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Coming Out in the Orthodox Community

An old friend of mine recently came out to me. Like many people, my reaction was one of utter shock. How was this possible? I had known this guy for 10-plus years and never once had he made a comment, or hint to being gay, it was then, that I learned what a horrible ordeal it is for someone to live their life in the closet. Until that moment I never truly understood, what the big deal of living life in, or coming out of the closet meant to people. To make matters worse, this guy lives with and works amongst Orthodox Jews, and although he himself is what I would call "flexidox," he faces a great challenge ahead of him.

I have always had some friends who I thought could be gay – they dressed well, were touchy feely and were into things that I assumed gay people were into, like shopping at Crate and Barrel. Watching the incredible movie Brokeback Mountain changed my views a little, but they were not personalized until my friend came out to me. You see this guy is the "man’s man," he wears wife beaters, works on cars, likes guns, beer and loud music – from my ignorant perspective there was no way in hell that this man could be gay.

We went to yeshiva together, and he told me about how being gay in yeshiva was both paradise and nightmarish at the same time. Imagine placing a gay kid in an all-boys yeshiva dorm with kids running around in their underwear and living in close quarters. He told me of the guys he had crushes on and I was laughing the entire time. To me it was all one big joke, but to him it was a living lie.

I didn’t get to see how hard it was to be in the closet until we hung out with other friends of ours. Like all guys my age we had our chick radar on so every time we saw some girls we would make a comment and here my gay friend is making comments as well, I was shocked, I wanted to say "dude you just told me you were gay" until I realized that this was part of being in the closet. So much of what guys do revolves around sexual orientation and I never realized, it until this guy came out to me. 

On a personal level its one thing, but on a communal level its a whole different story. He knew what my reaction would be – I’m a social liberal, but I fear for him based on conversations I have had about the subject with the most "open-minded" of people who have basically said that homosexuality and Judaism are like oil and water – citing passages from the Torah without having any sort of compassion (which is also a bulk of the Torah). I fear for him and his family and my people for not allowing dialogue and being understanding when it comes to being gay in the Orthodox community

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