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.