Disclaimer: The photographs on this blog are not of the people being interviewed and are only meant to be representative of the type of people who are telling their stories.
Monday, 23 September 2013
GAY AND MARRIED FOR 25 YEARS
This photo is not the person doing the interview.
It's true. I have ten children and I've been married for twenty-five years. I went to the most chassidish schools. I got married when I was sixteen. Growing up, we spoke Yiddish. My children and my grandchildren all speak Yiddish. Just from looking, maybe you couldn't tell that I am gay. I would be invisible, and not just because of the way I dress or because of any of those things. I would be invisible because I am not out to almost anyone. I look like all the other bubbies and mommies on my block.
It's just too scary for me. I am afraid. I have too much to lose.
I am terrified that someone might hear me talking on my phone one day, or somehow, just from looking into my eyes, know what I am thinking.
I went to a library, not one near my house, but in the city. It's not allowed to read goyishe books. I said I was going to the women's doctor. The office is right nearby. I sat all the way in the back of the library, down low, between the shelves, and I had there a little pile of books about being gay. I put my purse on top of the books, so if someone went past, they wouldn't see. In the bathroom, I changed the way I cover my hair, so no one would see me and know what kind of person I am, where I live, who my Rebbe is, and tell on me.
When I opened the first book the librarian gave me, there was a photograph of something I had never seen before.* I didn't even know how to look at the picture. I couldn't understand it. I read the words and I didn't understand those either. I felt like I was stupid. I felt like I lived in a foreign country. I began to sweat with terrible fear and I looked all around me but no one was there. No one was looking. But I thought someone was looking, so I got up and I went to the bathroom and I hid in the stall for maybe a half hour. I felt like the worst kind of pervert. I think I cried. I did cry.
When I went back to the place I had been sitting, the librarian had already put the books away. I thought that G-d was making it harder for me to do a sin. He was giving me a chance to change my mind. So I thought about it and decided that I would only take one book to look at, not a pile. But then I thought about the pictures in the book. Even the cover made my face burn.
If someone saw me there, without even reading books like that, I could have lost my kids. I could have been kicked out of my community. My mother and father would have sat shiva. They still might sit shiva. I still might be kicked out of the community. I still might lose my kids. Why am I doing this interview? It's dangerous. I should stop. But once you open your mouth, it's hard to close it again.
When we were first married, I had to go to Manhattan, to bring a document to where my husband worked, and he didn't want me to be seen by the other men there, so he came outside. There were two women there, in the doorway, touching each other, kissing, and I looked away but looked back again. I couldn't help it. My man said not to look because they are gay. I didn't know what that meant. But it made me feel funny inside myself. I wanted to do what they were doing, I wanted to be them. They looked happy. But I thought it was probably a bad thing, a goyishe thing. But still, I said to my husband, "I think I am like those people."I didn't know anything about gay at all. It bothered my husband. He said something about looking at dogs when they are doing things, that it makes your children like dogs too. Even when he walks in the street, he doesn't look up. He doesn't look at me, or anyone else either.
I don't even know, for sure, if I am gay. I think I am, but I've never been with a woman. But I like women, I feel more comfortable with women, and I don't know so many men. My father is a good man. He is a refined man. He makes the cholent for my mother before shabbos and he bakes the challah too. He's never raised a hand to us. He wouldn't hurt anybody. But everything he does, he asks a sha'alah. He wouldn't be happy if I ever came out. He would die.
My mother is from Europe. She sits and peels vegetables and says tehillim from memory all day long. She doesn't have fancy jewelry or anything fancy at all in the house. She raised me to be like her, not to be any other way. When she lights the shabbos licht, she prays that all her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren are yirei shomayim. And what would she think, if I told her I am gay? I'm not even sure my mother knows what gay is. I can't imagine explaining it to her. We don't ever talk about those kind of things. I might kill my own father and mother, chas vecholilah, if I said I am gay.
So why say anything? Why do anything at all? I am already not so young. When I was younger, a girl, I felt like I was connected to many other girls and I could talk and I could be myself with them, relaxed and...I don't know how to explain it. It wasn't such a big thing, a touch, a word. I didn't know I wouldn't feel so friendly when I got married. I thought getting married, it's supposed to be even better. But for me, even though my husband is a good man, a holy Jew and a baal chesed, it isn't better. He says it's not right for men and women to be close. My husband doesn't use my name. He calls me "di mame" in front of the children and nothing at all in private. It's not very Jewish of me, but I sometimes think I'd like someone to love me and touch me, just because. It's so lonely.
Per request, this interview is not illustrated with people's faces.
(* The book was The Whole Lesbian Sex Book)
Labels: Chareidim, Chassidim, Coming Out, Community, Family, Fear, Grandparents, Lesbian, Mother, Yiddish
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