Friday, September 16, 2011

Burned Out and Coming Out

Due to the lengthiness of my last posting, I unfortunately had to stop mid-story, so I wanted to continue today. I hope to post more than once or twice per month, like I had initially intended. I also plan to respond to a few comments today that have been received since my last posting, one week ago.
I left off describing how I didn’t know I was gay until age 20, and I proposed explanations as to how that may have been the case (heteronormativity, modern orthodox bubble, etc). What I didn’t go on to explain last week was how I realized I was gay – what convinced me – and how the coming out process has been after that.
I have recognized (and have been reminded) that I need to be as vague as possible regarding certain parts of the stories on my blog, unfortunately, only because certain individuals may be offended or feel sensitively about this subject and its different facets. If you feel the need for more details or clarification, please feel free to comment or message me privately off of the page.
I will start with this: there was no one experience, or one interaction that made me realize I was gay. When I was away from Maryland during last winter break (January 2011), I was simply feeling very burned out. I use that term on purpose, because, I really felt like I was out of fuel, or that I couldn’t continue anymore. My whole life, subconsciously, I tried to fit into the molds of my society and be straight. That continued through my year in Israel and my first year and a half at Maryland. I’m not sure exactly what changed or caused me to realize my situation. Perhaps it was being in Tel Aviv, a city known for its acceptance of gay life and gay culture. Maybe it was because, for the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who weren’t all Jewish and/or orthodox. Perhaps it was because I had simply stepped out of my modern orthodox bubble for three weeks and got a breath of fresh air. Maybe it was something as simple as time, and G-d had programmed me to only have 20 years of “straight fuel” in my tank (sorry for that really cheesy metaphor). Whatever it was, I was burned out. I was burned out of pretending to be someone that I wasn’t. I was burned out from living a life that wasn’t really mine. I was completely burned out, and that lead to my ~eight days of grayness, eight days of ambiguity, eight days of slumber. For the last week of January, from when I left Tel Aviv until I started Maryland again for the Spring Semester, I was just confused. I knew something was different, and I was uncovering something new, but I wasn’t sure what. I felt a bit aloof, especially from certain individuals, but then on that first Friday after winter break, it just hit me. I’m gay. Everything just lined up, everything was explained; it was the reasoning for all of the questioning. It was the reason why I had been feeling so burned out.
It was a Friday afternoon when I realized. I was overwhelmed. What do I do? Who do I talk to? I didn’t know any gay individuals, let alone gay orthodox individuals. I was still in a relationship at the time. I was about to start my 4th semester at Maryland. At the time, I was supposed to be ready to go to shul (synagogue) for services Friday night. I was – colloquially – a hot mess.
After that Shabbat, I made an alias facbeook account. I called myself Seth Feldman – I wanted to be as generic as possible. A few months previously, a friend of mine mentioned this gay, orthodox guy’s name in passing and, at the time, I obviously didn’t make any note of him because I was absorbed in my straight, orthodox world. However, when I made my alias account, I decided to message him. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to say, but I figured I would start with him, because I really had nowhere else to turn. I ended up just saying “Hey, I’m Seth, I was raised modern orthodox, I just realized I am gay, help, etc., etc.” He was very supportive. We ended up messaging a few times and he was a great outlet until I ended up actually telling people that Sam (not Seth) was gay.
The first person who knew that I was gay aside from myself was a friend who used to go to the University of Maryland with me. I didn’t even plan on telling her when I did – it was all her doing. It was the second week back from school, and she had noticed that I was acting differently - distancing myself, not being as social as I used to be, limiting my face time at hillel and around campus. So she told me to come over so we could talk and catch up. Somehow, this friend got it out of me. Being a psychology major, she was very forward with her questioning, and after 10 minutes of “what happened over winter break?” and me trying to brush it off with “nothing, I just realized some new stuff,” she progressed to “well, what did you realize?” Pretty much, she wasn’t buying my passive/ambiguous responses. She was asking so many direct questions that she got me to say“…uh….I don’t know….it was something biological!” She responded (this time with a smirk; I think she knew by now…) “what was that biological realization?” And then I said it. “Rachel. I’m gay.” That split second of time was –literally- the most surreal moment of my life. My mouth was dry. My whole body was shaking. I could barely breath. But…I had told someone. It was the first time I had told someone, and from the point on, it simply perpetuated to more and more people with her help and from the help of the boy I messaged from my alias facebook account. I eventually told my roommate, my sister, my parents over Pesach (Passover), more friends….and the only reason why I kept telling more people is because no one cared. During my ~two weeks of closetedness between winter break and the beginning of the semester, I was scared to tell anyone (hence the alias facebook account, etc). I thought my social and religious life was over. But…I was so wrong. Coming out was the best thing that I have ever done. I am a happier person now. I am more content with myself. I am able to forge stronger, closer relationships with my family and friends because I am a more genuine and legitimate person.
I really didn’t intend this blog to be a means to get other closeted individuals to come out. However, since I am writing about coming out now, I do want to specify now, that…it really does get better. If anyone is reading this and is in a similar situation to what I was in – please know, that it gets better. That’s all.
I really intended to write more, but both time and length have gotten the better of me for now. However, Aviva’s and Cindy’s comments (thanks, guys) will be addressed first on next week’s posting. And then I will continue with my thoughts and story/ies.

Have a great weekend. <3

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