Writing From Where I Am

January 2, 2009 at 1:56 pm 4 comments

This is a guest post from Bas Avraham- a member of the Tirtzah community:

I don’t know how to tell people I am queer.
 
 Not that it’s so hard, mind you.  In fact, maybe it would be better to write that a different way:  I don’t know how to tell people  *how*  I’m queer.  It’s not simple, and it doesn’t have very much to do with identity politics, with my gender, or even with the biological sex of the people I want to have relationships with.  At least, not right now.
 
 I could try to explain everything, but in the end, I realized I can’t fit
 all of that into something suitable for internet consumption.  Instead, I am writing from where I am.

 Where I am is in the middle of trying to find a chasan, a
 groom, a partner in life.  As anyone can tell you, it’s hard work.  As a
 convert in my late twenties who doesn’t have a lot of experience dating, it’s also a bit scary for me.  I am new to dating, new to the frum world, and not exactly sure where I fit.  Right now, I am spending a lot of energy trying to figure out whether I want to be in a more “yeshivish” community or in a more modern orthodox community.  Truthfully, I don’t really understand why I have to make that choice, but it seems like it is important to most of the men out there, at least the ones I seem to be meeting.
 
 In order to find people to date, well.  At first, I didn’t have to find people.  I dated the same person for a year and a half – a man, who was my first love and also the first experience I ever had dating an orthodox person.  We met by accident, at a shul, and one of the first things I asked him was “how would you react, if you had a gay kid?”  His reaction was interesting; not extreme, not scared.  It made me more or less happy – the truth is, I was happy enough that he didn’t run away.  

At the time when I met him, what I wanted was to find someone who would join me in trying to find halakhically (that is, legally, according to Torah law) viable ways to advocate for the queer frum community at large.  At the bare minimum, I was looking for someone who would support my pursuit of that work.  The substance of that work has already changed, as I learn more about the Torah and the obligations and ideas it has on the subject, but my committment to the work itself, to partnering with other Jews to try to be a community where all of us can try to serve Hashem “b’chol levavcha, u’v’chol nafshecha” – with all our heart and blood – is non-negotiable.

 The truth is, he was dedicated to that work too.  To this day, I don’t know what really went wrong in that relationship.  But his horror at learning that I was interested in actually introducing queer frum Jews to one another, for the purposes of matchmaking, served, in an ironic twist, to hasten the end of my own match.  To me, my dedication to that type of advocacy ought to have been a conversation.  Instead, it was a shouting match, taking place over the course of two days.  The temptation to “give in” was very strong.

But ultimately, the result of the argument – which side won – wasn’t what disturbed me. What disturbed me was that he was willing to ignore parts of reality in order to try to uphold a “Torah law”. And to me, since I believe that the Torah deals in the ultimate reality, enacting it and its laws in the world really do have to take all of that world into account.  Whether there are good halakhic
 arguments for queer matchmaking or not is really not the point.  The point is that in considering the question, the people doing the considering need to include things like the following realities:
 
 1.  The existence of frum people who have feeling exclusively for people of
 “non-halakhically optimal” genders – i.e., the continued existence of queer
 frum people, whether they are interested in identifying as queer in a political way or not.
 2.  A concern that as many Jews as possible do as many mitzvot as possible.
 3.  A concern that Jews remain affiliated with other Jews.
 4.  A concern that we as a Jewish community give one another permission to
 live our lives according to as many Jewish values as possible – this
 includes the value of tznius (modesty/humility) which problematizes many
 things that go along with secular dating.
 5.  A concern that people who are not permitted to get what they need openly
 often do so in ways that are risky or life-threatening, and are almost always dishonest to someone, somewhere along the way.
 6.  A concern for the high suicide rate among all queer youth.

 Since I believe that at least one act potentially involved in queer male relations is an issur d’oraisa (a Torah prohibition), and all bets are off as to the halakhic status of various things we women might do or relationships we might be in, the violation of a Torah prohibition is also one of these considerations – and obviously it is extremely weighty. Probably more weighty than most of the other considerations.  But the other considerations are still there.  They don’t simply disappear.  The Torah is not an arbitrary document.  It represents the will of G-d, and the last time I checked, G-d made the universe, with all the statistics and considerations and queer people in it.
 
 After man no. 1 and I broke up, I joined a dating website – the kind where you hire a shadchan (a matchmaker), and the shadchanim match you up.  I got matched after a good long while, and recently went on a first date with a new man.  He seemed pretty interesting, so we went out again.  Finally, on the third date, I asked him my killer question:  “what would you do if you had a child who told you he was gay?”

 Afterward, he told me his first thought was “what kind
 of orthodox Jewish conversation is this?”

 And I thought to myself, that’s just the trouble.  Why isn’t this an
 orthodox Jewish conversation?  Is being orthodox really about being in denial?
 
 I hope not.
 

Entry filed under: Dating & Relationships, frum, frum queer, Halacha, Homophobia, Homosexuality and halacha, Identity, Judaism and Homosexuality, Living in the Orthodox World, Marriage & Commitment, Orthodox, orthodox judaism, Personal Stories, Uncategorized. Tags: .

The Few and the Many Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Challenges Religious Establishments to Accept Homosexual Jews

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. andy  |  January 2, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    This is certainly an orthodox jewish conversation. Sure some people are scared to talk about it, but it is a conversation we need to have more often.

    People need to think about what would happen if their child turned out to be gay. Avoiding the topic only hurts everyone.

    Reply
  • 2. queeryeshivameidel  |  January 11, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    I think it’s very normal for Orthodox people to talk through the things that might come up in a marriage, and in raising children, as part of dating for the purpose of getting married and building a family. It’s a way of making sure that you are with the right person and that you are on the same page about what you are hoping for and planning on in your future together. Having gay chidren is a very real possibility for anyone, including Orthodox people- gay, lesbian or straight. I, for one, am the Orthodox lesbian daughter of Orthodox heterosexual parents.

    Reply
  • 3. Abacaxi Mamao  |  June 4, 2009 at 10:43 am

    As an observant, heterosexual woman, I asked someone this several months into a dating relationship, and he said that he would love the child, but strongly advise him/her to remain celibate for life and to do his/her best to “change.” We broke up not long after. (This was not our only difference in values, by far, but it was one thing that told me that he was not right for me.)

    I think it’s a fine thing to talk about, although I probably would not bring it up on the third date. (I might bring up other things, though.)

    Reply
  • 4. Dani  |  December 28, 2009 at 12:46 am

    This is definitely an Orthodox Jewish conversation, and one I had with my husband before we married. We talked about all the realities that most Orthodox people don’t want to talk about, including how to handle (parenting-wise) drug use, alcohol addiction, non-observance, non-Jewish partners, sexual activity, and abuse. Which are all things that I have seen in the lives of myself or my friends, and which our parents were monumentally unprepared for. My mother overheard us and was horrified, and I pointed out that her closest friends had dealt with each thing on the list.
    There are great frum guys out there ready to have this conversation, and a whole lot more.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed


About Tirtzah

We are a community of frum queer women who gather to celebrate and study our yiddishkeit. We are committed to the value of shleimut (wholeness) and to supporting one another in observing a meaningful, integrated, honest and joyful Jewish life.

Categories


%d bloggers like this: