Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Push for Gay Acceptance in Orthodox Schools

Note: The following is strictly theoretical and is not based on a current student or
member of the Memphis Jewish community.

A look into the mind of a closeted homosexual in the 21st century...

“I walk down the hallways every day and hear things that nobody should hear. I
hear hate. I hear discrimination. I hear ignorant people throwing slurs around when they
don’t know how much it hurts. The pain doesn’t end when the clock hits 5:25. I log onto
the internet to enjoy a funny video on YouTube. Instead, I find a series of comments
that call the characters in the videos gay, fags, or homos.

I have to conform to society to ensure my secret is kept. I have to act interested
when my friends talk about masculine things. I’ve grown paranoid. I’ve grown to think
that if I don’t overcompensate for the masculinity I lack, then I will be unmasked and
ridiculed. I fear becoming an outcast for being who I really am.

I live every day in fear. I fear that somebody will find out who I really am. I fear
that I will actually have to be me for once in my life. I wish they knew that this isn’t a

It has long been the norm in our school to call trivial things gay. If someone considers
you a little bit different, you’re automatically tagged as a fag. If sports aren't your thing,
then you must like men, right? As outrageous as this sounds, as much as you don’t
want to believe it, it’s true. Nobody has thought about there being a possibility of
having a gay student in the school. Nobody has considered that, even if there are no
homosexuals in the school, using the word gay in a derogatory manner may still offend

Nine states in America allow same-sex marriage. Three states legalized the practice
in 2012 alone. The LGBT community is just as strong and passionate as ever. Despite
this progression in the acceptance of homosexuality in America, countless lives have been
lost because people, just like me and you, have been too afraid to come out as what
they truly are. Research has proven that homosexuality is not a choice, and I’m of the
opinion that it’s not a curse either.

Homosexuality in the Orthodox Jewish world is a rising debate. Should it be accepted?
Is the concept of being interested in someone of the same sex okay so long as
the person doesn’t act on his interests? It’s uncertain whether or not these core questions will be definitively answered in the near future. Rav Lichtenstein, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion and world renowned Torah scholar, speaks of the harsh manner in which the Jewish community treats homosexuals. Rav Lichtenstein explains that Orthodox Jews are not reluctant to accept fellow Jews that break Shabbat, yet they discriminate against Homosexuals for their wrongdoings. The Rav explains that a sinner is a sinner, Orthodoxy’s fault is its failure to treat all sinners with the same discrimination or the same acceptance. Most of us common folk don’t necessarily hold the power to impact Modern Orthodoxy’s view on homosexuality, but we do hold the power to change how those around us feel about it. We have the power to open eyes and inspire others to think before they speak. We have the power to end the casual usage of the word gay as a negative thing.

I’m jolly. I’m joyful. I’m eccentric. I’m gay. There was a time when all of these words
were synonyms. There was a time when being gay wasn’t an uncomfortable thing, it
didn’t mean you like people of the same sex. There was a time when being called gay
was a compliment. You may not know this because in the 1890’s, this correct usage of
the word gay was replaced by what we now know as gay.

I’m a nerd. I’m weird. I’m different. I’m gay. We now live in a time where these words
are synonyms. We now live in a time, in a community, where the word gay is most
commonly used as an insult. When you call someone gay, it’s uncomfortable because
it has evolved to mean liking someone of the same sex. You all know this because this
has become the correct usage of the word gay.

Science today suggests that being a homosexual isn’t a decision. Homosexuality forces
millions to live in fear of being ostracized. Homosexuality forces people to become
who they are not. Homosexuality forces many to live their lives in misery because they
are too fearful to publicly be who they are. Being a homosexual in the 21st century
is difficult, but being an Orthodox Jewish homosexual in the 21st century is near

I used to call my friends gay. I used to call the people I didn’t like fags. I used to be
ignorant. As time passed, as America became more accepting, as Orthodoxy’s opinion of homosexuality became a more accepting one, I began to realize that using the word gay
in a negative way isn't helping anybody be who they truly are. The misery of living in
a closet will never end if society continues to associate homosexuality with negativity.
Nobody will want to be who they truly are if who they are doesn’t come with a sense of

To ensure a community of acceptance, to create an environment of openness, we must
stop being ignorant. We must start thinking before we throw insults around. We must
realize that something we say can slowly torment a person.

I have a dream that one day a student at our school will come out and be accepted. He
will come to school the day after coming out and things will be just the way they were
before. Right now, this dream is far fetched, but I only hope that one day we can reach
that exact level of acceptance. I have a dream that one day we put an end to this
mindless discrimination.

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