T.I.C. transitions

Jew on the Waves of Fate

Archive for the tag “NYC”

Put that gay slur in my ‘Totes Gay’ tote bag

Pride BraceletsAfter spending a fun, hot, sweaty, exhausting day checking out the Pride Parade and street fair, I emerged above ground from the subway station wearing the rainbow beads I had been tossed by TD Bank during the parade, the rainbow Macy’s “pride + joy” bracelet, the stickers affirming the importance of being true to myself and my voice provided by GLAAD and AJWS, and of course carrying my “Totes Gay” tote bag I received for donating to HRC.

GLAADAs I began my walk home, slightly longer than usual since the local train was too slow and the breeze outside was preferable to the sauna of the subway station, I, for a moment, considered removing all this pride gear, excepting the rainbow yarmulke that had elicited numerous compliments throughout the day. Considering removing everything and stuffing it in one of the less obviously LGBT themed bags was a throwback to past fears and internalized homophobia, something I could get into but isn’t the focus here. Instead I’ll just say that I considered suppressing my outward expression of pride since I was no longer surrounded by the LGBT community, allies, or my friends. I quickly suppressed the urge. I was headed home and why should I feel the need to hide what I had only moments ago been so eager to display.

As I turned down a side street, I was lost in the world of a Robert Jordan audiobook and barely acknowledged the small group of guys that I passed. After we walked by each other I heard some shouting and looked around confused. I took out an ear bud and saw the guys I had just passed looking back at me, one of them waving and shouting “Fucking faggot, FUCKING Faggot!” You know, when they put the emphasis on the “ing” in “fucking.”

I actually thought for a second, are they just messing with each other. Is this a “macho” friendly bullying moment between friends that absolutely has nothing to do with me? Nope. They were staring right at me; one was punching the air with his first in my direction. I turned away with a calm that was mostly inspired by bewilderment as the rainbow beads felt slightly heavier, the stickers seemed to pull at my shirt, the bag felt like a purse and the young bullied kid inside thought about how much I must look like a girl (as if this would be a bad thing).

hrc bagI didn’t remove any of my pride accessories; I didn’t turn the “Totes Gay” against my body so no one would see. I put the ear bud back in and continued on my way. I was hyperaware of everyone around me at that point, but kept my calm, New Yorker “I don’t give a shit” face and wondered if I even really did give a shit.

I didn’t have a knot in my stomach, didn’t feel especially nervous, but I did feel something uncomfortable. I texted the two friends I had been with earlier (straight females, if it matters) and they quickly responded with, “Where do they think they are” and “Hey, the fifties called, they want their homophobia back.”

I have no particular insight to share from this event. I didn’t return home invigorated to fight homophobia, I didn’t curl up in a ball and cry (both valid responses, just not mine). I just considered how long it had been since someone called me a faggot to my face. I considered the stark contrast of seeing elected leaders, celebrities, and major corporations show their support for inclusivity and tolerance (a misleading term, people shouldn’t settle for being tolerated) only to be followed by a few young men taking a minute to try to dispel any sense of pride I may have in my identity.

It’s worth noting that I barely batted an eye at the two protestors at the parade that calmly explained how we were all going to hell (I’ve always felt my Judaism provided a great shield against such nonsense).

As mentioned before, I have no real moral of the story here. No pretty conclusion. Homophobia is still rampant, our country isn’t perfect, a lot has changed in the 45 years since the Stonewall Riots but I didn’t even know what those were a few years ago.

I’m still me and I’ll continue to be me. An LGBT (because one letter isn’t enough for me) Jew with a tattoo, a loving family, good friends, and a neurotic need to constantly question myself. Calling me a faggot, a kike, or claiming that you know more about my gender, sexual, or religious identity than I do has yet to change any of that.

Alissa, Me, and Melissa holding up a Jewish LGBT pride flag!

Shabbos Retreat

Directional Sign post at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center

I took a chance this weekend, one I probably would not have had the nerve to do a couple of years ago.  I took part in the annual Eshel Shabbaton at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut.  A few of my new friends in the Gay Jewish community of NYC suggested I attend as I am supposedly a default member of this community and yet have only very recently started to become connected to it.

According to their Facebook page Eshel is “a place of SHELTER for Orthodox, frum, and other traditional gay and lesbian Jews seeking to maintain their Jewish observance” while welcoming those who are “formerly Orthodox, “Orthodox-curious,” or otherwise interested in maintaining a connection to traditional Judaism as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender Jews.”

Why was attending this event such a big deal for me?  I can be somewhat shy and stepping into a decent size established community and only being sure that I’ll know two or three people makes me nervous.  On top of that, though the fact that I wear a kippah on a daily basis convinces non-Jews, secular Jews, and “not as traditional” Jews that I must be Orthodox or “Conservative at the very least,” I am none of these things.  Upon examining my upbringing, my lifestyle and my practice one would realize that I am far from frum (great title for a future blog post where I could delve more into my Jewish identity).  And while many would believe, based on the explicit way I often deal with topics of sexuality, mine in particular, that I am comfortably gay, I have never been very comfortable with that label.

ImageBeing at this retreat reaffirmed my contradicting feelings of being “apart” and “a part” (again, future blog post I hope).  Being around large numbers of Jews is always a novel experience for me after having grown up as one of the only if not the only Jew in all of my schools.  It feels great to share a cultural and religious identity with those around me but isolating as many of these individuals attended Jewish Day Schools and Yeshiva and have a deeper and certainly more thorough understanding of Jewish concepts than I do.  Being around large numbers of LGBTQ individuals is also a novel experience because though I have struggled with my sexuality, I have been very lucky and I am very grateful that I have had an open and accepting family throughout the whole process.  But being around others who do not identify as heterosexual is an odd experience for me as I have continually struggled to feel comfortable in the “LGBTQ Community.” It is not as easy as one would think to develop friendships with those who share the same or similar labels as you.

Mainly I came away from this Shabbos retreat with a lot of hope mixed with anxiety.  I witnessed a focus on Judaism I often miss and I hope to learn and put effort into deepening my connection, knowledge and practice.  However, I am anxious that my discipline and motivation will fail me.  I experienced the desire to find myself in a similar community in the future and the hope that I can make that happen for myself.  Yet I am anxious that it will never be that simple.  And perhaps most importantly, I made and developed some very promising, fun, and exciting friendships.  Connections that I hope will continue and grow but I am anxious that I will not be able to maintain them.

Overall I enjoyed the opportunity to escape the city for a weekend, interact with new people, daven, dance, flirt, study, and observe a new community and new situations.  Anxieties aside these may be crucial elements for finding positive change:

  • Daven to build stronger spiritual connections;
  • Dance to express myself, my desires, and shed insecurities;
  • Flirt to have fun, play, take risks and gain new experiences; and
  • Study and Observe to strengthen my knowledge and fuel my desire to grow and to learn.

Resources for LGBTQ and Judaism

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