I've loved Yiddishkeit ever since I was a little girl
Today, Frum Gay Girl is interviewing a young woman, K, from a frum family who still feels a strong need to connect with her Jewish roots.
Hi K. Thanks for joining us today. I wonder if you could tell us something about your religious background?
K: I grew up ultra-orthodox. My family is all over the place on the continuum of orthodox practice. I went to a cheder where we spoke Yiddish, but I'm in college now.
My favourite brother is a bunny
How would you describe your own observance?
K: I am culturally Jewish and very traditional but I am an aetheist. I do shabbos and all the customs because I love them, but I feel conflicted. I was always attracted to girls, but I would convince myself that I couldn’t be with a girl and instead, go out with guys.
All that time, even when I was dating boys, I would still be looking at girls. I don’t know. Maybe I am supposed to be a lesbian.
What do you think would happen to you if you came out in your family as a lesbian?
K: My brothers would probably think it’s cool. They’d say, “We knew it!”
My father used to have tons of transgender and gay friends, and when he worked for the government he was bigwig in the Ryan White organization, where he worked with a lot of gay men infected with HIV-AIDS. He’s an ultra-orthodox man but he talks about how the frum community is hypocritical by allowing all kinds of people into shul, just not gay Jews. He’s a person who doesn’t care what other people think, so even if people shunned him or were mean, he would still accept me, but my mother would struggle with it, and with the loss of her friends in the community. I love my mother. It would be hard.
But if I came out to her, my mother would probably want to know that I could still have kids, a family, because that's what important in Judaism.
What do you most respect in a person?
K: Kindness. I don’t like snobby people. I like kind hearts. I like when people take responsibility for their actions and follow through.
And you thought curling payos was hard?!
What do you least like in a person?
K: I don’t like when people are unkind.
I'm calling Steven King on you if you take my unicorn one more time
What has the frum community’s response been like to people who came out and tried to stay frum?
K: The straight Jews are too well mannered and too scared to go up and say straight out that they won’t talk to the frum gay person anymore, but they just quietly stop talking to the FGP. Then, they all talk between themselves in secret and build a lot of distance.
My sister-in-law watched the documentary, “Trembling Before G-d” ( Watch movie free ) and she was very affected by it, but not that many people in the frum world really know much at all and hardly anyone who needs to has watched that film. It’s unlikely that my frum friends would talk about gayness. They might shut down the subject by saying, “It’s not an appropriate topic”, kind of like talking about pregnancy before the fifth month.
I'm not pregnant, honey. I'm just fat.
How many FGPs do you know?
K: I know quite a few and from different parts of the community. I know someone whose father is a chazzan, and someone else who is a shliach in Chabad. I know some guys and a couple of women. The ultra-Orthodox community is very judgmental of gay Jews. They will accept someone with a non-Jewish boyfriend, someone who eats treif, pork even, but if a person is gay, no way!
Kids in Chabad, for example, are afraid to come out because of the pressure. Sometimes, they don’t even know being gay is an option. I used to look up my teacher’s skirt when I was a kid and I thought it was fun, but I didn’t even know the word “gay”. I had no education about my own sexuality at all. That kind of secrecy is hard on people and they end up in bad, unhealthy relationships. Gay, in the frum community, is a bad word.
What’s the best thing about frum gay Jews?
K: Because of the outside frum community being so non-accepting, FGPs become very warm and accepting. They still believe in the Torah and the way of life, but they are a lot more interesting to talk to because they came to their belief in a hard way and they have to be really strong to stay frum.
What’s it like going to a shabbos meal in the home of a FGP?
K: It’s fun. They have a lot of guests, and they are very open. You feel like you don’t have to hide any part of yourself. It’s heimish.
Uncle Yehoshofat and baby Gnendel come for yontiff
Do you know any incidents of acceptance/non-acceptance of frum gay Jews?
K: One of my friends has a really supportive family, and another person I know has an incredibly supportive ex-wife, who is from a very choshuvah family, and she always stands up for him.
A giant kind of standing up, actually. Read more here: http://frumgaymarried.blogspot/
But there are also incidents where people won’t allow gay couples to come to their homes or to simchos. Family is the most important thing to Jews everywhere, and that hurts.
Also, without community acceptance, it becomes painful for the children in frum gay homes, kids who really want to keep the Torah and do mitzvos. And the rejection experienced by kids who try to come out as gay in straight homes can be horrible.
If you could say something to the frum community about frum gay Jews, what would it be?
K: You have to face it. People nowadays have access to information. People will find out about “gay” when they are younger, and they are going to be more aware of their own sexuality. Your kids are already meeting people who are frum and gay; the next generation is already far more accepting than you are. The world is changing, the generations are changing, there will be too many out frum gay Jews to be against them and to reject them.
Eventually, the question won’t be “Is gay okay?” because there will have to be a discussion between the rabbis about what it means, all these gay people, and gay people who want to stay frum instead of leaving the community. Are they going to kick EVERYONE out? But right now, the community doesn’t want to talk about it. I’d respect the rabbis a lot more if they were willing to talk about it, and make compassionate rulings that let people live frum lives, no matter who they are or what they are like.
Doesn't every mitzvah count?
A gute voch, Yiden!