Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another Song

Now that Christmas has passed, I'm feeling a little better...I still have a lot on my mind, but the big, emotional moment is over. Thank you all for your support and kind words! I really appreciated everything you all had to say.

If you haven't already figured out, I LOVE musicals. I know how much of a stereotype that makes me, and I don't care! I don't quite fit anyone's perfect image of who they think I am ever anyway. Now, as this is a blog dealing with being gay and Jewish, the moment I found this song, I knew I had to post it. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have! (Perhaps this will redeem me to anyone who didn't like my posting Judy's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" the other day.)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow...

I am distinctly, unavoidably American.  Add to that the fact that I grew up in a mixed marriage, and Christmas is still one of those times when my thoughts turn to family and togetherness and the like.  Its not a religious holiday for me, just a time to be with the people you love.  And so being away from my family today is difficult.  This song is looping in my head, and therefore is being looped on iTunes and on YouTube.  I've never related to this song so much as I do this year.  I've lost more than I ever expected or thought.  I'm alone in a city I hardly know with only a very small handful of brand new friends.  I'm struggling to make ends meet.  I'm still not out to my family, and with the looming fear that I may have to return to their home, I realize that if I come out to them I might not have a home to return to.  And in spite of that fear, it hurts me deeply that I can't be with them today.  I do hope that "next year all my troubles will be miles away," because this year has been a living hell.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

DADT Done, Don't Hold Your Breath...

Like most other gays in this country, today I am celebrating Obama's signing of the DADT repeal bill.  It is a beautiful moment.  Todays bill will allow several of my friends to serve openly, and at least one more to enter military work without having to go in the closet.  We have joined the sophisticated nations of the world in a policy which reflects modern knowledge of human behavior.  It is a step in the right direction.  But we are far from through the worst part.  We've got bigger issues ahead on the horizon.

The social conservatives in our country are reeling at this blow to their sensibilities.  They fear this moment marks some dangerous turning point in American history.  Standing on the losing side of both this and the current court case over Prop. 8, they are desperate for a victory.  Now, when America is collectively working to make sense of the new, more open national policy regarding gays in the armed forces, Conservatives have the opportunity to jump into the interim and work to pass new laws which will further discriminate.  Now is a great moment to toss away anti-discrimination laws which include members of the GLBT community or to put up for vote a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on a more permanent basis.  We have to stay on guard over the next months and years; this bill is amazing, but its going to be the beginning of some even harder fights than the one it came out of.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hurts to be Healed

Today, I’m sharing with you a minor reworking of a comment I posted to The Skeptitcher Rebbe’s post “Five stages of Mourning Orthodoxy.”  I have worked hard to make this a stand-alone piece, but I recommend reading his original post to help clear up any confusion I may have accidentally left in (and to support another WONDERFUL blogger!!!).

According to the K├╝bler-Ross model, there are five stages of grief an individual experiences when suffering a loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  These stages do not describe a chronology, save that acceptance typically comes at or near the end of grieving and one hopes to make it pervasive.  Throughout the slow process of coming out to myself and then stepping out of Orthodox Judaism, I indeed grieved; the image I’d created of myself and my future as an Orthodox man with a wife and kids was a palpable loss.

At age 16, I came out of the closet to my parents, apparently socially accepting Reform Jews. Before then, I had made a move toward more traditional Judaism in an effort to reexamine the faith I had abandoned briefly several years earlier, and was keeping an elementary form of Kashrus. After telling my parents about this new self discovery, they began throwing out reasons for why me being gay was a shanda for myself, for them, and for my newly found religiosity and observance.  They told me they loved and respected me no matter what, but they weren’t going to march in a Pride Parade with me (fine, not my thing anyway), that I was stealing their grandchildren from them (I still want kids), that for weeks after coming out to them my father cried himself to sleep every night, that they weren’t sure they wanted me to bring my “…partners” over or be around their grandchildren, and that my life was going to be terrible now and they were so sad for me (ignoring the years of extreme, near physical abuse I’d already suffered as the only Jew in the school they forced me to go to). While none of what they had to say holds any water or was at all fair, at that point in my life, it was very convincing, and I decided I must be mistaken.

I strengthened my commitment to tradition, and when I arrived at college, gravitated towards Chabad and began observing the Mitzvos quite diligently. I never accepted the young earth concept or the flood story as told, and while I believed the concept of TMS, never felt it was central to my faith (remember I was brought up Reform, and to me that was just a nice idea, but not terribly important).  As such, where others, in slowly moving away from Orthodoxy might experience the denial stage when dealing with these aspects of Judaism, they were not important to me. My denial was primarily about my own orientation, and it persisted even as the other stages ebbed and flowed through my psyche.

I moved sporadically through the various stages, but the central denial never left. Around the end of my sophomore year, I accepted that I had homosexual desires, though believed they were merely a test and that my job was to overcome them. I believed (because I learned on several frumishe web sites) that if I were to pray and learn more, the feelings would go away. I would get angry when nothing helped and would sometimes look for more radical methods, one of which involved burning myself with a lighter every time I’d had a sexual thought about another man. I would bargain that if HaSham would remove from me even some of the feelings, either about specific individuals or overall, I would take on new chumras. I even took upon myself SN as an attempt at bargaining. I became very depressed at the thought that nothing was helping and that I was doomed to eventually falter and that there would be no help for me then. By the end of college, I had accepted that I would not be able to get rid of my sexual desires, and by the end of a period in Yeshiva, I had accepted that I would eventually have to let them play out, but still denied that I was gay.

It wasn't until a year after leaving Yeshiva that I finally came to accept myself as gay, but took several more months before I accepted that I would have to share this with anyone. Once I had finally come to accept both that I was gay and that I couldn't go on hiding the fact from everyone for the rest of my life, I began an extreme and rapid move through the stages, though this time the pervasive one was depression. Finally, after the support and acceptance of numerous friends, I finally came to full acceptance of myself, and that was when everything fell through. I had to first grieve my sexuality, and only later, upon accepting that, my orthodoxy.  While I’m still occasionally dealing with depression as a result of the above, I have very definitely come to a level of self acceptance and I couldn’t be happier about it.  Now, when I see an attractive man walk by, I can look and not be afraid of who sees or ashamed that I’m doing some massive sin.  I am finally comfortable in my own skin, and that has made all the difference.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It Gets Bitter/Better: Matt Siegel

I wasn't intending to post anything big again until next week, but I saw this video and just had to share! Next week, I'll be sharing my coming-out story as related to my Jewish experience, a slightly edited reposting of a comment I left anonymously on another blog a little while back. I give you this as a bit of a preview; my original experience was quite a bit like the one described in this video. It does get...bitter.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Brief Side-note

Thanks for everyone who's reading my blog!  Its a pleasure to see a spike in my readership.  And to all of you who have come over the past 24 hours, thank you in particular for creating something beautiful.  I felt I had to share your collective creation with you.
Look!  Its a kitty!

Seeing Old Friends

Please forgive the long lull in posts over the past month.  I have had quite the eventful few weeks which have brought some unexpected challenges into my life, and as such, I couldn't quite find the time or emotional energy to write anything, let alone material for a blog such as this.  I have returned for the moment, and upon the recommendation of a friend of mine, quite the experienced blogger, I shall attempt to post at least once a week from here on out.  And now for some substance!

The wedding of an old Yeshiva friend leaves me receiving my former Chevrusa this upcoming weekend, and with that comes the realization that I must explain to him my current lack of observance in the face of the recent developments in my life.  A dear friend to me, he was the first of my Yeshiva acquaintances to whom I came out.  He was quite predictably accepting, and our friendship has actually grown since.  While he is aware that I no longer observe Shabbos or Kashrus, he has yet to experience me in my new, secular state.  I was the most Charadi among our friend base with peyos and a black hat.  Being that he has moved more in that direction, I fear it may be overwhelming to him, and I have put much thought into how to explain to him clearly how to understand my newly found (perhaps revisited) secularism.  Following is the resultant.

At present, I have quite a chore ahead of me in learning how to realize life as a gay Jew.  Jewish values have been a core of my existence for the bulk of my life, and for many years, those values were Orthodox ones.  Every Orthodox Jew seeks to obtain, grow, and maintain his place in the world to come by doing mitzvos and generally being a mentch.  He is taught to follow halacha to the best of his abilities, make teshuva when he falters, and work to avoid future transgressions.  Since admitting my sexual orientation, I have indeed transgressed the toieva of lo tishkav zachar, I intend to continue committing this transgression, and I have no intention to make teshuva for this action.  (Having fought my sexual urges for nearly twenty-five years, it was only a matter of time before I had a gay sexual encounter, and I am blessed that it happened before I made the mistake of marrying a woman and, God forbid, having children by her that they should suffer the consequences of an affair.)  As such, it would seem from my learning that I have lost my place in olam habah.  Following this reasoning, I have no impetus for following any of the Torah's precepts nor even living a moral life outside yiras hamelech, needing only to avoid legal and social consequences.  This idea is repugnant to me.  I find much intrinsic value in observing some moral code, if only for objective reasons (perhaps I shall further delve into Randian thinking and Objectivism in future postings), as well as in preserving religious and family traditions.  I must come to a new understanding of Judaism within my current circumstances, and until then, observing chukim is a futile endeavor.  Perhaps as I settle into a new outlook, I will reexamine the value of these customs.  Presently, however, I have far more fundamental questions to ponder.  Anything beyond base morality and overarching Jewish values must be tabled until further notice.