How Being Jewish Helped Me Accept My Sexuality

I knew I was Jewish before I knew I was queer. However, I only really began to care about being Jewish around the time I realized I was queer. I accepted myself as a spiritual, Teva-wearing Jewish woman. And I also embraced the fact that I am a radical, rainbow-flag-waving queer woman. Both communities helped me figure out my own identity, and both communities have been supportive of one another. This isn’t true all the time, but I personally found myself in a cozy, rare intersection that not everyone is lucky enough to land in.

I didn’t feel the clash between my Judaism and my queerness the way other gay Jews have. Instead, I found that my Judaism informed my queerness, and vice versa. Here are some of the reasons why being a Jew helped me to come out as gay:

1. My Family and Friends

I am one of the lucky ones. Before I even told anyone in my immediate circle that I wasn’t straight, I anticipated a positive reaction. In fact, my mom was the first person I ever came out to. Family and friends showed support, asked questions, and tried their best to understand. I know that Judaism wasn’t the only reason the people in my life were supportive of me. But in some cases, it was a crucial element. I came out to some of my friends in Jewish spaces, which automatically made the process less scary, and the people more open. The bonds I have with my family members and friends are Jewish ones. We’re tied together through common values, experiences, and through the intense emphasis on love and respect that our religion teaches us.

2. The Teachings

If you’ve done any research on what it means to be gay in the Jewish community, you’re probably familiar with the two verses from Leviticus about how a man lying with another man is an “abomination.” While this belief has resonated with some Jews throughout history, people have come to favor different teachings instead. One of which lies between the two: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Leviticus 19:18.) According to Rabbi Harold Schulweis, “Morality comes from reading the tradition in its entirety – not singling out particular verses or particular laws. It comes from highlighting the ethical rationale behind the laws, including the many interpretations of law, and it comes from wisdom, Jewish experience and history.”

Growing up Jewish, I learned that it is of the utmost importance to care about the world around us. One of the most important tenets is tikkun olam – repairing the world. Jews have been persecuted throughout history, and we’ve made it our mission to ensure that no one else gets treated unfairly. This attitude made it so much easier to accept myself when the time came, as I knew my tradition would be behind me.

3. The Community

Today, it is estimated that 100,000 Reform Jews are part of the LGBTQ+ community. When I came out, I knew I wasn’t going to be alone. It was helpful that organizations I was part of, such as NFTY-MAR, led the way in creating accepting spaces for queer teens. We created our own subcommunities, where I found some of my closest friends. In my experience, communities that are deeply Jewish also tend to be deeply queer, as progressive Judaism fosters commitments to authenticity, diversity, curiosity, and love.

4. The Similarities

As one of these wise queer Jews said, “a warm community, a long history of discrimination, a beautiful culture full of light and love, and an endless variety of ways to be a part,” are some of the main similarities between the worlds of Jewishness and queerness. Coming into my own in both communities wasn’t hard because they resemble each other in so many ways. Both communities are rich with people of different backgrounds, races, and gender identities. Both communities center themselves and their gatherings around food. And both communities welcome all with open arms.

Have You Had Similar Experiences?

For some, my experience might sound alien. For others, who may have found the same type of support system in the Jewish community, my story might resonate in a familiar way. I’ve found my own specific niche situated within my Jewish peers, and helping others find their niche has become part of how I give back to my community. Has your experience been similar to mine? Completely different? I’m always interested to hear what you think. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know!

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8 thoughts on “How Being Jewish Helped Me Accept My Sexuality

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  1. I give you a lot of props for blogging about this topic. I know a lot of individuals that struggle between religion and their sexuality, so talking about these two subjects complementing one another is very empowering. It is clear that you place a lot of value on your Jewish background, especially the section you wrote on The Teachings. It’s really inspiring how you talk about not being alone, I can only imagine how comforting a reader who would be in the same situation as you back then would find this. I can tell that you really wrote from the heart from this post, and a reader can ask for nothing more than that from the author. Amazing post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is an amazing and in depth blog, I just want to first say great job on this post. Sometimes, this topic could be difficult for individuals to express their situation in but you did in a great way. I really like how you put headlines and then talked about how it helped you. The first one you wrote about, “My Friends and Family,” I absolutely loved. As friends and family are so important to each and every one of us, having that support and love from them is absolutely amazing. I think this post could truly impact many people. Your writing style is great as well. Including that quote in the “Similarities” was a good addition because it came from another supportive person in the community and I could tell how much that quote really meant to you. Overall, a really great post that I enjoyed reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so great to hear that you think my writing could be impactful! My goal really is to show people who are in a similar place that their religion doesn’t have to invalidate their sexuality. Thank you!

      Like

  3. Hi again- I really enjoyed this blog, not only because it was pretty damn brave to be so open and honest about two topics that can really scare people to talk about, but because it was so full of personal experience. You made it a happy and interesting conversation about how you came to be who you are, that was really refreshing to read. All the layout again was great, and I think your links were in really good places in your blog so they didn’t stand out. Love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi! This post is absolutely amazing. You truly wrote from the heart about your experience, and it’s inspiring, even for someone who isn’t in the same situation. I’m glad to hear that there is so much support in the community and that you aren’t alone! And having that support from friends and family is so important in our lives. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s great to know that even someone who hasn’t experienced my situation can see how these aspects of my life have made me who I am. You’re so right about having supportive family and friends. Thanks for the comment!

      Like

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