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Tuesday, 22 October 2013

OLDER LESBIAN IN THE CHASSIDIC COMMUNITY



I'm old and I've been out for a long time. No one really bothers me too much anymore. They've gone on to other people. It's not like I'm fully accepted, though. It's like a sort of tolerance has grown up around me because I'm not going away. In a sense, I've worn them down.

Years ago, when my chassidic community found out I am gay, the Rabbi called me up and he told me I can't work for the Chevra Kaddisha anymore. I can't be the mikva lady. I can't cook for the school lunches. I can't have the high school students board at my home. They didn't trust me anymore.

I used to have the big annual women's events in my house, and they suddenly forgot my name and address. I was deleted from all the community lists and rosters. You might think that those things don't make such a big difference, but when you don't know about people's simchos, when you aren't told about your kids' parent teacher conferences, when you don't even know your own Rebbetzin has passed away because no one told you, that's when you start to feel really isolated and left out.
I still get invitations to chassunos and bar mitzvos, but when I do, I know that person is making a big effort to include me. The envelopes are hand addressed instead of just being pulled off the community list. Someone has gone to the bother of finding my address and then sending me the invitation specially to include me. That feels good. I make a point of attending those simchos, even though, in general, I do feel excluded.

I think you just have to go ahead and make your own community, because no one is going to make it easy for you. When they see that you are trying, when they see you still show up for the erev Yom Kippur mikva dip, when they see you are still buying the matza shmura and a good esrog and no, you haven't fallen THAT far away, they sort of perk up and reach out a bit more. But nervously.

These days, I find that the gay kids in the community, the ones who aren't out at all, they see me in the street and they make some kind of excuse to come and stand near me or ask me a simple question, and I know they just want to connect. I can see it in their eyes. Sometimes I want to tell these Rabbis and community leaders, be careful who you reject. Be careful how you speak about gay people. Because you are talking about your own family members.