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Friday, 16 August 2013

PROFIT AND LOSS SHEET



Before I came out, I used to spend a lot of time anxiously worrying about what would happen to me and my family, if I took the very drastic step of letting people know just what kind of a person I was, really. I imagined some kind of atomic blast going off in my community as a result of this action, and if you can picture lashon hara and general gossip looking a bit like the A bomb, I suppose it did.


There were times when the gossip moved faster than I did.


I'm not going to deny it. There were losses when I came out in the frum community. I lost friends that I thought I'd never lose. I lost opportunities to have guests, or go to shiurim, or work on school projects, or have events in my home. I lost work. For a while, I thought I lost even my children's grandparents and cousins.

Sometimes I felt very lonely, stared at, talked about.


But there were gains too. I gained a big gay family, dear friends who bring me (kosher) soup and anti-viral medicine when I have the flu, friends who sit on my front porch on Friday nights and shmooze before we go in for kiddush, friends who know everything there is to know about me and love me, the whole me.


The first person I came out to in my community was a friend of mine, a rebbetzin but someone I'd always thought of as unflappable. She is really well-educated, and a lovely, kind-hearted person, and I thought it would go well, but it really really didn't. A look like a rabid squirrel ran over her face after I said I was gay.


She made a sound something like a small scream, and then she swallowed several times and asked me on what halachic basis could I "decide to be gay" and how would I live, now? She kept on shifting in her chair, looking everywhere except at me, and I began to think that coming out was going to be about as much fun as getting a colonoscopy.
And then, she didn't talk to me for about four years.

                                Cold, cold, colder, man, that's the Antarctic of chilliness

After that excellent beginning, I decided I had nothing to lose, and I made a beeline for my local ultra ultra ultra orthodox rebbetzin. She had lived in the insular chassidic community all her life and never gone to college.
                                How long has this been going on????

I suspected the discussion would be horrible and I wanted to get it over as fast as possible, like ripping off a bandaid. I made an appointment to meet her at her house (something I never did) and showed up wearing a weird winter hat that became progressively more and more itchy as time passed.


I spoke to her about being queer, about my queer feelings, and she nodded her head and smiled, and told me she understood. It was only after about half an hour, when I began asking her about bringing a queer partner to shul, that a fleeting worried look crossed her brow. "QUEER partner?" she asked. "What are you saying? QUEER partner? This whole time I thought you were talking about your CAREER."


I cried and laughed at the same time. Half an hour of thinking I'd made it, and that my rebbetzin was going to be supportive, and instead, I needed to go back to the beginning and start with the basics. "Gay," I said. "I'm GAY. Not as in happy. As in, likes girls rather than guys."


"You're not happy?" she asked, missing the point and wondering what she could do to fix me. "Fruit?" she asked, pushing a plate of cut up apple in my direction.
"That's considered a slur these days," I said, in the fervour of my early conversion to all things politically correct. "Gay is a better word," I said. "As in homosexual."


"I've known you for over twenty years," she said, taking me by surprise. "You're the same person you always were. I love you and I'll be as supportive of you as I can be." And then, much to my embarassment, I really began to cry hard. Maybe I'd never get the acceptance and support of EVERYONE in the frum community, but maybe there would be some people, unusual people, who reached out, and those few people would be the nucleus of my new world.


So, after some thought, and probably just to make myself feel better after the Rabid Squirrel Rebbetzin, I decided to write myself a profit and loss sheet:


Loss
several "friends" who didn't want to talk with me after they found out I am gay.
easy connection within the community, "part of things"
after school play dates for some of my children
anonymity
the community's belief that I am a pillar of moral behaviour
ability to attend just any shul or send my kids to just any school

                                No more kishka for you, maideleh
Profit
many friends who are either LGBTQ themselves or who love me anyway and are wonderful allies
a new community of people who accept me
the awareness that whatever school and shul DOES take us on is not doing it for the money
the satisfaction of seeking justice and creating safe spaces
the private satisfaction of knowing I lead a very moral life
greater trust in and connection with G-d

                                Matthue Roth, I love you. http://www.matthue.com/

My mother A"H used to tell me that it's better to be hated for what you are than loved for what you are not, and truer words were never spoken. I feel, nowadays, that I am not afraid of what other people think of me, and as a result, each thing that I do is done for more pure motives. That's a very pleasing outcome of coming out.


L'Chaim, Yiden! Who knew that my balance sheet could be this okay?