A blog to share and educate through my experience as an orthodox, gay and (formerly) married Jewish man conflicted about finding a deeper understanding of God, religion and spirituality. At the same time I am looking to give and get support from others in a similar situation.
Please note that I have opened up the ability to comment once again. You can also feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is it really 4 years since I came out to my wife? I wrote this post a day after. When I think about it, I almost relive it. The intensity of the pain I felt in that moment was tangible. I was so very close to saying goodbye to the world. I was so close to ending it all... Somehow I found the strength to open up and share. My wife's reaction and our support for each other and our family is what kept us going.
Today will be the beginning of the Eshel Shabatton where LGBTQ Jews from all different walks of life will get together to show support and love for each other. It is an amazing way to remind ourselves that we are not alone.
Below are links to my posts after last years amazing weekend. This will be my second year. As with Grease 2 and Blues Brothers 2000, its hard to beat the original; I am hoping and confident that this will be my "Dark Knight' or 'Empire Strikes Back'. I will share more about the 2014 experience in weeks to come.
My apologies for the ambiguity of this post. I need to toe the line between bearing my soul and protecting those closest to me.
The last few months have been intense. I have had some amazing highs but some really intense lows. The highs were pretty much tied to one experience that grew in intensity over this period. Even those high's felt short lived as they were laced with complication and confusion. As such, the lows were primarily from the same experience. I have also experienced some lows tied to a number of other personal happenings in my life. The challenges tend to come in bulk for me.
First the high. Connection. When one can share their life with another and have someone to carry their burdens with, it's not just a sharing of the challenge. Rather, the challenges feel diminished. You simply deal. You feel confident. You feel like you can take on the world. You feel like you have ownership of yourself. I felt this at times.
Conversely, when connection is shaky, when your life gets hit by flaky friendships bordering on dishonesty, people who commit and then renig on their commitments, you feel minimized. You feel taken advantage of. You feel weak. Every problem seems to compound. Connection is lost.
The last little bit of my life makes me think of a boxing match. At first you get hit by a jab. You have your hands up trying to protect your face. You may block one or two punches and slow your opponent down. Then you get hit by another jab... and another one. There is blood starting to drip from your nose. Your lip is starting to swell. Next comes an upper cut. Your head starts to spin. You wonder how you got here. You thought you were stronger and up for the fight. You wonder how you ever thought this was a good idea. Your arms get heavy and you start letting your guard down, a layer of sweat escaping your pores. Then comes the left hook. A combination of sweat and blood burst from your face. If you are lucky you hit the ropes on your way down. Either way you end up on the floor while the countdown starts. 10-9-8-7-6-5-4... you struggle trying to get up. The recognition settles in. Your body loses all control as you are painfully humbled. You are down for the count. 3-2-1. You are done.
Every fight you've had seems to come back to you at once. Your heart breaks. You moan and cry. You are lucky to have a small team of trainers that pick you up from the ground. You are still limp though. Your head is playing tricks on you.
You look over and there is your opponent and his team lifting their hands in triumph. With pity in the victors eye, he comes over to mention the obligatory "nice fight". You want to believe the sincerity but as he looks you in the eye you can see him focusing on his next fight. You have a conflicting sense of relief for a moment. Then you again recognize you are beat.
Then there is a moment of clarity....
It may seem like the ones you are boxing are your friends, maybe even your best friend and painfully your family. But when it comes down to it you are battling, sparring and hurting yourself.
You consider retirement. You want to hang your gloves up. You give it a week or so. You reflect. You tell yourself that there is still a fight in you. You visit your trainer. With a resolve and with the knowledge that there is a lot of pain to come, you say, "I would like to start training once again".
"I am like a eunuch; full of love, hormones and virility, but with nobody to share it with."
I received this anonymously from a reader. I thought it worthy to be posted (with his permission) as this is all too common an experience I witness. While I do receive messages like this all too often, this one was written very well, with class and respect to the reader, Here it is.
Like the creator of this blog, I too am married, frum (religious) .....and gay.
I came across this blog after searching endlessly for some sort of network, some sort of support group, for what I figured must be a problem for a few others out there in the big, wide world as well.
When I finally came across this site, I cried.
The relief that somewhere out there there were others who were going through the same excruciating and hellish path that has been my life, was indescribable.
I ended up making contact with someone on the site - and though we have never met, we regularly catch up, and provide an ear for each other's difficulties.
As cliched as it sounds, the truth is that I knew from very early on that I was not attracted to girls. I had crushes on some of my friends throughout school, and going to Yeshiva was an absolute torment. I came from a real heimishe family, and a very frum kehilla; and exploring and defining my sexuality was a totally foreign concept to me. I refused to recognize that I was created somewhat different to the rest of my peers, only admitting to myself that I had a serious problem which needed sorting out.
I shed copious amounts of tears over the years, beseeching Hashem (God) to hear my pleas and cure my illness. But nothing changed.
I got married and had kids; all the while secretly harboring the real me very deep inside myself, and living life as normally as possible.
But my feelings persisted no matter how hard I tried, I could not change the fact that I was attracted to males and not to females.
Finally, after many difficult years of soul-searching and thinking, I admitted to myself something I'd not allowed myself to think until that moment ........I was Gay. There was no escaping it, no getting away from it.
Instead of davening (praying) for a cure, which obviously was not going to happen, I had to change my tune entirely. I had to accept that this was the way Hashem created me, for reasons only known to him, and that I now needed His help to guide me through this difficult and rocky terrain.
But one question I didn't have an answer for, and nor do I today - is why Hashem would put me in such a compromised position and give me the nisayon (challenge) of homosexuality, while at the same time decreeing it an abomination and unacceptable.
A number of years have passed since that revelation, all of them difficult. While on the outside I live a normal, happy life, inside I am crushed. Each and every day is a struggle. There is no permissible outlet for people like me. There is no physical relief offered for all my emotion and frustration to be poured into. I am like a eunuch; full of love, hormones and virility, but with nobody to share it with. My life is a lonely one, one in which I tread a singular path not knowing whether the man davening next to me, or the one learning across the table from me, is similarly afflicted or not. And there is no way for me to find that out, to share my struggles with a fellow sufferer in my vicinity.
So I reach out to all of you, with the hope that we can become both family and friend, and help each other navigate the supremely difficult path of being a frum, gay, yid.
This week a young mother in the US committed suicide. Deb Tambor was her name. Apparently she took her own life due to the ongoing pressure from her former ultra-Orthodox community who did everything they could to deny her access to her children. Her alleged crime? Going OTD (Off the Derech) – becoming secular. Her own family turned against her. It has been claimed that even her own father testified against her.
It is important that people know the common struggles of leaving the ultra-Orthodox community. Since Deb’s recent death it is becoming clear that there are many others in her predicament. Which is why I can’t remain silent. We weren’t able to save Deb. Hopefully we can save others. There are never any grounds to justify this type of behaviour, especially when the name of religion is invoked.
The following are some articles about this sad story, which some have described as murder:
I am wondering what you are feeling going into Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur (High Holidays) in regards to three specific thoughts.
(I am reminding you that this is an anonymous blog. Feel free to be honest with your feelings)
1) What are your feelings toward God? Are you thankful? Do you feel love? Do you feel hurt? Are you angry? Do you question? What would you say to Him if you had a one on one?
2. Heterosexual men and women; how has your view of the Jewish homosexual evolved over the last year? Positive or negative? In what ways?
3. Those who identify as Jewish LGBTQ (all spectrums; married or single, in the closet or out, dating for relationships of a heterosexual or homosexual kind; teenagers struggling etc...) how do you feel about your last year? Have you progressed in your goals? Have you digressed? What do the High Holidays mean to you?
I am re-posting this entry in honor of a special friend of mine. A rabbi who has stuck with me through thick and thin. He has been there for me unconditionally through my ups and downs. He has loved me knowing my struggles with frumkeit while others who don't know (and can only assume) have distanced themselves in dramatic fashion. For full transparency, I am not currently in a place where I feel and reflect on many of the sentiments I wrote about at that time. Be that as it may, this is a blog post that is very meaningful to him. While I don't always have the emotional wherewithal to express this; I love you dearly. A true friend you are and our talks are like the most beautiful song. (It can also be found here.)
'Elul is here. This is one simple word. It is short and yet so powerful. Elul. I think "Elul" and my blood pressure rises. I say "Elul" and I feel my heart pounding in my chest. Boy did the yeshiva system do a job on me. First I will share what I think Elul should mean to me and then what it unfortunately does mean to me.
Elul is the precursor to the Yomim No'raim. Elul should be a time of introspection, a time of connection. As we have heard many times, Elul represents "Ani L'dodi, V'dodi Li", I am to my beloved and my beloved is mine. Elul should be a time to connect to Hashem and to others. The kitzur shulchan oruch says that there are actually 3 anagrams for Elul representing teshuva, tefilla and tzedaka. For tefilla, he mentions Ani L'dodi, V'dodi Li. He then refers to tefilla as "Rinas Dodim", a song of lovers.
Yes, davening is supposed to represent the beauty of our connection with G-d...Like lovers singing to one another.What a beautiful thought. Davening isn't supposed to be this dry, empty and laborious exercise. It is meant to afford us a rewarding and deeply emotional experience which enriches our relationship with Hashem. To me this is what Elul should be about, developing this connection while reflecting on the positives and negatives of the year past. What took place this past year that caused distance and what allowed for connection?
While intellectually I understand this idea, I can never seem to internalize it emotionally. I went to yeshiva in which Elul was all about fear. It was this build up of dread starting with Rosh Chodesh Elul, continuing with late night and early morning selichos, rosh hashana and the crescendo of Yom Kippur. Our rabbeim took the easy road and preached fear and punishment. Death and gehinom. It was 40 days of intense feelings of guilt, worthlessness and self-condemnation. It was a time where every sin was magnified in my own eyes to a point where the burden was unbearable. I was 13 years old when this Elul abuse started. It continued through my teenage years and even today deep into my thirties.
So how does this cycle change?
My therapist is fond of telling me to look at Hashem as a loving Zeide and not as an abusive father. What a beautiful idea. What sage advice. I want to feel this with all my heart. There are times when I get close to this goal but I just cant seem to internalize it. I feel like there is this wall between me and G-d that I can't seem to break down. Even at times in which I feel more connected and I feel His presence in my life I can't seem to tangibly feel His love. Even as I write this, my eyes are tearing up and my soul yearns for connection.
Wouldn't it be exhilarating going into this Rosh Hashana not in a state of dread, but rather with an intimate and unbreakable bond with the ultimate being? Wouldn't it be amazing walking into shul feeling like you are being hugged by a father who loves you completely and unconditionally?
Please share with me any ideas you might have. Please advise on Seforim you might recommend that can help me focus on the positive and develop this love. Please share ways that you might have faced similar challenges and learned to overcome them.