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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

TOGETHER 11 YEARS




Hello L. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed by Frum Gay Girl. I was wondering if you could tell us something about yourself?
L: I was raised reform, where I didn’t enjoy being Jewish. When I moved to a larger city, I loved being Jewish and Jews were everywhere in my life.
I worked in a restaurant, where I worked for Jews and waited on Jews, and then I got another job working for a Jewish organization, and I’ve been working Jewish ever since. I dabbled with Orthodoxy. I explored a little and joined the gay synagogue. That didn’t do much for my Jewish life, but was great for my social life!
                                Oh no! It really DID lead to mixed dancing!
Ultimately, it was Orthodoxy that turned me into a lesbian. I had a boyfriend and when he started to explore Orthodox Judaism, he began to feel guilty about our relationship. He left to go to Yeshiva in Israel, where he learned to be a real Orthodox Jew. 
He sent me a letter from there, saying he is a kohen, and he can’t marry me. He said he could not have a relationship with a divorcee, a convert or a prostitute. I’m not kidding! I believe he was likening me to the prostitute, because I am not a divorcee or a convert. My next relationship was with a woman.
                                Not me. Really.
I have had a strong connection with the frum community for many years. There is a Lubavitch family in my area who I love very much and for several years, I went to them every Friday night. Since then, I’ve made other Orthodox friends, and I’ve been fortunate to meet many special and loving Orthodox people.
I am still very connected with yiddishkeit, and with the Jewish world. I don’t even know if I have any friends who aren’t Jewish. My whole world is Jewish.
Did you always know you are gay?
L: I don’t think of myself as gay. I think of myself as being in a long term lesbian relationship and being attracted to all kinds of people, to connection. 
I don’t like men that much, but actually, really, my same sex feelings go way back. 
                                Men can be a bit of a snooze, actually...
I do have a funny gay related story. When I had my first girlfriend and I would have been 28 years old at the time, I told my father I’ve met someone and it’s a girl and he thought for a moment and then he said, “Well, is she Jewish?” and I thought that was such a great question. Because it shows acceptance (of the part I was afraid about) and it also showed a core Jewish value…the wish that my partner should be Jewish, even if she’s a girl. The most important thing was that she was Jewish. That was a really positive message from my father.
What do your frum friends think of you being gay?
L: It took me a long time to come out to my Lubavitch friends. I think that the family eventually realized on their own that the “friend” I sometimes brought over for meals was “more than a friend”. That made them very uncomfortable.
The realization that my friends were uncomfortable with my partner started one of the episodes in my life when I was the least proud of myself. I was so afraid of confronting my Lubavitch friend and having a frank conversation with her about who I was and how I lived my life that I allowed her to abuse, repeatedly, my partner. I felt a lot of shame about it at the time, and I still do, even though it’s long since been resolved. 
When I finally pushed the issue with her and told her the truth, she told me that she loved ME. And if this is me, that she will love me anyway and being gay doesn’t change it.
I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what kept you from speaking with your Lubavitch friends about being gay, even allowing them to abuse your partner? It seems very unlike you.
L: I wanted my Lubavitch friend to continue loving me. I didn’t want that to stop. And I thought she would stop loving me if she knew, with certainty, that I was in a lesbian relationship.
Have you over heard any hard words from your frum friends?
L: I’ve heard frum friends say racist things, but I’m not sure if I’ve heard them talk about homosexuality, or speak disparagingly about gay people.
                                The gay part is good news. The racist part, not so much.
I know that I’ve confused some guests of my Lubavitch friends, either with or without my partner present. I can say that I’ve experienced a lot more acceptance than I might have predicted or expected. I think it really helps when people get to know you as an individual, and only then, learn you are gay, even if it makes them uncomfortable. At that point, they already KNOW you.
My partner and I have been very well received. Only occasionally does some frum woman look like she bit into a lemon when she figures out we are lesbians.
Do you know any frum gay people?
L: I do. Actually I know quite a lot of frum gay people. It’s astounding really! Certainly it seems like  10% of the frum community. I guess I don’t want to say how I know so many, but I have met an astounding number of them.
Some of them I felt really bad for. Some I felt were amazingly courageous. It isn’t easy to try and live in both worlds simultaneously.
                                  The gays are everywhere, boys and girls!
What do you think is the best thing about being both frum?
L: Feeling a connection to something more powerful than yourself and feeling like that connection is a positive thing, and also having a road map for how to live your life.
Sometimes, being frum looks easier than not being frum. There are fewer choices. But that doesn’t seem to mesh all that well with being gay. I think it is really hard to be gay and frum, because there are not yet enough positive role models. Still, there are more and more all the time.
                               Happy Purim!
People just don’t get the kind of support or positive reinforcement for who they are and how they live their life from the mainstream Orthodox world.
Have you received support or acceptance from frum Jews?
L: Just here in my building, I live with three Orthodox families, and they are all completely loving and accepting of me and my partners’ relationship and invite us over to play with their kids.
The Vs (the Lubavitch family I love) showed me an incredible amount of trust.  Twice, they left me in charge of their children when they left town on short notice. They had me sleep over and take their children to school. From the acceptance point of view, it was quite incredible. But on the other hand, it seemed a bit like they didn’t even see my relationship as a relationship,even though my partner and I have been together for 11 years, because they treated me as if I were single. But all in all, I was touched.
What do you feel is the worst thing about being frum and gay:
L: Not being able to reconcile those two parts of the self, like I have seen with some of my friends. It can be so so hard to accept oneself as gay, because of all the negative messages out there.
Before you are ready or able to come out, the feeling that you have to hide, the tremendous fear, and then when you do come out, to have the whole community talking about you and potentially disparaging you. But I think over time, as more people come out in the frum community, that will get easier, and there will be more acceptance.
There have been people who came out in the frum community who have already made such a huge difference in the community’s attitudes, because of who they are, and how much they are respected. I very much admire the people who are leading the way in the Orthodox community for gay frum people, but I really admire my gay Orthodox friends who are out and trying to help people find acceptance. I admire the example they are setting for others.
                                               One of my heroes
If you could ask the frum community anything, what would it be?
L: I was just thinking that I’d ask them to be more open and less judgmental, but that’s not really the community that it is. Within the frum community, there is a very wide range of belief and people and practice and tolerance for differences. I can’t imagine the frummest people really changing all that much but maybe, it’s all about the rabbis. In the modern orthodox world, there have been rabbis who have welcomed gay people in their synagogues and have played an active role in the larger Jewish community, in letting gay voices be heard within their communities, and we need more of that in all levels. I do think there will be more of that.