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Wednesday, 14 August 2013

DEAR KITTY

If this was seventy years ago and I was Anne Frank, I would begin this post with "Dear Kitty". My notebook would be made of paper and my writing implement would be a fountain pen and I would be living behind a bookshelf with my family. I would wonder about my sexuality and my father would edit my musings after he found my journal.

But I'm not Anne Frank, although, like her, I am not popular because of my practices and beliefs. Like her, my family lives behind a screen of sorts, separate and yet parallel to the main frum community. There's a reason for that. I am an Orthodox Jew. But I am gay. And gay, even in these times, is not the new black amongst Orthodox Jews.

Twenty years ago, people said there was no such thing as a frum gay Jew. They told ME that there was no such thing as a frum gay Jew, and I felt like pointing at my chest and saying, "What am I, then?" Nowadays, there's a lot more exposure for frum gay Jews. There are conferences, an online presence, great blogs (someone who has one of those great blogs inspired me to write this one) and support groups. In most larger cities there are a few out frum gay Jews. When I was younger, I was the only frum gay Jew I knew, and that's true for a lot of the frum gay Jews I know. Just as the isolation was crushing back then, so too the sense of community and support is uplifting now.

But we are still wearing the yellow star. Now, when we take our children to register for Jewish day school, we are told to go elsewhere, someplace more "compatible" with who we are. I wish it were true that when young gay Jews came out to their parents, that those parents always responded sensitively and with love. And I'm still waiting for the day when Orthodox rabbonim are able to take my shaalos seriously, and respond from a place of Torah and empathy.

Dear Kitty, are you wondering who is writing this blog? Someone with children, obviously. Someone who is still frum, yes. Someone who wants to stay frum, despite some painful experiences. I'm a successful woman in my forties. I was married for over twenty years but I'm no longer married. I was a rebbetzin and a teacher and I shaved my head and spoke Yiddish. I'm not a rebellious child, trying to throw off the shackles. I'm the same person I always was. I still love shabbos and yontiff and keep strictly kosher. I say tehillim for sick people and give tzedoka and do all those myriad things that define one as "frum".

Unlike my frum sisters, however, I do not feel a romantic attachment to men. I never have. When girls my age were talking about the little frisson of excitement they got from seeing boys on the other side of the mechitza, I stared at them like they had lost more than a few of their marbles. I thought a dybbuk had come in the night and possessed my friends. That's not to say that gay women don't get the occasional crush on a man (Nod of the pen here, to my gay lady friend who obsesses about George Clooney), but it's not a forever kind of thing.

I tried. I really tried to be a good frum wife. I never, not once, cheated. I didn't even allow myself to THINK about other women. I tried, again and again, to be the kind of wife that I thought every other woman was. But I was unsuccessful. Not just for my ex-husband, but for myself, too. My life, while full of the love of children and mitzvos, was also empty of the kind of love that exists between couples. And I knew it. 

Hello Kitty. 
I hope we will be friends.