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

It Gets Better- Gay Orthodox Jews