A GUEST POST BY 'BARRY' (posted by E. Fink)
(Barry is an old friend of E-Fink This is Part II in a series. Read Part I here.)
Growing up with the knowledge that you are somehow different from the next guy can be an enormously difficult burden. For me, the fear, the anxiety, the pain and sadness were at times overwhelming. Worst of all, there was little I could do about it except grit my teeth and put up with it. I shudder to think how youths with the same trial will manage. But alas, as I did, so will they, though not without a great deal of effort.
I had what most would describe as a normal childhood. I had my ups and my downs, sibling rivalry and what not. But things changed as I was approaching mid way through my 13th year of life. While all around me the latest craze was girls, for me, it was guys. I knew the world was equally divided into men and women, and that men like women, and women like men. All men and women eventually found a girl or boy, fell in love, got married, had a family, and the cycle would repeat itself once more. It was dauntingly clear that this cycle didn’t include me. For a good part of my adolescence I ignored it, hoping it was just a phase. This was, after all, what some of the psychology text books were saying can happen. Some adolescents experience crushes on other guys, but it eventually wanes and heterosexual attractions come back, increase in strength, and life goes back to normal. “Good” I thought. “That’s probably what’s going on.” And there I left it for a good four years, satisfied that I had nothing to worry about.
While I didn’t dare entertain my doubts, in hindsight, I was seriously concerned that things weren’t right, and this felt way too powerful to be a phase. “I’ll give it time, I thought.” Soon I was sixteen, and I wasn’t noticing any changes. My peers talked on and on about girls and chased girls, while I was trying to not get caught while checking out guys. I couldn’t help myself. The desires were way too strong, but along with them came a deep shame that I knew I was different.
I desperately wanted out. I needed to find out why some people were gay and why some weren’t. The more I knew, I thought, the better chance I had at getting out of this problem. So over the next few years, I spent countless hours tucked away in the last row of the library, hunched over and browsing all the psychology text books I could find, with the ever present fear that someone would walk past, see what I was reading and then find out all about my problem. Then it would be exposed to the world, and that was the end of me, I thought. Yes, I was truly scared.
Years later I entered Yeshiva, and my sexual attractions became a non-issue, but not because I didn’t care. I cared very much, but I just wasn’t sure what to do. Besides, I was in Yeshiva now, and I could put it aside and focus on learning. As I neared the end of my Yeshiva years, once again it came back haunting me. Perhaps, I thought, it would go away and this bad dream would all be over. But it was still there, and seemingly, for good. I didn’t know who to talk to, what to say or ask, and most of all, the fear I experienced in even contemplating talking to someone was enough to send me running for cover. But I knew I had to, and there was little choice in the matter.
I managed to locate a friendly rabbi who was known for his intelligence, humor and compassion. I decided to approach him. After almost half an hour of quibbling and hinting, I could barely take it anymore. I couldn’t bring myself to even utter the words. Shortly after, he caught on. “That!? That’s what you’re making a big deal of?” he asked. “What!?” I thought. “Did this guy not hear me? I just said I’m a homosexual! You’re expected to curse me or be hateful to me.” But instead, he put his arm around me tight and very gently told me I have no reason to feel guilty, that I’m not responsible, and merely feeling feelings was breaking no Torah laws. I was blown over by his response. No anger, no put downs. He was loving, compassionate and supportive, and welcomed me back anytime to talk with him if I needed to.
Since then I have approached perhaps twenty ordained rabbis over my lifetime, and with a few exceptions, every single one was overwhelmingly helpful, compassionate and supportive. I had heard and read that rabbis were hateful, homophobic and very uncompassionate. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know, but the rabbis I spoke to, (spanning four Orthodox Jewish sects,) were anything but hateful and uncompassionate, and I could not have asked for a better response. Do rabbis need more education? I am almost sure they do. But I have reason to be confident that the next generation of youngsters who might bear this heavy burden will find even more compassionate, knowledgeable and supportive rabbis than did the previous generation. But most importantly, I hope they will also find rabbis filled with the everlasting knowledge and wisdom in the Torah.
So where am I holding now? Well, I feel like I am neither here nor there. Perhaps marriage might become a reality, or perhaps I’ll stay celibate. I believe the options are far greater than many have been led to believe. What most describe as a very black and white situation is one in which I see a lot of gray.
Perhaps this is as much a journey as it is an end point on the path to living a Godly life. Is it easy? Of course not. But it seems that most lives that strive to live for a higher purpose beyond the banal needs and wants of the human life require effort, diligence, passion, and most of all, an unimbued dedication to the Holy One above and His way.
Search for more information about living with homosexuality as a Torah Jew at 4torah.com.
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