Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Orthodox Nurture: Whose to Blame?

Ah…the infamous conundrum. Is homosexuality biological? Is it affected by one’s environment? Is it, perhaps, a combination of both? Ask my sociology professor and she will tell you that is it almost completely a social construct. Science professors would likely argue differently, believing that homosexuality emanates from one’s innate, biological essence, and nothing socially or otherwise can change that.
I’ve heard arguments for all sides of the “origin-of-homosexuality” debate. I’m not sure myself which one I believe to be true. However, for this week’s posting, based on comments from my last posting, I wanted to write about my experience with nurture – specifically commenting on the limiting environment (re: “bubble”) that I have spoken about previously.
I would like to clarify that I don’t necessarily “blame” any one individual, community, or institution for turning me gay. If that was insinuated by previous postings, please disregard that. I have mentioned the orthodox bubble a few times, but that is only because growing up in that bubble gave me the mindset that is relayed and indoctrinated in school, at home, and in the community. The orthodox bubble wasn’t like living as a Mormon, or in a chareidi neighborhood in Israel, but the overall sentiment was that gays don’t exist in our community. That being said, I never really considered it as an option for myself. I convinced myself I wasn’t gay because that was the way it had to be in the community I was brought up in – that community that I wanted to be a part of.
It has also been challenged that due to my enrollment at a secular university like the University of Maryland, I should have been widely exposed to different sexualities, thereby realizing sooner that I am gay.  Normally, that would be an accurate expectation at a secular college. However, when I came to Maryland, I surrounded myself wholeheartedly in the orthodox community. I only had Jewish friends. I only took classes with Jews. I spent more time in the Hillel building than in my own dorm room. I was so obsessed with being accepted into the bubble my entire childhood that I desired to maintain that stance at college, too. And since Maryland has one of the largest orthodox communities on a college campus in America, I was able to do that.
The accusations that I overplayed the “bubble” card, or that I must have encountered homosexuality at Maryland are very fair – but, explainable in my opinion. This bubble that I so often criticize wasn’t any more religious or close-minded than a typical, modern-orthodox community; it simply limited my thought processes to ones that could never include gay ones. As for Maryland – there are plenty of gay people and gay groups on campus – I was just too consumed with my desire to fit in to the orthodox community to notice it.  


  1. This post makes complete sense. I had a similar experience, only in the bubble of Mormonism, and at a private Mormon university. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to be more aware of my homosexuality during college life, but there is no way to go back in time, I can only work on enjoying my life now.

  2. In one paragraph, you contradicted yourself. You said "I never really considered it as an option for myself. I convinced myself I wasn’t gay because that was the way it had to be in the community I was brought up in – that community that I wanted to be a part of." I am just curious of this question: did you not know you were gay because it wasn't an option in the community or were you aware of what being gay meant and convinced yourself otherwise?

  3. So I have a question- I know you say that you never realized that you were gay before and you thought you must be straight bc you thought girls are pretty, but growing up, did you ever find yourself attracted to males? Wouldn't that me a good indicator of your being gay? Did you not ever experience this or did you just explain it away?

  4. @Anonymous 8:49am:

    You ask such good questions. In fact, these are questions that I ask myself very often, and these are questions that almost everyone who I tell my story to ask me, as well. Let me try to answer you to the best of my ability:

    I thought I tried to address these questions in this and other blog postings, but - I simply never had the self-awareness that I was gay. I never admitted it to myself. I never translated my sexual desires to being gay. Because no one around me way gay and gay was never discussed, I didn't welcome it easily and thought "it could never be me" - so I attempted to never let me think of myself. Then add to that I found girls aesthetically pleasing, and I thought I was fiiiine.

    Another point I want to make is that sexuality is not so all. Our society tried to simplify gender, sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation into a very specific dichotomy of male/female masculine/feminine, and gay/straight. For me, I never wanted to be gay (obviously) so it was the last thing to consider. And it really never is black and white (i.e. "oh, I MUST be gay, that's it..."), but rather, "hmm...I may be having these thoughts, but I'm going to try and suppress them because I'm not sure it means anything about my sexuality."

    I don't think there is one distinct, correct answer to your question, but I hope my explenations helped you a bit? Let me know.

    Also, I want to end with what someone privately messaged me after I posted this posting:

    "the one thing from your blog postings that kept on coming up was this question of why you didn't realize you were gay earlier. it's def a legit question, but i hope you're not too hard on yourself. life in complex, things aren't black and white. human beings are super cool because we continue to learn and discover new things about ourselves all the time. our lives aren't linear, we are able to feel different emotions at different times and experience things differently at various life junctures. you're totally normal, and whatever feelings/revelations you're having about yourself are right for you at this time. just know that."

    Please let me know if you need any further clarification.
    Thanks for posting-