Out in the Frum Community

June 3, 2009 at 5:14 pm 3 comments

The following is a guest post by Tirtzah member Aviva Yael:

I spent about 15 years in the ultra frum community out to myself and the man I was married to, but no one else in the frum world.  At that point I didn’t see any reason to be out to anyone… I decided that since I had decided to marry a man and live as if I was straight… there was no point to bothering with that level of honesty… even to my closest friends who would have understood.  I always felt like this was a little bit wrong.  People who loved me and thought they knew everything about who I am, were missing a huge chunk of what makes me… me.  There was always this slight buzzing in my head of cognitive dissonance within my own life.  I am no longer married and I am now out in every aspect of my life. 

For me… (not necessarily for everyone) being out (didn’t say coming out) has been a gigantic breath of fresh air.  I no longer feel a constant dissonance buzzing in the background of my life.  When I walk down the street, go to work, take my kids to the park, sit at a shabbos table or daven in shule… I know who I am and am who I am… from the inside… all the way to the outside, top of my head to the tips of my toes… and I love that. 

I also love the fact that by being out, I’m making the world a better place for others who are yet to come.  Today, my wife and I had the women from our shule over for a women’s Rosh Chodesh Shalosh Seudos.  We are out in the shule and pretty much everyone knows about us.  It is a modern orthodox shule and a particularly warm and accepting community.  I’m convinced that two of the women who came for shalosh seudos who come very rarely to our shule or are new to coming to our shule just got introduced to the idea that women can be orthodox and lesbian and choose to build a home together.  They were lovely guests and now are more sensitive and aware that this can exist and be ok.

Entry filed under: Building Queer Jewish Community, Coming out, Dating & Relationships, frum, Holidays, Homophobia, Identity, Judaism and Homosexuality, Living in the Orthodox World, Marriage & Commitment, open orthodox, Orthodox, orthodox judaism, orthodox lesbian, Personal Stories. Tags: .

Pesach Sheini Next Tirtzah Event: Davening As A Frum Queer Woman – August 2, 2009 (New York City)

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. sabra  |  June 4, 2009 at 11:26 am

    ישר כוחך, it is good to see that there are more and more frum lesbians coming out not only to their families but to the community they live in. I gives the rest of us courage to go on with our lives and with the hope that slowly we will be able to go out too, if we feel the need to.
    Most modern orthodox communities do accept lesbian families yet there is a great need to help the Haredi women too.

    Reply
  • 2. TG  |  June 4, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Thank you for this post, Aviva. I am so glad that the “buzzing” has receded. I wish I felt that being out removed dissonance from my life – Instead it has increased it. The dissonance of being in what is essentially a mostly homophobic and intolerant or at least ignorant environment (most sections of the Orthodox community) while being a queer woman. The dissonance of valuing women’s active participation in Jewish ritual and communal life while going to shuls where there is none of that. Being accepted by frum friends who wouldn’t accept us if we were a gay male couple. Being a butch yet wearing a skirt to shul because I don’t believe sticking out like a sore thumb is in the best interest of myself or my community (it makes me more comfortable in some ways but uncomfortable in others). The confusion of not knowing who knows we are a couple and who doesn’t. The dissonance is huge for me. Tirtzah helps me integrate my life, but it’s still fragmented in some ways that hurt.

    That said, I also love that my partner and I are making the world a better place just by our very existence! There is research that shows that people who know gay people are less homophobic. In the frum community, having a relative or someone at your shul or a friend or a coworker who is out as queer and is an observant Jew makes a HUGE impact. Many people have never personally known a gay person, let alone a gay frum person. We have seen before our eyes certain friends become so much more aware and our outness has given them the opportunity to become more compassionate and find ways to include us. I know that any queer people who enter these shuls and communities after us will have an easier time. I feel the sense of my being out making a huge, positive impact… in a way that I don’t feel in the (liberal) secular world that I used to live in and still interact with a lot.

    Reply
  • 3. C  |  June 5, 2009 at 7:40 am

    I guess there are different kinds of dissonance- internal and external.

    The internal dissonance can be a huge burden, wondering whether you are doing the right thing, feeling ashamed of hiding who you are etc… And I think that in terms of my internal process, I’ve felt more at peace with myself since I’ve come out. I’ve been able to be honest with those around me and I’ve also felt like that is a “breath of fresh air”.

    But in terms of external dissonance- coming out has made it harder to exist within the orthodox community- which has been painful for me. I believe, very strongly, in halacha- in Torah and Mitzvot and I know that part of what makes it possible to be an orthodox jew is having a supportive community. I do feel, sometimes, like I’ve lost some of that.

    But where I do find support and love and encouragement, I know that it’s real support, for the person I genuinely am. And so- the comfort that I do have in my Orthodox community is real comfort. I’m not welcome because I pretend to be someone else. I’m welcome because the people around me have enough compassion, understanding, and mechlichkeit to open their hearts, their shul and their home to me.

    Reply

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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.

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