of the verse over the past 3,000 years. The most commonly accepted interpretation is the literal prohibition of anal sex, but there are other opinions. Another opinion is the verse uses language it uses elsewhere to refer to forced intercourse, so some say that the prohibition is only if the act was forced. So those are some options.
Somehow, I try to keep the two in mind at all times and not run away from either. I'm not picking one over the other, and even stepping out for that one verse would symbolize my sexuality over my religion and I don't feel that way.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

It Gets Better- Part II

A few weeks ago, the "It Gets Better" Project that I had the privilege to be involved in, released a book, with transcripts from the best "It Gets Better" videos and stories that were shared online. This was done by the creator of the project, Dan Savage. Dan and his partner Terry had a book signing at Barnes and Noble that I went to, and was able to meet them after, along with my fellow gay Orthodox Jews who shared there story in the video with me. I wanted to share this experience with you, because it was so beautiful and inspiring and is just a message that needs to be pushed.

It gets better is a project about helping those in trouble, inspiring those in who see no hope and supporting those who just want to be themselves. The project isn't about promising anyone that life is perfect and in fact, Dan himself admitted openly that the phrasing "it gets better" does not really represent what the project is all about. Many of the best videos included the following admission: does it get better? no. But do you get stronger? yes. THe project was not to say everything works out perfectly, because the last thing a person who is suffering can see is the light at the end of the tunnel. Life is never perfect, and things change and people change, and something that seems terrible at 15 is no longer as terrible at 18. Why? Not because the hurt itself is any less painful, but because an individual themselves becomes stronger.

Is my life great now that I'm open about my sexuality? No. Is everything easy because I'm out of the closet? No. But did the darkness and despair that I felt at 15 and 16 get better? Yes. Did the way I viewed myself and the way people around me viewed me change? Yes. I grew up, everyone grew up, and that made things around me feel better. Is there still plenty of bullying? Is there still plenty of rejection from my own community? Yes. But today, I am ten times more capable of facing it all then I was five, six, seven or eight years ago? Absolutely.

The project may be mistitled, but the messaged rings clear- "it" may not get better, but "you" get stronger.

The book can be found here - It Gets Better

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Porn Star

I’ve stayed away from political elements on ths blog for a long time, but something there’s something I have to mention today, as it relates to the LGBT aspect of the Jewish community as well as to Israel. Gay porn superstar, Michael Lucas, known for his directing and filming, recently took a stand against the LGBT center running an Israeli Apartheid Week event, aimed at the support of Palestine and the destruction of Israel. Michael Lucas is known for filming many movies in Israel, as he describes the landscape and country as breathtaking and his beautiful homeland as a Jew, and he also promotes safe-sex only, always using condoms in all his videos, which is revolutionary in the gay porn industry.

The concept of the LGBT Center in NYC supporting an Israeli Apartheid week event for Palestinian LGBT groups and supporters is a joke. Forget about the fact that Israel is not an Apartheid state, and that it’s an insult to South Africa to call the situation in Israel the same, and forget about the fact that Palestinians don’t even exist because Palestine was never a sovereign nation, and therefore it’s people never a people other than Arabs from various middle-Eastern countries. But what is ridiculous is the concept of anyone LGBT standing up for Palestine. How can anyone who supports gay rights support ANY Arab country? Palestinian Authority Police arrest and torture gay men, Palestinians single out gay men in their communities for collaborating with Israel.

In strong contrast, Israel is often a refuge to gay Palestinians who cannot live in Palestinian territory because of persecution and violence. Israel is at the forefront of gay rights, prohibiting workplace discrimination in 1992, allowing openly gay soldiers to serve in 1993, and giving same-sex couples full spousal benefits in 1994. But none of this matters.

Ignoring all the facts above, which come from HERE, Michael Lucas was right for one reason only- a place like the LGBT center should not be involved in international politics, and simply support those who live here, and their rights and safety in the US, and specifically NYC.

And don’t even tell me that because he’s a porn star he shouldn’t be listened to. While not a Jewish value, even a sin, and not even a respectable profession by many accounts, the point is this man holds clout in the gay community. Jews don’t have to respect him for what he does, but they can agree with his opinion and be happy that a Jew, with some amount of power and respect, is standing up for the rights of Israel.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gay Marriage, pt. II OR "Normal"

Last week, I discussed the institution of gay marriage from a legal/political/religious standpoint. This is gay marriage, but with a very different definition. Recently, there has been discussion over a controversial article from Ha’Aretz Israeli newspaper, about a Rabbi who sets up gay men with lesbian women, to get married and raise a family in the Orthodox community, as a means of keeping up their religion and finding happiness. (Article HERE) So far, 10 of the 12 couples have stayed together. They keep up appearances, sleeping in the same room but not sleeping together, and they procreate through artificial insemination.

Now when I first came out, this was something recommended to me by many people. Why can’t I just marry a lesbian? I felt this was not the means to a truly happy life- and I would feel too depressed and unfulfilled and I was not willing to “keep up an appearance” for the rest of my life. How can anyone be happy in such a position? But these couples say they are.

I think the place where the individuals in this article differ from my path, is their use of the word “normal”- 4 times in direct quotes from these couples, and once from the author of the article. I have chosen, yes chosen, to change the definition of “normal”. To look outside what I grew up to believe in, and instead create my own normal, create a world, even within Orthodoxy, where a gay couple can be normal, and not accused or assumed to be violating Torah law. Instead of forcing myself to go with Orthodox communal definition of “normal”, I thought outside the box, thought to change “normal”, to step outside the bounds of what had been accepted by everyone else.

Orthodox Judaism has never been a static movement, and there has never been one definition of “normal”. There has been change, progress, growth and development every year, in every community- conversations and issues that change the definition of “normal”. Forget about damaging human emotions, lying to your own children, and all the psychological ramifications, I simply ask, why does homosexuality have to be pushed under the rug, pretending it doesn’t exist, just for the sake of a “normal” that is always changing?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Gay Marriage

I’ve never really discussed gay marriage here- Halachically (Jewish law) or politically. I do think, however, those are two very different aspects.

According to Jewish law, homosexuality is a sin, and whether or not every act of homosexuality can be considered a sin from the Torah or the Rabbi’s, the point is, gay marriage as a Jewish religious institution, does not exist. The Rabbi’s never set boundaries or laws, or how a wedding should be performed between two people of the same gender. There is no Ketubah for same-sex couples, there is no Chupah, and while the institution can be created, it has not been, and probably won’t be from an Orhtodox perspective.

Politically, the country is torn, many people are confused, but a growing voice and opinion amongst many is the following: the institution of marriage is a religious one, and it should not be up to the state who is “married” and who is not. Instead, the state should be giving out civil unions. Between man and woman, man and man, woman and woman, there should be civil unions. For people who want to be “married”, that’s for their religious institution to decide, and for a religious marriage contract to establish. A political contract would be a union. Now I know this may sound radical to many, but I think it’s a distinct possibility of what may eventually solve the “gay marriage” controversy.

For myself, I do want a civil union. I want a partner, a husband, someone who I am connected to by civil law, sharing rights and benefits, and creating a family of my own. Having children is something I have discussed in the past, and will get to discussing again soon, but not in this post. I do wish my religion could recognize my family unit however I choose to create it, but when it comes down to it- Orthodox Judaism does not, but that does not make me want to leave the community, it’s just a fact that I accept.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Hey- so to answer some of your complaints, again, complaints, I've written about JONAH in the past. That's why I will not do it again. One of the many times I've written about them was HERE. So I'm not going to address it again. At least not right now. But what I am going to address again- gay men marrying women.

Gay men marrying straight women or gay men marrying gay women, or women anywhere in between, is wrong. And it rarely works. And here's why it bothers me so much- every day, and if not every day than every other day, I get an email, or a Facebook message or some form of contact from men, married to women. What do they want? Well, depends. Some want support, which I am happy to offer. Some want advice, which I also am happy to offer. Some want a physical relationship or sex (which I turn down), but the point is that these are men, who married women because they thought it would just get better, they thought they're attraction would go away or that they could just ignore it, and if they married a woman their lives would just get better.

The advice I give? To be open with your wife about this, if you find yourself married and struggling. Because at least then the two partners can be open in their relationship and discuss possible options. I feel that's the only way for a man having homosexual attraction to at least not feel so alone- if they are open with their spouse about it. I never asked to be the one for everyone to come to with these "problems" or "confusions", but I did put myself out here, on a blog. And for that reason people do come to me, and I have to do suggest what I think is best, mostly because there is no one else. And because so many of these people come from communities that would never consider discussing sexuality, when it stares them in the face on TV and the internet and the news every day. So they look for somewhere to go, and they find me. So I have to do the best I can, and I make sure they know that life isn't over and that there are options.

Now I'm sure there are women that marry men, as well, for the same reasons- but I haven't heard from them. I just know that I need to reinforce something I have always said- that gay or confused/questioning men, should not marry women. I say confused and questioning because very often, those are the first steps to much deeper sexual orientation that can't simply be ignored. I'm not saying run around and sleep with everyone to figure it out- but before you rush into marriage to fix the problem, make sure you are fully aware of where your brain, body and heart is at. Otherwise too many people end up hurt.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Don't Hate

My "cheesy" slogan ever since I started this blog, now apparently a forum as well, has been 'don't hate, educate'. The purpose of this blog has always been to explain the struggle of being Frum and gay, and maybe help others see that life isn't always so black and white.

It seems that I need to clarify that this blog, while here to discuss topics and situations that have too often been ignored, is still MY blog. I have the right to answer whatever questions I feel like I want to answer, and I have the right to keep private certain things that I feel should be kept private. I have never shied away from a topic bc it may have been too controversial- but I confront every topic that I feel I want to blog about. They may not answer all your questions, but they are what I feel needs to be discussed.

Next, I have never and will never lied to my readers. There have been claims of question to my character and my 'happiness' but what you read here is true. I'm not happy golucky one hundred percent of the time in my personal life because no person is. I have moods and struggles and stressors every day- just like you. But since coming out two and a half years ago (wow!), my life has only gotten better, and I have only gotten happier and stronger as a person. And I wouldn't trade that in for anything.

I appreciate the readers, the followers, the commentators, and everything you all have to say, and I do try my best to answer your questions, but at the end of the day, the blog is mine to write and the content is mine to control, and my life is my own- to keep certain things personal, while trying to be open and honest with you all at the same time. So I hope I do you justice through it all.

And finally, how can a married homosexual with children call themselves Orthodox? Because who decides what the definition of Orthodoxy is? Who decides what it means to be Frum? Despite years of struggle and rejection I am still here, and I reserve the right to call myself Orthodox because I am Shomer Torah and Mitzvot, just like everyone else. Is there another added layer when gay- that I may or may not be sinning because I may or may not have the desire to go against a commandment that most of you do not have to deal with? Yes, there is the extra layer, which is why gay Orthodox Jews struggle. But that fact alone should not and does not exclude me from Orthodoxy.

This is what I ask all my readers, followers and commentators to keep in mind when reading, judging, and discussing my personal life and my choices as the author of this blog in your conversations below.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


So I'm not letting "a friend" deter me. Because this is gonna be a pretty intense post. Short, but intense.

Does being gay mean one is sinning? I think I posted this way back in the early days of the blog, but it warrants reminding to the general population. Something that many Rabbis and people who judge in general, such as "a friend" in the last post's comments, assume that being gay means one is there violating a prohibition of the Bible. The most commonly accepted interpretation in Modern Orthodoxy of the verse against homosexuality, is that the Biblical prohibition is towards anal sex only. Does coming out inherently mean that one is having anal sex? No, no it does not.

People are too quick to put the two together, when, indeed, they are very different things. Maybe a religious guy is out but isn't having anal sex b/c he cant find anyone to do it with him, or maybe he isn't having it because of his religious beliefs, or maybe he is having it! But that's not for anyone to know about, or for anyone to make assumptions about. It's certainly not something for anyone to share on a public blogger forum. Just because someone is out of the closet, or just because someone is gay- does not mean they are violating that prohibition. They may not even like it, to be honest, because everyone enjoys different things in bed- this applies to heterosexuals as well.

So like I said, short, but a reminder that we should not assume anything about anyone's private bedroom behaviors. Gay or straight, in the closet or out, and this applies to me as much as it does to "a friend".

Monday, February 7, 2011

One Other Thing

In a recent interview, found HERE, I was asked two very difficult questions - one is in the last post, and the other in this post. Shout out to the awesome YU Beacon and my interviewer for letting me share this.

The YU Beacon asked me for one piece of advice to give to gay Orthodox teens. At first I was very overwhelemed, like the last question- there were so many options to answer- that it would get better, that no matter what happens I would find my way, that who I was was okay. So the way I answered this question was by looking back. If there was one thing I would have wanted to be told in high school, what would it have been?

I answered the following:
Not to let others dictate who they are or how they should feel. Regardless of communal pressure, familial pressures, and all the stresses in the world, every single person is an individual, and has the right to be who they are. Because in ten years, the same people making fun of them now will either have grown up enough to understand or not be in their lives any longer, so what they say really can’t define who a person is.

There's really not much to explain about this one. I realized the number one issue in high school, for myself and so many others- not just those struggling with being gay- is peer pressure. Not drugs or drinking, but peer pressure to fit in to society's molds, peer pressure to "belong" or be "normal", like everyone else seems to be. If someone had told me in high school that it was okay to be different, I may not have believed them- but I still would've liked to hear it. To know that the cool kids and the jocks and the nerds- that none of those labels would matter in just a few years, because when we grow up we realize that we are who we are, regardless of what boxes others try to place us in. We find our circles, we find our friends who loves us for who we are- we're not forced into a confined world where we are subscribed to "roles" and "expectations" from everyone around us. We know that if our friends do that, they're not our friends- and at 23 years old, or even 18 years old, it gets much easier to go out and find those who will love us without wanting to change us.

So that's my advice to anyone struggling in the world. Be who you are, and don't let anyone else change you.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

One Thing

In a recent interview that can be found HERE, I was asked two very difficult questions that I will go into this post and the next post. Shout out to the awesome YU Beacon and my interviewer for letting me share this.

I was asked if there was one thing I could tell the Orthodox community, for all to know, what would it be. Coming to the answer to this question took some time. There is so much I want the Orthodox community to know- that I want to have a “normal” life like the rest of them, that just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I’m any different from them, that I plan on living an Orthodox lifestyle to the best of my ability, that being gay was not planned, expected, or asked for- but none of these were really just one thing for me to tell the community, so here’s what I went with:

"That being gay is not a choice. It’s not something I ever wished for, and not something I strive to push on anyone who is uncomfortable with it."

I did not choose to be gay or ask for it or beg for my life to be more difficult. I wished and cried for the opposite. I simply tried to live a “normal” modern Orthodox life, like all my friends, but found myself attracted to the same sex instead of the opposite. After too much pain and struggle, I realized that just because I was gay, I was not going to allow that to stop me from living the “normal” modern Orthodox life; I just hope to do it with a man instead of a woman. Being gay, for almost all individuals struggling is not a choice- if it were, why would we choose the other path? Why would we want to go against the Torah? Why would we beg and plead for communities to accept us for who we are?

This is something the Orthodox community needs to recognize, because too often people are cast aside or hurt and not accepted. Why? Because it's viewed as something that is more or less in our control, and it's not. Just like a heterosexual's attraction towards women is not in their control, so too for the homosexual, the attraction is not in their control. For all these reasons I had to use this one thing to tell the Orthodox community- being gay is almost always not a choice. Just some food for thought.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Coming Out, Part II

Happy weekend to you all. Part of Eshel last weekend, we discussed many issues relating to coming out and telling your family and friends about a sexual orientation. When it comes to being LGBT, especially in the Orthodox world, coming out is automatically associated with rejection, hate, and removal from a community. Many in the closet presume that coming out will isolate themselves from all they know and love in their communities.

I'm here to try and persuade some of you otherwise. It's really important that you come out, if you're ready, and not to be scared about other people's reactions. I've said over and over again that everyone needs to be an individual and not worry about what other people think- but now I'm saying more than that. More often than not, my friends were upset at me for holding in my sexuality. Yes, mad at me. They were upset I had presumed they would react negatively, and were upset that I thought just because I was gay, they would leave me. So many assured me they wouldn't- and they haven't. In fact, many of my friends and I became closer after I came out, because I was finally open and honest with them about who I was.

Not only is it important not to let the community and our friends dictate who we are and how we should behave, but we should be giving them the benefit of the doubt! We should assume and expect that they be supportive- because so many are! For those still in the closet, just know that you're friends can so often surprise you and be supportive, more than you could have ever expected. This was a sentiment shared by many gay Orthodox people at the weekend. We all found that coming out was a much more pleasant experience than we had anticipated and people were a lot more ready to support us than they were to leave us.

Coming out is a preocess that one has to be ready for, that they feel they need to do, and that they do at their own pace and time. However, when that time comes that one feels they are ready, don't let the fear of other people's reactions stop you. More often than not, I have found, their love and support will surprise you.

Monday, January 24, 2011


This past weekend, I had the unbelievable pleasure of attending the first every LGBT Orthodox Shabbaton, known as Eshel. This shabbaton featured discussion of sexuality and religion, what it means to be LGBT and Jewish, and how to build and develop a community. It was really one of the best weekends of my life. As Shabbat ended, I had the pleasure of giving a Torah thought from that week's portion, and the blessings of Havdallah. I wanted to share with you (a summary of) my words:

This week is Parshat Yitro, which contains the 10 commandments. While so many look at this as a burden of our religion, I look at it as the essence of our people. There’s the moral code- how to treat one’s parents, neighbors, what one can or cannot do in regards to others as well as a spiritual code- how to keep Shabbat, and honor God. It's not one or the other, but both.

Next, the Haftarah refers to Isaiah’s vision of God and sent by Him on a mission. Isaiah feels he’s from a nation of sin and not worthy to be talking to God, at which point an angel touches his lips with coal to purify him of sin. But what sin was he guilty of that he committed with his lips? The commentators explain that the sin of Isaiah was calling God’s nation impure. He had no right to say he was from an impure nation and God cleansed him of that sin before sending him on any mission.

Growing up a gay Orthodox Jew is not easy for anyone. I just wanted to be accepted. And why? Because too many people decided it was their place to decide what does or does not constitute a sinner, like Isaiah erred. I made up my mind in senior year of high school to give it all up, and leave Judaism forever; it was the only option. But after a year and a half of studying in Israel while ignoring my sexuality, I understood how to develop my relationship with God without worrying about one aspect of who I was. In addition, I learned that there are so many interpretations and understandings of the Torah, that no one person could ever tell what exactly the precise understanding of the text is. No one could ever claim that we are a nation of sinners, because no one could ever know that- except God.

When I came out two and a half years ago, I knew my sexuality was a bigger part of me than I had ever realized. However, I also realized that this balancing act of sexuality and religion was not unfamiliar. It was just like trying to figure out how to approach God but still fit in with the rest of the world. Life is a balancing act, especially as a Jew. We have an obligation to the Torah and we also have an obligation to every one around us. Does this mean that one thing should override another? No. Never. Our time on Earth is not just about our relationship with God, or just about our relationship with man- it’s about both. It’s about the balancing act of how we can do the best we can in this religion.

No one else in the world has the right to tell us who we are or how we should behave. All we know how to do is our best; is balance this complicated Torah with our complexities as human beings. Isaiah was wrong for judging God’s people, as so many like to tell us that it’s not possible to be religious and gay- but as God taught Isaiah- they have no right to tell us what is or is not possible, it's simply up to us to do the best balancing act that we can.

It Gets Better- Gay Orthodox Jews