Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Coming Out, Causing Change

He stopped the music.

He stood up on the fireplace of the room in which nearly every member of the school was occupying. He began to speak. He thanked all of us for welcoming him into our community, for making him feel like he had been here his entire life. What he had to say was very sweet, but that's not what he came to tell us. That's not why he paused the end of the year festivities.

He and I hadn't been close until this year. For whatever reason, I never made an effort to connect with him. I figured he was just another typical out-of-towner. But when I began to write for him, when I began to give him a look inside of my head, into my beliefs, that's when it all changed.

In the middle of the year, I wrote an article calling for the discontinued usage of gay slurs. In my article, I proposed a hypothetical situation in which a Jewish, homosexual student was forced to hide who he was for the sake of avoiding chastisement. I concluded the article by proclaiming my hope that one day, just maybe, a student at my school would have the courage to challenge the Orthodox day school status quo by coming out to the student body. At the time, this was merely a hope of mine. To be honest, I never saw it happening. Though it's entirely realistic, and even factual, that Orthodox day schools across the country include a large number of closeted homosexuals, I never imagined somebody I knew would have the courage to actually come out. After all, they would be jeopardizing their reputation and opening themselves up to the possibility of seclusion and rejection.

I'll always remember the night he came out to me. I was giving him a ride home when he stopped our conversation to have one of far greater importance. He beat around the bush for a few moments, but eventually cut to the chase. When he finally squeezed the two most revealing words out, I wasn't sure how to react. I could have delved into a deep, philosophical conversation about the causes of homosexuality. I could have done the typical song and dance, congratulating him and telling him how courageous he is. Or I could have rejected who he truly was.

But I didn't do any of these things.

Instead, I drove around the city for two hours, asking silly question after silly question. I felt like a teenage girl. But he fielded them all. He showed me what it truly means to be comfortable with who you are. Not once did he blink, not once did he swallow his words, not once did he feel uncomfortable. He was ready to be himself around me, and that's something I will never forget.

Our friendship went from one of exchanging the occasional pleasantries, to one of immense depth and closeness. He has become someone I regard as a best friend. He has become my backbone in many instances, offering emotional support whenever I need it. He has become an inspiration.

It was nice of him to thank us for welcoming him into the community, but that's not what he came to tell us. He paused for a moment, all eyes on him, and somehow mustered up the courage to become who he is:

"One more thing, and I really am feeling quite happy tonight so this is why I'm telling you. I am gay. I am coming out tonight. Thank you so much."

Being that this sort of public coming out is unprecedented in our community, I didn't really expect the reaction that his coming out brought.

It seemed like time suspended for a moment, like everything was hanging in the balance as I awaited the reaction of the many who had not yet known his sexual orientation. I knew some would be taken aback by it, because, after all, homosexuality is still somewhat of an uncomfortable topic for many people. I even expected some to cause an uproar, to publicly rebuke his coming out as a sign of disgust.

But I didn't expect what actually happened.

Almost everybody in the room went ballistic. We yelled, clapped, and celebrated this momentous announcement. The room went from one of scattered occupation to one of a line. Students young and old lined up to hug him, to tell him congratulations, to accept him. The moment was so overwhelming that it moved me, along with many others, to tears.

I've always been a confident person, but I wouldn't necessarily say that I've always been courageous. Even now, my courage is a topic for debate, at least within my own head. But when I met him, when he came out to me, when he imparted on me that it's okay to be yourself, suddenly I felt like I could do anything. I began to write about the things many people didn't want to discuss. I began to let my passion drive controversial conversations within my sometimes rigid community. I began to accept myself for who I am, and do my best to correct my flaws.

His coming out was something he and I have discussed for quite some time now. He was apprehensive about it at first, but after countless conversations in which we discussed the importance of being who you are, he was ready to do it. His coming out in such a public form was one gigantic step toward the rest of his life. He no longer had to hide. He no longer had to keep up a facade. He no longer had to try to stay content being someone he is inherently not.

He could finally be free.

The thing is, though, his coming out stretches far beyond just him. His coming out is going to impact this community, this school, so much. His coming out has pushed many to recognize the reality that is homosexuality within Judaism.

In a Jewish community that is so stagnant, this sort of monumental occurrence is going to have a vast impact on the ideological scheme of things. The topic of homosexual acceptance has always been discussed solely in hypotheticals. We've all had our own opinions on how to resolve religion with sexual orientation, but we've never actually had to translate those opinions into practice. Now that our hypothetical world has become reality, we must take a definitive stance on what is so sadly deemed an "issue." This coming out was the first of its kind, and I hope it won't be the last. Many community members may be up in arms, but many more will not be. And those who aren't will be supportive, they will be accepting, and they will do their best to spread their attitude of tolerance to the other, more close minded members of the community.

This is a progressive world, folks.

He did something so notable by getting the literal ball rolling on this issue of homosexual acceptance within the Memphis Orthodox community. The hypothetical ball is no more.

When I entered high school, it was the norm to call someone a faggot or a queer. It was okay to throw around gay slurs, despite the fact that those few words could tear someone apart inside. As my years have flown by and the school's attitude toward homosexuals has drastically shifted, the norm has become acceptance. By the start of this year, many had cut down on their gay slur usage and enhanced their tolerance, especially in a public sphere, paving a pearly path out of the closet for him. With the already growing acceptance within our school, it's inevitable that more is to come. His announcement slapped many of my schoolmates in the face with reality. They now know someone who is homosexual. They now have a friend who is out. They now recognize that your sexual orientation doesn't define who you are as a person.

I'm not entirely sure how his announcement will impact his relationship with various students at the school, but I genuinely hope that those students don't change their behavior as a result of discomfort. His announcement has given us, the student body, a chance to create an atmosphere in which everyone feels safe being who they are. The overwhelming support he met after his announcement only reaffirmed my belief that this school, and perhaps this community, is headed in a new direction than in years past. To see all of my fellow classmates hug him, congratulate him, and even praise him was something I will never forget.

When it was finally my turn to congratulate him, I held him tight and told him that he was my inspiration. I told him that he was my hero. And he is. He's taught me that, despite all of the struggles that it may bring, being yourself is the only way to live. He's taught me how to love myself for who I am. He's taught me that I have a voice. He's given me a reason to become an even stronger proponent of gay rights in particular, and civil rights as a whole.

When I say that he has changed my life, I'm not simply throwing around cliche phrases that sound nice. I mean it. This year has been one of immense personal growth. I truly believe that how far I've come would not have been possible without his help.

An eighteen year old did something no one has ever done in this community. An eighteen year old exemplified courage to the fullest extent. He is so young, yet he's wise enough to know that he is capable of impacting those around him for the better. I never thought I would be writing a post like this. I never thought I would see someone come out in front of my classmates. But I couldn't be happier that this is all happening. I couldn't be more inspired, more moved by the courage he has shown.

When I look back at the beginning of Summer 2013, I'm going to remember the graduation. I'm going to remember the overwhelming sadness that rushed over me as I listened to my best friends utter their parting words. But, above all, I'll remember when one person changed an entire city.

There's nothing more to say to him than thank you. We all have a reason to appreciate the person he is and the courage he possesses. We all must note that what he has done is just that - notable.

He's set me on a path to find myself, and, with his inspiration, I feel as if I have the courage to become who I've always wanted to be.

"No freedom until we're equal. Damn right I support it."



19 comments:

  1. My friend Reuven shared this blog post with me... and I just want to say YASHER KOACH on an amazingly well-written post and on being such an incredible ally to the Jewish LGBTQ community. I am moved to tears that your school reacted the way it did to your friend's announcement. As a transgender and queer ex-Orthodox Jew, I must say that your friend is so lucky to have you and others like you surrounding him with love. (and yay for the Macklemore shout-out!) b'hatzlacha in your future endeavors, Rafi

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  2. Gabriel, your article touched me and I had to say "Kol Hakavod" to you. I graduated from your high school 20 years ago and one of the hardest things in coming out then was knowing that I would lose my place in my community. It is truly devastating experience when you suddenly realize you're completely alone. So, it is truly awesome to hear that my old community growing, changing and accepting. Your family, friends, and teachers should be very proud of you and your friends.

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  3. Let's posit that "religion," and, more importantly, "Orthodoxy" actual *mean* something, and are not just things followed out of inertia or social pressures or code for "doing what feels good." I fully realize that those often *are* the case, but the entire punch of this article results from us assuming that the subjects are, indeed, religious and Orthodox.

    Well, let's be frank: Religion and, specifically, Orthodoxy *expect* certain things of you. Belief and action both. And no, you're not free to pick and choose. Do so, and you're creating a new religion, if such a thing is possible, and this entire post is rendered meaningless.

    So, some thought experiments:

    "I am a pork-eater, and I am coming out."

    Applause? Why not?

    "I am a thief, and I am coming out."

    Applause? Why not?

    "I am a proud drug addict, and I am coming out."

    Applause? Why not?

    Think about it.

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    1. Just because someone does something you disagree with, does that mean that they deserve chastisement and rejection? How many people do you know don't keep Shabbat, but you still have a relationship with them? How many people do you know don't adhere to all of the laws of the Torah, but you still have a relationship with them? How many people do you know sneak bags of chips into movie theaters, but you still have a relationship with them?

      I'm not endorsing homosexuality within Orthodoxy. Rather, I am calling for acceptance of homosexuality within Orthodoxy. Chances are, many of your peers, colleagues, and even superiors participate in Loshon Harah, commit white lies, and sin in other ways.

      What makes one sin greater than the other? And what makes those people acceptable, but not homosexuals?

      On another note, it's my belief that homosexuals are born homosexual. Funny how our God makes them who they are, yet doesn't them them be who they are meant to be.

      If you are a pork-eater, I accept you.

      If you are a thief, I can't say that I accept you, because what you're doing has now expanded out of your own world, and has disturbed others. However, if you so choose to discontinue your deceitful ways, then I am ready to accept you.

      If you're a drug addict, I accept you. Don't get me started on this one...

      And thank you for reading and commenting, especially something that may spark a debate. That's what I created the blog for.

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    2. I have friends who are homosexuals. Some are otherwise strongly Orthodox Jews. I'm perfectly friendly and accepting of them as humans. I would *not* applaud them for something along the lines of what you posted here; that's a world different.

      "it's my belief that homosexuals are born homosexual"

      God also gives kids terminal diseases. So?

      "because what you're doing has now expanded out of your own world"

      That is a distinction you have made. It's not one God makes, and it's not one He wants you to make.

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    3. Norm, I don't know you, and I apologize for the rant I'm about to go on. What you said was something of a trigger for me.

      I grew up progressively more frum, going from 'keeping kosher in' when I was about 3 to full-on chassidic by the time I was 12. Most of the people I grew up with in that final kehilah would say that they were 'perfectly friendly and accepting' of me as a human being, but they weren't. They were cruel, exclusionary, rigid, and self-righteous. As my father put it when discussing a problem similar to the one I faced as a child with the now current principal of the local day school - 'That's what it was like for my kids. And almost every member of {less mdakdek group} whose parents weren't prominent in the kehilah is now off the derech.'

      I know now that they loved and wanted the best for me. Their cruelty was never intentional, and they were honestly trying to help with their behavior. Their disdain for parts of myself that I considered fundamental to who I am was, however, highly apparent.

      I'm talking about things like enjoying goyishe art, believing that my goyishe relatives were just as spiritually capable and just as important as my jewish classmates(I have a geir in my family tree) , asking questions about everything, wanting to learn gemorah, walking with a long stride and my head held high, even refusing to accept the common belief that my father was a less competent stay-at-home parent than my mother would have been, simply by virtue of his gender.


      They even got on my case about wearing ankle-length skirts instead of the mid-calf skirts that were sold to be part of the uniform at my beis yaakov. These are things far less fundamental to someone's nature than who they are attracted to. (Also, the young man said that he was gay, NOT that he was sleeping with men. It is entirely possible to be a gay celibate.)

      As I said, their disdain was apparent. Their behavior was, however unintentionally, cruel. I attempted suicide at the age of 16. Two years later (I think) another person in our community succeeded. I realized at the age of 20 that almost every time I tried to have an honest spiritual discussion with an FFB, especially if I referenced myself, I came out of it feeling belittled and frequently, hated. I stopped being frum at the age of 21. I have not spoken to the vast majority of the people who tormented me with the best of intentions. Unless one needs help to survive, or I do, I never will again.

      Here's something for all the 'well-meaning' frummies out there to ponder. Humiliating a person is akin to murdering them.
      - The Gemara in Bava Metzia (59a), among other places, states that it is better for one to cast himself into a fiery furnace than to shame someone in public.
      - Rabbeinu Yonah notes that shaming someone is similar to murdering him (Bava Metzia 58b)

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    4. Norm:
      We should also accept the fact that the times change, our society changes, and our understanding of what is chosen and what is innate or inherent changes as well. We can reinterpret verses in the Torah in a way that allows them to reflect the realities of our day without rejecting the power of the verses. Let's be clear in our interpretation of the oft-quoted biblical verse, often thought to condemn "homosexuality": when the Torah was recorded, homosexuality was not an identity. One could not identify as homosexual, because that identification did not exist in that society. When the Torah refers to sexual intercourse between men, we need to understand that it is most likely a reflection of the realities of the time during which it was recorded: sex between men was used (historically) as a power play, as a form of humiliation and of violence. It makes sense, therefore, for the Torah to forbid THOSE relationships as an extension of the sexual prohibitions. Flash forward, now, to the present. We, as a society, now understand that some humans (an estimated 5%) are simply born with homosexual attractions. We live in a society where those individuals can identify as homosexuals and find committed, loving partners with whom to spend their days. Our understanding of homosexuality, bolstered by scientific findings and sociological advancements/changes, is wildly different from that of the Torah. Our reading of the Torah should therefore reflect today's understanding. This is what we as Jews have always done throughout history, and it is what we must continue to do.
      (Rabbi Steve Greenberg explains this all much better and more extensively than I do...read his book! http://www.amazon.com/Wrestling-God-Men-Homosexuality-Tradition/dp/B00DS96ZFO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1380758222&sr=8-1&keywords=wrestling+with+god+and+men)

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    5. Norm, I have two problems with your comparison of homosexuality to eating pork or being a thief, or a drug addict. It is the same problem in your second posting when you allow that HaShem created certain people gay but then say "God also gives kids terminal diseases. So?"

      Firstly, you are making what is called invidious comparisons. You could have with equal logic compared homosexuality to such positive actions as a person committing an act of tzedakah or fulfilling Shabbos mitzvoth. There is no necessary logical connection between being homosexual and engaging in acts like eating traif, being a gonif, or taking drugs. Anyone can come down with a disease, but being homosexual is not a disease: it is a way of loving, something heterosexuals of all persuasions too often overlook.

      Second problem is that the Levitical injunction is read out of context. It actually instructs men who are inclined to engage in loving relationships with other men HOW to engage in them -- not with the lyings of women. And how do women lie with men? Torah is not talking physicologically but relationally, as submissive to having her nakedness uncovered whenever her husband or master felt so inclined to do so. Men were to treat each other as equals. In other words, it had to be consentual and with mutal respect.

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  4. What an incredible post. I'm so glad you had the courage to right this. As someone who feels strongly about Judaism and about LGBTQ rights, I hope that one day the two can exist in the same harmonious context. I think that many religious Jews (and people in general) condemn what they do not understand or which stands out. In Brooklyn, I won't be acknowledged as another Jew in some parts because I'm not 'dressing the part', or donning a black hat and suit. I find it ridiculous. As Jews, we need to embrace each other and love one another as one people. I also have met people/schuls in the Orthodox community that stand out against homopohbia and intolerance. Yesher Koach to you and the young man who had the courage to come out to a community!

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  5. Gabe, I just read this. All I can say is that your thoughtfulness, courage, and compassion are really impressive. You've grown a spiritual decade in the last year or two.

    It wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment on the serious halachic problems Orthodoxy faces in respect to contemporary understandings of homosexuality, but I can see that what you are trying to do is initiate debate and explore the issue within a community that you deeply respect, but are nevertheless willing to criticize. You talked about courage in your post, and, yes, sparking controversy requires courage. But beyond courage, you are showing maturity. Your respect and compassion for individuals regardless of their sexual orientation is not the only respect and compassion you show. Your attitude towards your community is also constructive, respectful, and compassionate. Loving dissent is a rare and precious commodity, and it's really unusual to encounter it in a person as young as you.

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  6. As a formerly frum lesbian, I have to say that your friend had more courage than I ever would - possibly because my Beis Yaakov already seemed highly intolerant of me (I read goyishe fantasy novels - in school, at that - until they started confiscating them, and I was regularly chastised for asking questions about torah, halachah, and yiddishkeit that they thought were inappropriate.) I still have not come out to my childhood Kehilah, and I probably never will. Oddly enough, the issue of the likely reaction to my homosexuality wasn't one of the main reasons I stopped being frum, but it was certainly a contributor.
    Yasher koach to your friend as coming out, Kol hakavod to you for accepting him.

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  7. My name is Alexander Rich-Shea, and at the age of 13, entering my ninth grade at Maimonides School in Brookline MA, I came out fully in all areas of my life. I graduated from Maimo in 2008 and spent the intervening years being just like your friend:

    "But he fielded them all. He showed me what it truly means to be comfortable with who you are. Not once did he blink, not once did he swallow his words, not once did he feel uncomfortable. He was ready to be himself around me, and that's something I will never forget."

    I did these things too. I educated everyone, I spoke up in class, I fought when the administration tried to expel me, I got amazing grades, proved over and over again I was smart and could fight against bigotry singlehandedly. I was congratulated as an example, condemned as a public figure, and singled out as the sole public source of everyone's LGBT education, everyone's one gay friend.

    And now I am left with the scars of having to do all those things during my teenage years instead of getting to know myself and understand who i was. I compromised my safety and integrity by relying on unreliable people because they were at least more accepting than the rosh yeshiva and the principal. I lowered my standards for acceptance because I knew it could be much worse than what my peers offered. I bottled up my anger because I knew I had to present as a perfect reasonable specimen of homosexuality and I disconnected from my emotions to save my sanity in situations of extreme intolerance and victimization.

    Your friend might have helped you and your community, but in exchange your community is not helping him. A truly supportive community would not applaud and line up for handshakes. A truly supportive community would not require long blog posts, and a truly supportive community would not subject him to hours of questions. A truly supportive community would have other gay community members. They would know the answers to the questions. They would HAVE answer for his questions.

    You are not supportive. You are parasitic.

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    1. Alexander, your story, as sad as it is, is just that - your story. Your situation seems to differ from this situation. My friend knew who he was when he came out. I’m going to use the quote you used in your comment:

      “But he fielded them all. He showed me what it truly means to be comfortable with who you are. Not once did he blink, not once did he swallow his words, not once did he feel uncomfortable. He was ready to be himself around me, and that's something I will never forget.”
      This is a clear indication that he had time to undergo his own period of introspection, securing a state of comfort and mental sanity. He did not spend his high school years fielding questions and fighting rejection. He came out when he was ready, and did so to a close support system that did not care to ask silly questions first. He then moved on to coming out completely.
      I think your own experiences are prohibiting you from gripping both the message and context of this blog post. I would love for there to be a larger Orthodox homosexual community in Memphis, but that’s simply unrealistic. It’s Orthodox. Orthodoxy hasn’t yet completely caught up with the progressive world in terms of accepting homosexuals. Furthermore, we are in the deep South, a place of even less tolerance. By accepting and supporting him, we opened the door to a brighter future of free expression of sexual orientation. By supporting him we made a statement that homosexuals will be accepted and integrated into our community in the future. A revolution has to start somewhere.
      If I am “parasitic,” and not supportive, then what would you have suggested I had done? What would you have suggested my community had done? Would it be better to reject him? Would it be better to demonize him? Would it be better to conceal this story, even though it has arguably touched hundreds of lives?
      Supporting my friend was helping him. It helped him become even more comfortable in who he was. It gave him confidence that he would be accepted by other Orthodox communities. We were right in applauding him. We were right in shaking his hand. I was right in writing this blog post. We were right in asking him questions, because it ultimately gave us a better understanding and tolerance for homosexuals within our community. This has set into motion a revolution that could quite possibly result in a large, strong, passionate community full of Orthodox homosexual Jews. We helped this man, and if you don’t believe me, you can ask him yourself.
      I’d suggest that you work through your own demons, overcome your own difficult past, and open your eyes to the message and context of this situation. To say we were wrong in supporting him is downright ignorant. To say we should have done anything other than applaud him and shake his hand is simply illogical.
      Finally, you don’t know me. You don’t know how I contributed to his coming out. You don’t know how many people have been touched by this post. You have no right to say I am not supportive. I, along with my friend, put myself out there for public rebuke for the sake of generating positive change. If that’s not supportive, then I don’t know what is. By requesting a reception that is void of congratulations and handshakes, you are essentially instructing a newly out Orthodox Jew to be rejected by a community. How is that being supportive?
      Alexander, I am not parasitic. You are damaged, bitter, and illogical.

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    2. "I think your own experiences are prohibiting you from gripping both the message and context of this blog post."

      My experiences provide the only similar context to your friend's experiences as a champion for gay right in an Orthodox Jewish community. People with such experiences are exceptionally rare, and you would do well to learn from them.

      "If I am “parasitic,” and not supportive, then what would you have suggested I had done? What would you have suggested my community had done? [...] Would it be better to conceal this story, even though it has arguably touched hundreds of lives?"

      It would have been better to not have worked all your lives to create a community in which a singly gay person is a sensation and a revolution. It would be better to form a community that practiced such open inclusion that your friend never had to be nervous about coming out and will never have to be nervous about his reception in the community in the future. The fact that these things are, as you claim, intrinsically contrary to the Orthodox Jewish culture is an indictment of that culture, not an indictment of the expectation for communities that are already accepting of gay people without needing to place a cultural revolution on the back of a single 18 year old.

      "Supporting my friend was helping him. It helped him become even more comfortable in who he was. It gave him confidence that he would be accepted by other Orthodox communities."

      He will not be accepted by other Orthodox communities. He will not even be accepted by your Orthodox community. He will be tolerated at best. His marriage, if he has one, will not be acknowledged or celebrated by the community. You and I both understand the obstinacy of the Modern Orthodox religious culture, and though people might find their own way to accommodate his existence along with the exclusion required by Halacha, this is not acceptance. This is, in fact, rejection. The rejection might come with empathy, but it is NOT THE SAME AS INCLUSION.

      Think about how coming out would look in a truly accepting and inclusive community. Would such fanfare make sense? Would there be long standing traditions of homophobia and discrimination towards gay people in this ideal community? Of course not. This ideal community exists everywhere for straight people, and in only very few places for gay people. Obviously we both agree that an Orthodox Jewish Community is not ideal.

      So you want a revolution. That's great. You want to support your friend. You want to learn from him about homosexuality. You want to place him at the forefront of a public debate over homosexuality in the Orthodox Community.

      But you belong to a homophobic culture. You participate in homophobic traditions and you pray with homophobic religious figures. You are trying to change it, but while you are changing it, and while your friend is educating people, he is existing in this toxic culture of hate. You don't like it any more than he does, but that won't stop the gay hate in the Orthodox Community from affecting either of you, him more so than you, because it will be directed at him personally.

      "I, along with my friend, put myself out there for public rebuke for the sake of generating positive change. If that’s not supportive, then I don’t know what is."

      This is not supportive! It's self-sacrificial!

      "By requesting a reception that is void of congratulations and handshakes, you are essentially instructing a newly out Orthodox Jew to be rejected by a community."

      I am requesting a community in which an over the top reception of someone coming out is emphatically unnecessary because rejection is unthinkable. The Orthodox Jewish community rejects gay people. It is a fact. That is why your small subset of that community in that room felt the need to treat your friend like a Special Event.

      Gay people are not supported by being made special. We are supported by being made normal.

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    3. And finally...


      "Alexander, I am not parasitic. You are damaged, bitter, and illogical."

      You are. You might also be supportive, but you are part of a system of social influence that spreads gay hatred and you will not be victimized by it the way your friend has and will. Which direction you work in now is up to you. Will you prioritize the community or your friend? Will you sacrifice your friend for the community and make him the subject of debate and controversy or will you sacrifice the community for your friend and accept nothing less than total acceptance and inclusion?

      This is VERY IMPORTANT:
      One of the chief problems with being a champion of a marginalized group, in this case gay, is the requirement to respond "reasonably" to straight people, especially those who consider themselves virtuous advocates themselves. I am a gay person who existed for a long time in the Orthodox Jewish community, something you claim to care and want to learn about, but since I did not congratulate you and criticized your methodology, you attacked me. Your friend knows that his acceptance is largely based on him keeping quiet about certain things and not being perceived as "damaged, bitter, and illogical". This too takes a toll, when even a modicum of acceptance is conditioned upon continued good behavior. Being gay means he must prove much more so than a straight person that he is not in some way damaged, because "damaged" is exactly how the Jewish Orthodox community sees gay people.

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    4. I think it is great that individuals can be heard here in this forum, no matter what side they come from. Being able to rebuke the underdog savior is precious. And having that savior answer back just as freely is great. If the forum allows sides to be heard without taking sides but accepting that all views are what they are - how people feel and don't often enough get a chance to be out there as a two-way conversation - then I really thank you. There may be more than 2 sides, and they are allowed to come here to be respected as honest human thought - thought that does not have to belong to either the ruling class or the underdog. this will bring us together - being able to vent. Wow.

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  8. May I air this idea as an old-fashioned Orthodox?

    First let me as how does it work for a drug addict? He or she feels good when they use, and during that time everything seem alright with the world - until they crash again. I don't know how I feel for sure yet - I'm airing this as I continue to be in the process of coming to some clarity - so don't blame me if I'm wrong. I may be wrong in my thinking but I'm right in sharing it.

    When one has sex, or even sexual feelings (like when seeing that hot fantasy on the street) one feels lifted. But, is feeling alright the same as being right? The addict says yes. His therapist says nebech. Feeling romantically high does not prove this is real love, or healthy love. It looks like love, and feels like it, but if you are the one having the experience (the user), you must suspect yourself as self deluding ... possibly. If you only can feel this ONLY with the same or opposite gender, does that prove or disprove anything about its validity. I have felt in love as soon as I saw that attractive face, and once the dating started - forget about it, I was gone. Does that prove, in any way, that this the love we really mean to make happy endings about?

    When that person who commented elsewhere said that god also created childhood diseases, isn't this what he meant - that having the condition does not justify being proud one has it - even if it is widespread. Each one of us has to choose what we believe, and the proof of who is right is not going to come out of a debate on the experiences of a straight or gay person. Experiences are colored, and we don't see that, if we're wearing tinted glasses. And we all are. And the tints are all different somewhat.

    The ultimate question is whether all tints are correct, or is one more correct than the others. Can this be resolved? That is a debate over accepting the interpretation of a passage, or of a book. What is right or wrong in sex will follow from - and not lead - the discussion. We argue over whose feeling is right, and that is a waste.

    We need to see where we are wasting time in our debating. We need to love the discussion. We need to see people are sincere, even if wrong (of course, the other guy). We need to stay cool, and keep talking, and keep loving, until someone says something that we can agree on, grab that point, and move together from there. We are on the verge of great times.

    Is the Torah the guide? What does the Torah say. Figure out if this is resolvable, or don't waste your time. And if it is, focus on that, and let the results follow.

    Old-fashioned Orthodox, who is remaining Orthodox, and trying to keep learning and loving. Thanks.

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  9. I'm staying anonymous but I know both the writer and the person talked about in this article.

    I knew this person was gay from the first time i saw him and saw the way he acted and dressed. I grew up with 4 uncles(2 gay couples that we considered family friends) that are gay and I'm very close with them. So I had an idea from day one. This person was actually the first person I came out to as "bi" at the time. I was confused and coming to terms with myself and he helped me with starting the process. After him, i told my closest friends and my mother(gonna leave that out for the most part). At the same time, I was getting into a style of art and the community based around it. I was starting to go to a few meets with people in that community and made some friends that weren't Jewish for the first time in my life. Skip to July 28th(2 months after I said I was bi) I went to a pool party with my new friends and got really close with one guy. He asked me out three days later. After a week, I came to terms with being completely gay and not bi. I told one rabbi, and then after about a week, it was time for me to go to Israel(I was in the same high school and you generally go to Israel afterwards). I had fallen in love with someone I'd only known for two weeks and have to leave immediately for a year. So that hit me hard. I went to New York for a week to see my brother and then i headed out to Israel.

    Slowly but surely, I came out to the students. They were making gay jokes and i was very uncomfortable. My roommates also almost found out the second day I was there and I was getting scared. After Rosh HaShana, we went on a trip to do Tashlich. Once we came back, i took a shower before class because I stunk. Once i got out, my dorm counselor was there and told me to go talk to the head Rabbis'. In a very harsh tone; as if they were mad at me, they kicked me out of the Yeshiva for being openly gay. They said the reason was financial. If the Yeshiva had an openly gay kid there, they would loose donaters and less people would go to the Yeshiva.

    I had to be gone by the night. I had to call people back home and tell them what had happened and open up to them in the worst possible way....Especially my dad and a different rabbi. That night, i stayed at some random cousin's house who i'd never met and i took half of my stuff. I cam back the next day and got the rest of my stuff and then traveled to Bet El for 2 days.

    I had to stay in an apartment for 2 nights, by myself with no: food; clean water; hot water; A/C; heating; real bed; Wi-Fi or cell phone service inside the apartment. both days I traveled to Jerusalem to get food and see friends. Then i flew back to the states and stayed with my bro for 3 days. Then i flew back to Memphis and had to deal with family first.

    However ever since i've come back, i've had nothing but trouble with the majority of the jewish community. Not the kids, or certain people, but a lot of people avoid me whenevr i'm there and clearly dont want to communicate with me even though i'm the same person. They act as if i'm someone totally different and i can't even have a conversation without feeling out of place and uncomfortable.

    I'm posting this here just to show how different my experience was. It's not amazing for everyone. Like I said, the teens and kids are all cool with it but most adults are against me and are awkward around me.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, this is Alexander from above. I am so sorry to hear you were treated like that. I hope you're doing well now.

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