wanderingumwelt (wanderingumwelt) wrote,

Can you date people of the same gender and still not be out to yourself?

One of my favorite songs has a line: "There's so much I want to tell you about the way I'm disappearing"

For much of the past... 7ish years that line has really resonated with me. But as sad as it is when old songs no longer ring true, I now feel like there is so much I want to tell about the way I am reappearing. 

Pesach {Passover} is about the journey from slavery to freedom, and for me this year it coincided with my personal journey, from being in the closet to out. This spring I finally took a look at myself, and that half of my heart that I have been so very afraid of. Why can't I just jump into NYC, hitch myself to a nice girl, construct a nice kosher home and call it a life? Maybe someday I will, but you can't love without loving yourself.

Such a cliche, but if looking into any part of yourself scares you, know that secreting it away in a little box, hiding it behind the couch and never talking about it isn't a solution. I dated a couple of men - not Jewish, though neither was my first girlfriend - going on 7 years ago. But I wasn't out, and it was only with the help of plenty of alcohol that I let things slip while playing Never Have I Ever. A few years and some random, ambivalent stumbles in the dark later, I started dating a lovely woman, and thought I was free. Why should I have to come out if it will only confuse people? I only believe in monogamy after all. Each step towards halacha {Jewish law} put another layer between me and part of myself - after all, who ever heard of a gay orthodox Jew? Sure, there's that documentary, but those are a few people very far away from my midwestern upbringing. In my world it is hard enough to rouse a minyan even when you know everyone will be counted. 

How can I explore if I love her? Keeping my hands to myself, what would exploring even mean? And what would I expect to find, hope to find, could I find, except complexity, struggle, confusion, and a beautiful heart trampled. Who am I to put her through that? Why can't I just be happy with what is clearly good, right in front of me? 

Little did I know then, that these weren't the right questions. I'm not sure what I would have found if I had then opened the box then instead of letting it collect dust, but I do know there is more to be found. Secrets gnaw at you, even when you think that you aren't really keeping a secret because the closet door is open - if anyone asked if I was bi I would say yes, I'm just not going to bring it up on my own. That's not really keeping a secret... except it is. The one time I went to an lgbt event on campus I was so on edge, afraid of gaydar lasers that could pick up that I like boys? Even if they did pick up on that, I'm not sure what I feared they would do - say hello? ask my advice on interior decor? compliment me? put me on trial?

In a way, yes: to make me notice that there is a part of me that I'm shunning, tiptoeing around, afraid to face. Sure, I'd been with guys in the past but none of them were that good and anyway I'm with a nice Jewish girl now so thats that and the only guys I'll see will be in the occasional fantasy and that's ok because everyone has fantasies and I have them about plenty of people and what's the difference between imagining a woman who doesn't resemble the woman I'm with and imagining a man who doesn't resemble her either? I can just decide it would be easier to be with a woman, especially the one I'm currently with, and not have to deal with all that figuring things out or risking getting hurt. Can't I? 

I just wanted to move to New York and finally fit in. Find some Jews my age who actually are really into being Jewish instead of having to beg people to Hillel events. Finally, I'll just fit in, with no rough edges or strange corners and I'll finally be at peace with everything. 

But I do have a strange corner and I do have rough edges. At first I thought it was just that the synagogues were big - who would notice that I was new? Then I thought it was that I didn't go to Yeshiva University like half the people in my neighborhood did, or that despite a decade's davening {praying} I still end up on the wrong page in the siddur {prayerbook}, and I never finish the silent Amidah before its repetition.

I finally found a kosher apartment, oh, and by the way, these friendly new roommates of mine, how would they feel if my Aunt and her wife came to visit? There is only one acceptable answer after all, but these are the only New York Jewish friends I'm making after a lifetime of 99% gentile acquaintances [not really an exaggeration]. And before I knew it my life had spun a crazy yarn about NYC real estate, and it was back to living with gentiles.

And then there was silence where my father had been.

And then there was a flicker of cancer where my girlfriend had been, and a terrifying little echo of that silence rumbled in the sky.

And then we were just friends, her and I.

And I finally, finally decided to take out that box. I was still afraid of it, so I left it out on the table, accustoming myself to its presence. Sometimes I would look at it, and all I would feel was terror - I can't have that life I wanted, I'm not strong enough to forge new ground, I just wanted to fit in and now I'm going to have to fight for everything I need and maybe, just maybe I'll have a small scrap of strength left every now and then to go after what I want. I'm not strong enough for that, and how could such a path ever lead me to be happy? Then again, how happy was all this tiptoeing making me? How much more terrible could it be compared with loosing a father?

So started to actually open the box, and inside I am finding hope, and strength, and myself. I went on a retreat, and I met other gay, bi & queer Jewish guys. Suddenly it was possible to be both Jewish and gay, at the same time! Not only that, but some of the people there were converts - while I wish it weren't so, it isn't always easy for Jewish converts, much less converting while being openly gay on top of it. If an openly gay man can convert to Orthodox Judaism, surely I could find my way too.

So I finally started the process of coming out to myself, and I came out to my close family who were more supportive than I had imagined (and I already knew they would be supportive). And it felt really good.

When I first started going to services on my own in High School I endeavored to be punctual. How quickly I realized why so many people waited until the Torah service to show up: the preliminary service. Made up primarily of psalms. There were other prayers that spoke to me, but the psalms were like sawdust on my lips. On the first day of Pesach I went to synagogue with my Uncle: we were the first ones there, so I got a full helping of the preliminary service: my usual practice is to not worry about keeping up but rather, like the wine novice I am, I would try to deeply ingest the text, to try to find the mysterious notes and meanings that connoisseurs relish but I can't even find on the broadside of a barn. At least I try?

Rather than an A for effort (ok, usually more like a B or a B+), I got an E for emotion. Instead of sawdust I found milk and honey. That's the amazing thing about text - these ancient words hadn't changed one bit, but I clearly had.

I'm no longer alone, nor pushing my way through underbrush: while it may not be very smooth nor well traveled, I finally found the road again.

How far can you jump if you are standing on your own tail? Come out, come out wherever you are - while not all of us can, the biggest thing holding you back might just be yourself.

P. S. The answer to the title is yes. Humans are weird, which is why there are so many psych majors.

Tags: bi, coming out, jewish, midwest, nehirim, nyc, retreat
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