My Facebook and Twitter accounts and blog readers are a motley collection of people, spanning all types of people.
Citizens of different countries.
Adherents to different religions, or different stripes of the same religion.
Different genders. (I think–do any men read my blog other than Taxman? Not entirely sure. Feel free to delurk. I don’t bite. Really. I yell sometimes, but then I offer chocolate or homemade cookies or muffins. Especially if you take out the trash and do the dishes.)
And also different sexual orientations.
This is something I don’t blog about, or speak about, or change my Facebook status about. Because I’ve been wimpy and idiotic. And trying not to offend anyone.
But I am offending MYSELF and my deepest beliefs.
I am not going to do it any more.
I’ve been peering in for a long time now. In college I was the Orthodox kid who went to all the GLBQT dances. Because DUH, they were the best ones! I raised money for the AIDS dance-a-thon in my college city because it was a good cause and a kick-ass party.
I practice Orthodox Judaism. What I do NOT practice is bigotry or hate. I don’t hate anyone. I am not going to preach hate in my house, and if you do I will ask you to leave. I don’t want my kids around it. “Hate” is not a word that we allow very much at home, particularly not when it comes to other people. You can be angry with someone, or disagree with them, but hate is too strong. It is impossible to come back from.
When a candidate for New York governor goes to a heavily Orthodox neighborhood to preach his intolerance to raves and applause, I get incensed. Because “we” are not all “like that.”
One of the biggest regrets of my life is that I did not stand up to people who were casually tossing around homophobic slurs. It was at a shabbat lunch in my neighborhood, years ago. They were a couple who had been educated at two fine secular institutions in one of the most modern, open, multicultural cities in the world. I don’t remember exactly what they said about gay people, only that I was so enraged that I was going to leave. I didn’t. I didn’t say anything. I still hate that I didn’t. But later I told Taxman that speech like that was unacceptable in our house; and nobody would be allowed to be so venemous.
Honestly, now that I am a mother I think I’d be far more assertive on that front. What my children hear and my reactions to it are going to help them develop their beliefs and ideals. And we don’t hate anyone. We don’t want people to hurt one another. The number one rule in our house is “be safe” (applied to one’s self); the number two rule is “be kind” (applied to others).
The spate of suicides of young people in the United States in the past weeks–the ones that we know about–due to bullying because of sexual orientation is horrifying. It is a violation of the basic idea that people have the right to be different from one another and to be safe in that difference.
Truthfully, any bullying is horrifying. I know. I lived it, from both sides.
Fifth and sixth grades were really terrible for me. I was picked on for certain aspects of my appearance. Hurtful as it was, I am grateful that I lived much more internally; “you’re ugly,” as mean as it was, was less damaging in the long run that “you’re stupid” would have been. (Though I was always confident in my mental abilities, to this day being told that I am pretty or sexy or beautiful is met with disbelief. Huh, maybe I didn’t get over it. Thanks, everyone in my sixth grade class!)
At the same time, we all turned on a boy who was truly different. In retrospect, I am virtually sure he was on the autism spectrum, stuck with a bunch of smart and smart-ass kids. He was brilliant. Spent his days composing music. At age 11. This was not seen for the brilliance it was, but rather extreme difference. Because picking up on social cues was not his forte, I don’t know that he was affected by how we teased him. In any event, it was 100% not right. And I went along with it because I was already socially outcast and didn’t want it to be worse. Joe, I’m sorry. I wish I had been more brave. I hope you’re happy and healthy and successful.
Really, I would never go back to 1986. Never. Ever. (Luckily 1986 was followed by 1987, in which I went to junior high and Found My People. Anna and Jessica, Jenny and Neeri, Brian and Tilden and Graham and Rachel and Mr. McAlpine the English teacher and Mr. Kincaid the choir director and Miss Cozad the social studies teacher, and wow this is the least anonymous post ever. Anyway, thanks. I am probably the only person in the universe that found junior high school a relief after elementary school, but that’s how it was.)
But I digress.
When people try to defend their homophobia with “scripture” (of any kind), I am infuriated. Why? Because that is simplistic. And conversation ending. “Because the Bible said so,” leaves no room for interpretation (and what of the thousands upon thousands of commentaries of the Bible? That’s the end of that argument) and no room for discussion.
Why are people so afraid of difference? If every person, even those who appear to be truly evil, is created “b’tzelem elokim” (in the image of G-d), than it is every other’s person’s responsibility to recognize that. I’m not saying you have to LIKE the difference, I am just saying you have to ACCEPT it, just as you would want someone to accept your differences and allow you to live a peaceful, happy, fulfilled life. And admit that it is YOU with the problem, not THEM.
So there it is. Gay people are just people. They are entitled to live safely, at any age. If they want to get married, they should be able to get married. Why? Because marriage is about love and acceptance and safety and having someone else to look out for you at the end of day and at the end of your life. Having the faith to put your whole self into the hands of someone else for safekeeping shouldn’t be the exclusive right of heterosexuals–heaven knows we’ve screwed it up for centuries. Why not share the wealth? (Seriously, why are straight people so afraid of this? I am dying to know. And do NOT use the Bible as your argument. Go.)
Here are some things I’ve read/seen lately and not so lately on these topics that I really like. (Warning: the language in some of them is strong. It’s a strong topic.)
Single Dad Laughing
It Gets Better–Dan and Terry Also for straight people!
Any episode of Glee that involves Kurt (played by Chris Colfer) and his dad (played by Mike O’Malley)
Prop 8, The Musical Made me laugh.
“Don’t Divorce Us” Made me cry.
If you are going to comment on this post–or any other–I ask that you choose your words carefully and with respect. Please feel free to add links to other related messages.
Added October 14: just so that people outside the Orthodox community undertand what GLBTQ people can be up against (leaving aside politics, marriage-or-not, and such trifles, for a moment), this piece is written by a well know rabbi, who happens to be gay, partnered, and Orthodox. Like Rabbi Greenberg, I hestitate to share it because it seems so beyond the pale, but at the same time I beg people in the Orthodox community to think about the affect of turning thoughts into words into deeds.