Friday, 30 August 2013


מיין נייַ טיכעל פֿאַר ראש השנה

The first year I went to shul on Rosh Hashana as an out FGP (frum gay person), I walked into shul expecting to be stoned. Or worse. Though what that worse might have looked like, I wasn't sure. I was AFRAID.

You know, you hear these crazy stories about Ultra-Orthodox Jews spraying people with bleach or acid for not wearing stockings, and - you know - being gay in the frum community might be considered a tad bit more outrageous than that? And yes, gentle readers, I DO live in a chassidish community and that WAS the shul I planned on attending. Ultra, with a capital YOU. So, who knew? Flame throwers? Concrete shoes? Drawn and quartered? All of the above?

I wore perfectly ordinary clothes for my community. A black skirt. A black jacket. Black tights. Black shoes. I looked nice, if the look you are going for is modern undertaker. I carried my machzor tucked under my arm. My children walked beside me, in size order, wearing matching clothing.

I'm making light of this occasion, but it was anything but. For over an hour, I sat at home, sweating, thinking I wouldn't actually show up. That this year (and probably every year afterwards) I would daven at home. Because, after a lifetime of avoiding the public gaze, I was not ready to run the gauntlet at my shul. I didn't want people to stare at me. I didn't want them to talk.

I knew they did it in private. People had already made up some incredibly juicy (and untrue) stories about me and passed them around for the delectation of every man jack in the entire frum word, but that didn't mean I had to see it with my own two eyes. You know?

But it was Rosh Hashana! And I am a frum Jew! And I love the Rosh Hashana davening, and I love the leining and the shofar blozen, and I particularly love the slow, tired moments in the late afternoon, when all the yiden are a bit played from standing on their feet, and yet they are all still there, asking H-shem for a good, sweet year.

And ultimately, I wasn't going to please those other Jews. I wasn't even going to please myself. I was going to please my Tate in Himmel, my G-d. So I went.

And you know what happened? A big fat load of nothing. Yes, there were Jews who even on Rosh Hashana felt it was important to give me the cold shoulder, ignore me or stare pointedly at me and then shudder.

But at least half of the chassidic shul wished me a good sweet year. At least half of the shul smiled and asked me how things were going for me. The Rabbi and the Rebbetzin came up to me and blessed me with a gmar tov.

And I walked home, still sweating, still riding my waves of fear, but also fanning myself with some of those kind words. Some of that acceptance.

Yiden, that's what I've discovered. Maybe half the shul won't talk to you anymore after you come out. Maybe they didn't talk to you before you came out either! But the other half will. There's a lot of accepting people out there. You just have to find them, even in the most Ultra of Ultra-Orthodox communities.

May all of you have a good and sweet year and a gmar tov.

Frum Gay Girl

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


Calling Frum Gay People and their families, friends and other allies! If you would like to see your story here, on Frum Gay Girl, shoot me an email at Hidden Jews or leave a message in the comments box (below). 
                                                 We love every one of your stories! 
And thanks to everyone for your ongoing support and the many wonderful emails we have been receiving. Shout outs to India, Belgium, England, Australia and Argentina!


 Good evening R. We are very honoured to have you join us on Frum Gay Girl. We are very curious about all the ways people discover that they are Frum Gay People. Could you tell us a little something about your voyage?
R: I grew up in an observant family in LA. Keeping halacha and learning Torah were highly valued in my home. That’s the way we lived. We weren’t exactly ultra-orthodox though, because my family always valued college education and we were friends with many modern orthodox people. We went to ultra-orthodox schools though.
The first time it occurred to me that I might be queer, oh! 
I remember that day! I was terrified.
Say it aint so!
Then I put it out of my head and told myself I don’t need to worry about this right now. I went to a girls' school that really pushed for gender separation at all times, and that worked out really well for me because I didn’t have to think about my feelings.
It was only recently, in my 20's, that I said to myself, “This is something I need to think about.” I started exploring my sexual identity, which meant going through layers and layers of stuff I’d learned from my upbringing and from society and from my schools. It became quite a process because the messages are ubiquitous.
Are all your family members frum now?  
R: Yes.

When you came out to your family, how did they respond to you? R: The response was hard. I had expected some comment about reparative therapy and when that comment came, I said that reparative therapy has caused a lot of people to have severe depression, that gay kids can harm themselves and that there have even been cases of suicide. My family dropped it immediately because they would never do something to harm me. But my parents were devastated. It felt as if they had just been told that someone had died. I got the message that they loved me, but they were definitely devastated.
The dangers of reparative therapy

What was the hardest thing for your parents?
R: I’m not sure. I know they had to mourn a lot of expectations about what my life would look like and they live in a religious community, so their ideas about what’s okay stem from that community. And this was definitely something they wouldn’t want people to know about. I think they were afraid of what this would mean for my life, what decisions I would make, and what this would mean for me religiously.
With a seam? Without a seam? See-through? None at all, G-d forbid?
Did you also have to mourn expectations?
R: Very much so. 
I had an idea of what my life would look like because that’s what everyone’s life looks like. I didn’t have an idea that anyone’s life could look different than that, heterosexual marriage, children, being part of the mainstream Orthodox community. 
I don’t regret anything that I’ve done, but I feel sad that things are the way they are. I feel sad that me being queer is something that makes my family relationship harder, and it’s sad the way the orthodox community reacts to people coming out. But that doesn’t make me want to change anything I've done.
What do you want from my life?
Do you have a new vision for your future?
R: I have a vague vision for my future. It’s not fully set, it’s new, I haven’t been out long enough, and I don’t know if I’ll ever expect in the same way again, the way I did when I was younger. The same things are still important to me: Creating a family that is loving, having a life full of meaning, and having a warm community. It’s just a question of what that will look like.
Over there! It's a bird! It's a plane! No! It's a queer family!!!!
Do you think your observance of the religion has changed?
R: My actual observance has barely changed but my thinking has changed. It used to be that my main paradigm was keeping halacha and that was the be-all and the end-all, and now my main objective is that I am a healthy and happy person. I am trying to find out how my observance of Judaism, which has meant so much to me, fits in with that new paradigm.
What’s the best thing about being a frum gay Jew? R: I’ve learned not to be afraid of things. I think there’s a lot of fear in the orthodox community and as a queer Jew, I needed to not be afraid of exploring my identity and not be afraid of where it could lead me. I just need to live my life and not be so afraid.
What do you wish that your family knew about you? R: I wish they knew that I made decisions based on what is so healthy for me and I wish they also felt that my health was the most important thing.
I don't inhale
What’s the hardest thing about being a frum gay person (FGP)? R: (The respondent is very thoughtful and takes a long time to answer) Feeling like an outsider in the community where I grew up and spent so much time. People are drawn to religion and stay with it because of the strong sense of community. In the orthodox world, it’s a tremendous thing. Growing up with that central to your life and then to lose it is a pretty big deal.
I have found great friends within the Orthodox community and I have met other frum gay Jews and these are all great supports. This new community is my personal community, one I created myself. It’s just hard living in the larger Orthodox community and feeling like an outsider.
Actually, I think there's something even harder than that. The hardest thing is also one of the good things: rethinking and re-feeling everything that I’ve thought about my people and about my religion. It’s a very good thing, but it’s so hard!
I have some really close friends who have been there every step of the way with me and they’ve heard everything since I came out, and they’ve been okay and great and they’ve always listened. I also have friends who, even if they don’t know everything, have supported me if something difficult has come up, and that’s been great. I think my relationships have deepened because of going through this.
Have there been people in your family who have been especially supportive? R: A few of my siblings have been incredibly supportive. All of my siblings said, “We love you”, but some of them don’t want to hear about the queer part of my life. The siblings that have been great think that being there for people means allowing them to be themselves, and make their own decisions.
Do you know other frum gay people (FGPs)? R: Yes. I started attending some events held for FGPs and I met a lot of other people, and then I started realizing that there are people in my life who I vaguely knew or had interacted with in the past who are queer as well and it’s been really nice to connect with them.
Coming to a shul near you...fabulous Jews!
If you could ask the frum community for one thing, what would it be? R: Don’t be afraid of who people are. Love them for who they are.

Sunday, 25 August 2013


Today, we will be interviewing the sister of Z, who is an incredibly generous person, reknowned for her pursuit of justice. Hello B. We are glad to have you here today. How does it feel to be interviewed by Frum Gay Girl?
B: Um. It's cool. You're older than I expected!
I'll let that last comment slide! B, what do you most admire in a person?
B: Kindness
What do you most detest in a person?
B: Deceitfulness
                                These fingers do the talking...
Can you tell me an example of someone’s kindness?
B: I worked with people who were very poor. They had nothing! But every day, they tried to give me what little they had. It’s very different than in America, where people try to accumulate wealth, rather than be giving in that way. I think that’s the way the world should be. If people were like that, there would be a lot less fighting and wars. A lot less hate. It’s interesting that the poorest people, the people who have very little, are the most giving, the most loving.
What work are you doing now and have you done anything unusual work-wise in the past?
B: I’m a support worker for a handicapped boy, and I just finished working at a farmer’s market. I'm in my early twenties. For several summers, I worked with a country vet, and I also had the chance to work in a zoo’s clinic. I have worked overseas in developing countries.

What changes have your family gone through and how did they affect you?
B: There was a divorce in my family and we live with my mother now. My house is a whole lot less controlled. I don’t mean in a bad way. It’s a lot more open. Everyone is allowed to pursue what they are interested in and be an individual. 

We are, in a sense, ex-communicated from our old community (a Chassidic community). I guess I chose that. I didn’t want to be part of that, because people aren’t allowed to be individuals. They don’t like you to make your own choices. Everyone was in my business, trying to make sure that I followed G-d’s will, and it felt suffocating. I don’t feel like I fit in. 

I always wanted to do the things that weren’t allowed, and people frowned on me. It felt like I didn’t belong. For example, I’ve always enjoyed bike riding, and after my bas mitzvah, I wasn’t allowed to. The principal had spies to make sure you didn’t ride bikes and she put it in the school manual so that you could get punished for it, and then none of my friends wanted to ride bikes with me. I was outraged. It didn’t make sense to me. Biking is just a way of transportation and it shouldn’t be outlawed as if it’s something inappropriate. I think each person needs to make their own choices about what they want to do.

Are there any other changes your family has gone through since the divorce?
B: Financially, we are in much worse shape!

Oh! I’ve got one…my mom and my sister are both gay, you know.
                                Oooh ahhh, darlings! That's just too much!         
How do you feel about them being gay?
B: It doesn’t affect me, but I see that my mother is a happier person. I think people should be allowed to make their own choices about who they love and what they do. 
It does affect me this way though: People in the orthodox community are not nice to my mother. It makes me really sad that people can’t accept my mother. They think they can somehow control her by ostracizing her, even though they like her. She IS a very kind person, and it’s upsetting that her orientation has become a reason for people to be callous.

                                                             Or a very campy gay man
My sister doesn’t have as many problems. She doesn’t care what the community thinks. But our father still thinks that she will change back, and become straight again. He’s sad about her. He wants her to be like everyone else, and he doesn’t want her to be queer. He doesn’t tell her this. He tells me.

                                This photo is not intended to bear any ressemblance to anyone you know, living or dead
How does your father feel about your mother being gay?
B: He feels lied to and embarrassed because he was married to her for twenty years and had a bunch of kids.

What does he think about gay people in general?
B: He doesn’t think badly about other gay people, so long as they aren’t in his family.

                                Gneshie, Gnendel and Grunya Goldfarb, and Auntie Bee, after 
                                being kicked out of the family, drink painkiller on the terrace

How did he find out about your mother being gay?
B: I think it was in a newspaper article, or maybe it was through the Jewish grapevine. It was after the divorce.
                                                    Thank you, Jewish Press

Did he think she was gay before they were divorced?
B: I don’t think so. Mum says that he used to ask her all the time if she is gay, but he said he was surprised when he found out. Supposedly, he once asked her if she was gay when they were on the highway, doing 80 miles an hour, and he was very angry, so she said, "Why would you think that about me?" because she was scared he would do something dangerous.

                                A dyke? For reals???
What’s the worst thing about having a frum gay parent?
B: I hate when people are mean to my mother, because I just don’t understand. I don’t understand that hatred.
...And only one way?
What’s the best thing about having a frum gay parent?
B: We have a lot of incredible people come to visit us. And my mother is a real role model because she is who she is, despite all kinds of pressures. She just tries to be honest to herself. She helps a lot of other people do the same, and that’s really cool to see and be a part of.

NB. These amazing photos are all taken from the web (Thank you to all the incredible photographers who took them. As soon as I can figure out how to make links to these photos from their original websites, I will!) and are not my property. Occasionally, there are personal photographs, but for privacy and safety reasons, these will not be marked as such.