In a different, perhaps "better," reality I could have disclosed my identity to you. I could have presented myself without hiding, describe my life and who I am. But unfortunately, I can't. If I muster the courage and do it, it will have a huge effect on my life. Possibly for the better, but most chances are against that, and I am not the type to take risks.
Hello. I am a religious youth, the son of a completely normal national-religious family, an 11th grader in a completely normal yeshiva high school, and among other things, I am also what many in the sector refer to as "having inverted tendencies" – and what I prefer to call "gay." This word is not a simple one in our reality, in a situation in which many are not afraid to use it as a curse, in a negative connotation, with the intention of hurting and destroying. Even to me it sounds like a swearword.
And yet, that's how I define myself. When people hear about teenagers like me, they say it's because "he wants to be different," "because it's trendy to be different" and "will help the image of the depressed adolescent who is angry at the world." Others think that teenagers like me are actually making it all up, and are not really attracted to boys. And there are those who believe it's a psychological problem which will be solved through therapy.
To them I would like to say: I don't enjoy living a lie, hiding the truth about myself from the people I love, wondering whether my friends would like me if they knew. I didn't enjoy the time when I couldn't accept myself, when I hated myself and renounced myself. I told myself it would pass, that it's just fantasies, that I'm better than that. I spent half of my adolescence alone, depressed, with suicidal tendencies and other experiences I would rather forget.
Your objection symbolizes something bigger
So you've probably already understood why I'm appealing to you, but you may not understand what I want from you, after the bill banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has already passed in the Knesset – in spite of your objection. But that's exactly the point: You are a party which aspires to represent the religious sector, which I am part of, and therefore your objection actually symbolizes something bigger.
You didn’t oppose the law on same-sex marriage, same-sex parenting, or economic equality for same-sex couples, but only the ban on discrimination, no less. In my humble opinion, the Torah isn't fond of discrimination either, and so I am trying to understand exactly what your motive was to vote against it.
Is it because you're a religious party, and religious and LGBT don't go together? I'm sure I'm not telling you something new about not being the only religious gay person in the world, and in our sector there are many, some who really endure the challenge imposed on them by God, and want to continue observing the mitzvot of Judaism; others choose to become secular, flee the religious sector, and as always – there are those who try to combine, to live as a religious-gay couple.
But even those who meet every religious ideal are still treated disgracefully. They can't come out of the closet, even though it eases the coping. Why is that? Why do they deserve this attitude? Why don't they deserve to come out of the closet and be confident that discriminating against them will be forbidden, because there is a law against it? And the rest – how do they differ from Shabbat desecraters under Orthodox religious laws? Will you propose a bill allowing discrimination against Shabbat desecraters in the future?
Life of hatred, denial and depression
And there may be another reason for the objection: The common claim that "every show of acceptance of LGBT will negatively affect our children." The fear of what certain rabbis refer to as "fashionable homosexuality." Well, tell me, why would anyone want to be a religious gay person? It's not an enjoyable, trendy and attractive experience. It's difficult daily coping, which many would rather give up on. Why would someone choose a life without the ability to love, without the ability to tell people who he is and not suffer hatred?
And even if this claim were true (and it's not, but let's assume it is for the sake of the fixated ones amongst you): Would you rather destroy the religious gays living in the religious sector today and in the future, and sentence them to a life of suffering – in order to "save" your children from the horrors of defamed homosexuality? It seems to me like abandoning the poor during a drought year, out of concern that only your family will have food.
Your child will be a good person, even if he is gay. It all depends on the attitude of our sector, and on the education you give him. If a gay receives the same support received by a person who finds it difficult to obey the Halacha (as every person has the evil inclination), our sector will look different. The lives of people like me will be easier. Your child won't have to go through the denial, hatred, depression and difficulties involved in being a religious gay adolescent in the closet.
Your vote in favor of continuing the discrimination symbolizes several things: For religious (and secular) gays it symbolizes the perpetuation of the negative attitude of the religious sector as a sector. For seculars it distorts Judaism, which does not support injustices for gay people just because of their tendencies. And for me, it symbolizes lack of hope and ongoing suffering.
Time to stop unfounded hatred
The LGBT discourse exists in the religious sector – but it's not sufficiently specified, not sufficiently determined and simple, inadequate. This situation makes people's lives miserable, and may lead a religious youth who understands that he is different to become secular, to hate religion, and in extreme cases – to commit suicide.
Why must I lie, be afraid and hide? Why must I keep my mouth shut when the issue is raised and homophobia blossoms, because there are few religious people my age to come out against it? Why don't I deserve to be me, to talk about my challenges, and to ask other people for help? Why must I consider giving up on my true faith, because I won't be able to go on like this much longer? Because, for some reason, God created me (or caused me) to be attracted to boys and not to girls, and gave me an unusual challenge in the sector.
Why don't we stop this unfounded hatred, stop insulting, swearing and distancing? Why don't we start sticking to the values of Judaism: Support, love and bring closer? It could be through proper education, providing information and making the issue accessible to Judaism. As long as there is an effort, and that eventually there will be.
I don’t see a reason for directing hatred towards me when I haven't done anything wrong to anyone. I don't see a reason for the need to hide all this, to hoard and hoard and hoard – and wait till I explode.
Sincerely and with a hope for real change,
A distressed religious youth who has had enough of being distressed for an unjustified reason