Wednesday, February 15, 2012

God Doesn't Challenge...

Recently I’ve come to the conclusions that haters are going to hate, no matter what. And usually there’s nothing you can do about it, but advocate the positive things you have to contribute instead of constantly responding to negative attacks. However, there is one constant phrase that plagued me while I was in the closet, and now follows me that I’m out. There is a popular Jewish/ philosophical concept: God doesn’t give someone a challenge they cannot overcome.

The first thing to understand is what is a challenge? Is being blind a challenge? I would say so. Is having a mental disorder a challenge? I would say yes to that as well. But is being a homosexual a challenge? From a religious perspective it certainly is, but from a sociological perspective it doesn’t have to be. But we’re on the religious page now. So if it is indeed a religious challenge, what does it mean to overcome it- To be a celibate person? To “cure” one’s sexuality? Those options don’t seem like “overcoming” anything. The deaf cannot fulfill numerous commandments of God that require listening, but are they told that God handed them a challenge and they must overcome it? No. They must do the best they can with what they were given.

I was given homosexuality. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t go looking for it, I just felt it. Overcoming the challenge of homosexuality, to me, even from a religious perspective, means getting to a place where it is no longer a challenge. Accepting, understanding and analyzing who you are and where your attractions lie, to me, is overcoming the challenge. As I have said so many times before, it’s very easy for someone who has not struggled with sexuality to say “get over it, God wouldn’t give you a challenge you couldn’t overcome”. But until the person saying that understands this particular issue, they never really have the right to say “get over it”.

Coming from someone who did face a challenge and struggled for so many years with sexuality, let ME tell YOU, I have overcome it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


I started my blog the same year that a little TV show called “Glee” came on to the scene. For many years I’ve been watching, enjoying, singing along. Despite some convoluted storylines and characters, I really do enjoy my time each Tuesday night at 8. I realized that Glee provides a strong basis for what I’d like to write about.

Glee has never shied away form any controversy. Kurt came out as openly gay in season one, after first “experimenting” with one of the female characters. Last season, he was bullied and tormented until he left the school, and it was revealed that his primary oppressor was secretly gay. Many people took issue with this, just because someone bullies gay people doesn’t mean they’re gay themselves! While that’s true, there is no denying that many people who strongly and publicly advocate against homosexuals end up being involved in homosexual scandals. But, not everyone who is anti-gay is gay themselves.

This comes back to the idea of “haters” and people disagreeing with things I say. I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing with my blog. I also don’t have a problem with people presenting their opinions in the comments. However, I do have a problem with people who comment, 2 and a half years into a blog about Judaism, sexuality, and the many struggles that people have gone through, “Could I say I am an orthodox jew if I eat pork. Being Gay is not Kosher.” That is not a comment that is worth a response, this is not a comment that is worth addressing. If you’re saying this, you are not a freethinking individual; you are not someone who has ever thought about the issue in depth; you have never internalized anything I have ever wrote. So you, I call a hater.

Similarly, the individual taking gay Jewish community leaders and creating false email accounts with their names and the names of God, to spread messages like “I sympathize with the person who has homosexual urges like I sympathize with the person who has desires for underage children,” or curing gays with chemical castration, or calling gay people derogatory names and secretly mailing these messages to minors; you, I call a hater. I do not respond to this person, I do not attempt to reason with them, because people like this cannot be reasoned with.  It has taken me a long time to come to this understanding, but I finally understand that these people are not to be addressed. The existence of gay people does absolutely nothing to harm this country, so leave us alone and give us the rights of every other citizen. 

There's more to come- on gay rights and on Glee. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


As many of you know, recently, a beautiful 2 year old girl, Ayelet Yakira Galena z"l, passed away after a year of fighting for her life against a rare bone-marrow disease. Although Ayelet showed hope and strength for all of her battle, a two year old could fight for so long. Ayelet was loved and adored by her incredibly strong parents, loving extended family, who I am privileged to be close friends with, and supported by thousands.

Ayelet became, as people like to say, somewhat of an internet phenomenon. Her Facebook page has over 5,000 likes, and story was tweeted over and over again by influential celebrities and strangers alike, coming together to support the cause. Ayelet's extended network set up bone-marrow drives through Gift of Life, and through the search for a match for Ayelet, 21 people found their matches as well. The 21st was on the day of Ayelet's funeral. This is power. This is social media, this is 2012. This is organizing. This is how you unite people in from all over the world in support of a cause. And Ayelet, with the help of her fearless parents, was able to do that.

The message of Ayelet, as her mother so eloquently and tastefully described on the day of her funeral, is strength. At just two years old, Ayelet has saved 21 lives, and will continue to do so even now that she is gone. The ability to take a desperate and dire situation and turn it into a life-saving movement is the power that each of us hold in our hands today. The power to change the world is at our fingertips, on Facebook or Twitter, or email or phone calls. What's important to you? What inspires you? What impassions you? Never think that what you have to say doesn't matter, or resign to giving up fighting for what you believe in. Ayelet never gave up, how can you?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Challenge Everything

This post is dedicated to Eric James Borges, 19, and Phillip Parker, 14, the two most recent victims of bullying and anti-gay sentiment.

Being gay makes a person question everything. A lot of people assume that when one comes out of the closet, they automatically go “off the Derech”, or lose their religiosity/ most of the Jewish practices they had previously kept. While I may not have left the community, anyone who knows me, or anyone who has read the Blog for the past two and a half years, knows that I have changed, and yes, have become what many would call “less” religious.

Why is there this perceived trend? Not because it’s not true- it really is true that most people will leave their Orthodox communities and change many of their beliefs and practices once they come out of the closet. I used to think this was because they felt rejected from orthodoxy. And while this does have something to do with it, I want to posit something a bit deeper. Being gay, acknowledging that there is a part of you, created by God or developed as you grew up, that inherently desires you to act against religion makes you question why and how this is possible. One is forced to acknowledge the possibility that the Torah, at the very least, has been misinterpreted over the past few thousand years, or maybe even be wrong, and that makes you change your thoughts, beliefs and behaviors.

How can a person be gay and religious? How can God create someone gay, or develop a gay identity within a person and then tell them that they cannot act on it? This question rocks so much of the foundation of everything the Orthodox community raised me to believe. For that reason many of my gay friends and I will all question things about religion that we hadn’t before acknowledging our sexuality.  I question how accurate the Rabbis were in their interpretations and what biases were brought into the Talmud and codified law. Many others in today’s world think and question the same way, but for myself, and maybe for other gay people as well, it’s the underpinning of being gay that drives these questions. These questions that make a person rethink every law, not just the law and interpretation of homosexuality. For anyone that's ever experienced the dissonance with the Torah- that a part of their being and who they are is delegitimized by the Torah, they understand what I'm talking about.

And if they haven't experienced such a challenge, they cannot possibly understand what those who have go through. As I have written about many times before- it is not any one person's place to judge another person's thoughts or behaviors about religion, especially when they are not in that person’s exact shoes.

Monday, January 16, 2012


In LGBT culture, there's been the notion of "allies" for a long time. An ally is most commonly associated with someone who is a friend of gay people and a supporter of gay rights, or people who go out of their way to ensure equality of gay people is achieved and makes it a part of their ideology, despite being heterosexual themselves.

I want to mention first, the concept of a "true ally". A true ally is someone who, despite being heterosexual themselves, make no distinction between gay and straight. In their heads, it doesn't mean anything that one person is gay and one person is straight. People are people, and sexual expression and orientation are different for each person. A true ally doesn't ask homocentric questions in order to "understand" or be more competent about their gay friends, but simply knows that everyone leads their own lives and nothing is therefore inherently homocentric or heterocentric. True allies are rare and surprising in Orthodox Judaism, as most Orthodox Jews are so stunned to find a gay person in their midst, it suddenly leads to questions and probing, as if the gay person is an alien for studying. It's always better to ask a question instead of avoiding it, but the true ally doesn't even have questions in the first place.

Along these lines, there's the opposite type of "ally" (and I use that term loosely).  From the straight female to gay male perspective, it's the friend who thinks that being gay is the coolest thing in the world- especially because it means now they have a gay best friend. The friend who suddenly takes you shopping and gossips about boys and asks you what they should wear, simply because you're gay. And not that the true ally can't do these things, but with this friend there's the underpinning of "I'm only friends with you because you're gay". When someone comes out, it doesn't suddenly mean that they are now a stereotype, or that they can now go to musicals and shop with you. It just means that they are expressing a same-sex attraction, and everything else about them is likely not to change.

I acknowledge that stereotypes and cliches exist for a reason, but I also acknowledge that very rarely do all stereotypes fit one person. I understand that after coming out, many gay people begin expressing stereotypical behaviors that were suppressed before, but that doesn't make them exclusively gay to the exclusion of their before-coming-out characteristics, traits, likes and dislikes. A true ally understands that meeting someone who is gay is not meeting a homosexual, but meeting a person. And this is something that every "ally" should try to understand.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

That Girl

I guess I needed a bit of a break. My last post, while definitely not necessarily my most thought out or best choice of words, was important for me to write. So I appreciate all the feedback, even the negative. I wanted to share something that's been on my mind- being that girl.

In the past, I've written about different individual's choices to stay in the closet, and my dismay with those who stay in the closet and date women, even though they know that they're gay. It's one thing to hide it as a personal choice, but it's another to bring other people into this decision and struggle. I was talking to a friend who asked me about the orientation a boy she was set up with. I told her I was uncomfortable answering or disclosing any information I may or may not know, and she responded, "Please, Ely, no one wants to be that girl." That's what inspires this post. While many friends have had numerous girls come to them with a situation as this, it's rarely happened to me.

It's always unfortunate when men/women hide who they are from their significant others, but I never thought that once they come out, what their partner's perspective would be. Apparently, no one wants to be that girl. No one wants to fall in love and be told "I love you, but I'll never love you as much as you love me".  I always felt less upset when a homosexual person posed as a heterosexual one, as long as their significant other knew. But now I realize, that even if they know, that doesn't mean it's okay. No one wants to be the person in a relationship who gets the burden of being with a homosexual partner.

A fellow gay blogger came out to his wife recently (read about it here), and I strongly admire his courage and decision. And I am happy that they are figuring out how to make it work best for both of them. However, I have to feel a certain amount of pain for his wife. No one wants to be that girl.

PS- I apologize for the gender specificity of this post. I obviously realize that no one wants to be that guy either, who has a girlfriend or wife come out to them.

It Gets Better- Gay Orthodox Jews