“I am not my household”

Project Description:

I grew up with two moms, two friends, two amazing women who love and care for me.

It wasn’t until I switched to an Orthodox day school in fifth grade that I realized the existence of those that disapprove and judge people like my mothers—people that are gay. I remember sitting in class as my American Haredi teacher spoke with a sense of identification and solidarity about a group of Rabbis that had donned sackcloth and mourned in the streets of Jerusalem during a Gay Pride Parade.

As I continued to grow in my Jewish Day school education, so did my insecurity about the identity of my parents. I found that my classmates and friends had grown up with the subject of homosexuality as a taboo, as something bad and against the Torah, and most often their portrayals of homosexuals were of people that were “gross”, “disgusting”, and “unnatural”. The subject was mostly avoided by Rabbis and religious institutions that I was involved with, and the one time it was highlighted—at a weekend retreat with the Orthodox Union’s teenage youth group—it was framed in a way that cheapened and questioned the struggle of gay Orthodox Jews.

With these attitudes and opinions serving as the backdrop of my childhood, I decided that it would be best to keep the sexual orientation of my parents a secret. I didn’t want to be judged because of who were my parents were; I wanted to be judged upon my own merits. I created a public persona that negated the existence of my mothers. When people asked what my father did, I usually replied that “Its just me, my sister and my mother”; in some cases it was “I don’t have a father”; and in extreme cases—and for this I am ashamed—I would create a fictional identity of my father. All these tricks, half-truths, and lies—all so I wouldn’t be judged.

In recent months, I have spent a lot of time thinking about my family unit and how it has shaped the person I have become today. I found myself continuingly asking, “If I love my parents, if I think that they have helped me mature and grow into a thoughtful and compassionate young man, why am I so afraid of the world knowing about them?” Something just didn’t add up.

It was time to tell the world the truth that I had been hoarding for so long. It was time to tell the Jewish Orthodox community that there are real, honest, good people in our communities that struggle with their sexual orientation, and that it is the community’s obligation to be as accepting as possible. But mostly, it was time for me to finally face my own identity as a man, as an Orthodox Jew, and the proud son of two mothers.