Five years ago, my husband of twenty years told me that he thought he was transgender. He said he'd always felt different from the time he was young but had tried to become just like everyone else. He saw marriage and a family as a way to prove to himself and others that he was just like every other Jewish man.
The next two years were a real struggle for us, and finally the marriage broke apart. His depression and the anger he felt at his condition were taken out on me more and more often. I had nowhere to turn, either. After all, things like this don't happen to Orthodox Jews.
I tried once to bring this up with a rabbi, who advised that I join a study group devoted to shmirat halashon (lit. Watching the tongue) and try harder to keep from making my husband angry with me.
Three years ago, the marriage finally fell apart. I had to go through the humiliation of trying to convince a rabbinical court to help me with my get. I was forced to tell my story including the most intimate details of our life together. The first rabbi I spoke to told me that he could only deal with my husband. He also told me I needed counseling, because a normal woman would never make up lies like this about her husband.
He was dead, and gay
Finally, I got my get, but sadly, a month later my husband committed suicide. That was horrifying, a painful time for my children and for me as well. A few days after the funeral, I discovered that in fact he was not transgender but gay. I talked with his partner, who told me I needed to be tested for HIV.
My husband had been so uncomfortable with his orientation that he'd assumed there was something terribly wrong with him because he was gay, and the boys and I became pawns in his life of pain, anger and deception. Because he felt it was impossible to be an Orthodox Jew as well as a gay man, my life was placed in danger.
I have a friend, who writes extensively about gay issues, and he calls the wives and children in such marriages "collateral damage"- we are the wounded in a war not of our own choosing.
After his death, the whole story came out in the community, and we were no longer accepted. Many people wouldn't allow their children to play with or even speak to my boys at yeshivah, and so eventually we just dropped out of everything, from school to shul.
The attitudes of those like the Shas rabbis who are so quick to condemn gay and lesbian Jews are killing people, literally. My marriage was miserable for the entire time we were married. Obviously my husband wasn't happy but felt that living with another man was not acceptable because of his religious beliefs.
I honestly believe that if it was more acceptable to be both gay and Jewish - even more, to be gay and still frum - that women like me wouldn't be victims of these kinds of marriages of convenience. I also believe that my husband would still be alive, as he was a victim of this mind-set as well. My children would still have their father.
I cannot applaud Rabbi Graetz's editorial enough. I am not a part of the gay community, but in part because of rabbis like Yaakov Margi I am no longer a part of the Orthodox community either. I just couldn't stay after being told that my children were undesirable and that my husband was a pervert.
Neither gays nor orthodox
My sons are not gay, and having a gay parent did not make them change their orientation. However, my children are not much interested in being religious Jews any longer.
This issue has nothing at all to do with the war, nor has it anything to do with the other major religions in Jerusalem. It is a Jewish issue and it affects Jews of all backgrounds and observance levels.
I hope and pray that by stepping forward my words can convince at least one person not to take part in the terrible and senseless hatred currently being directed at fellow Jews.