Over the past two weeks, I have received many comments and reactions to my blog – both on and off my page – and I just wanted to specifically address two of them here.
Firstly, a very brave and inspirational woman from NY specifically addressed my first posting. She asked me to discuss if my coming out and “becoming gay” was only a result of an exposure that I may have had to gay culture or gay individuals. As I understand her, she ultimately desires to reiterate that allowing openly homosexual families to mingle and interact with “straight families” will have NO affect the sexuality or sexual orientation of children and family members from these heterosexual families. This woman - who is gay, orthodox, and has children - has experienced difficulty in enrolling her kids in a modern orthodox Jewish day school in New York. I stand behind her and can support her from my own personal experience that my homosexuality is not a testament of being exposed to gay individuals or any form of homosexuality. When I finally realized at age 20, it was not because of any exposure to gay individuals. It only took me so long to realize, admit, and accept it because of the kind of society and community (and bubble!) that I was raised in. Gay, orthodox Jews and their families should not be treated any differently because they are gay. So what if a child has two frum mothers or two frum fathers? What do people have against these children? Are they fearful of catching a disease? Are they scared their children are going to “turn gay?” I do hope that there can be unanimous acceptance of all frum children – from straight parents, single parents, or gay ones – in orthodox day schools in the future. It really shouldn’t make a difference.
Another reader of my blog commented on my first posting, asking me if growing up in an Orthodox community might have masked my homosexuality from myself; namely, that Orthodox adolescents are taught to be non-sexual, and that sexuality and physicality is for marriage only, etc. I think there is a very simple answer to this question: Yes. Since sexuality is a bit tabooed in modern orthodox communities and schools, anything “different” – i.e. homosexuality – is even more tabooed. So if Mike kissed Rebecca (or even hugged her! *gasp*), it would be a "big deal" and the couple would likely not tell any adults because being physical and sexual is not allowed according to the laws followed by orthodox Jews. That being said, since sexuality is downplayed in orthodox communities, imagine homosexuality, which is still struggling to secure normalcy in the secular world, being “normal” or “freely discussed and accepted” in orthodox circles. Yeah. Not a chance. Being raised orthodox, due to the objective and communal negative views on sexuality as a whole, definitely aided in the fact that I did not recognize, discover, or accept my homosexuality until age 20.
Unfortunately, these two responses relate to the same issue, which, according to me, is the primary issue that most orthodox, gay individuals face. There simply isn't (or there hasn't been) any recognition or allowance for gay individuals within in the confines of the orthodox bubble. The bubble can be very limiting, and the people in can be even more so. The one hope I have for the future is that being gay won't be considered "bad" or "abnormal" in the orthodox community. With time, I hope that this idea - that a certain percentage of the population is gay (both orthodox and otherwise) - can be passed down just as readily as the biblical and lawful mesorah. If that is done, maybe one day, being gay can simply be a neutral characteristic of an individual that everyone will accept.