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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

DON'T BE AFRAID

 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.