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. 

It Gets Better- Gay Orthodox Jews