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