When a child comes out in an Orthodox
community, parents share the burden of hiding. At an annual retreat,
participants find comfort in knowing they’re not alone.
Coming out to your parents as gay, lesbian,
bisexual or transgender can be a daunting proposition, more so when you belong
to a religious community that doesn’t recognize or accept LGBT members.
But it can also be a relief: After years of
isolation, you are no longer hiding. For many Orthodox parents, however, having
a child come out is the beginning of their isolation.
“We didn’t realize the irony of that,” says
Miryam Kabakov, the co-founder and executive director of Eshel, an organization
that supports members of the Orthodox LGBT community. “When you come out, you
let the secret go and the parent takes on the secret…. And what they do is go
into the closet with it.”
2/19/14 Jewish Exponent- As a Modern Orthodox Jew and a Jewish educator, I have written, spoken and taught about homosexuality and our need as a community to address this issue within the framework of halacha, or Jewish law, for many years. I had already been an advocate for the LGBTQ community for decades when our daughter Rachie, one of our four children, came out more than four years ago.
Why? Because I feel that as religious Jews, we have a moral imperative to ensure that all members of our community are safe, valued and healthy. We are taught to use the midah of compassion here, as we do for so many other issues. When Rachie was 22 years old, she called me and my husband, and in the course of our conversation, basically said, “Mom, I am seeing someone I really care about, and this person is a woman. I am gay.” Neither of us were surprised. I asked her if she was happy and if this was a true expression of her core personality. My husband, Ken, just reminded her to stay safe and not do anything dangerous.
As an educated person, I am certain that biology and “how we are wired” is just the way G-d makes us. Furthermore, I am aware that 10 to 15 percent of any community is on the gay spectrum, and there is no exemption from this reality in the religious Jewish community.
3/9/14- This weekend I was privileged to be asked to be facilitator at the National Eshel Retreat for OrthodoxJewish parents of LGBT children. I am so impressed by the courageous stories these parents shared of having an LGBT child. Many parents are afraid of reaching out for support and carry a heavy burden of shame and secrecy. Seeking out support aids them in becoming better loving parents and signifies the love and commitment they have toward their children. It allows them a healthier existence, and can heavily impact the mental and physical well being of these precious LGBT human beings. Moreover, this allows them to be better parents and learn ways of supporting their child. As one of these children, it's eye opening to understand what a parent experiences when they find out they have an LGBT child. Parents love their children unconditionally, but sometimes need the tools of how to show it. When a child doesn't match a parents expectations, they are thrown off course and can result in a child feeling isolated, hurt, and unloved. If you are a parent or know a parent struggling, share this wonderful organization (Eshel) , and let them know it's ok to admit they don't know. They need to know they are not alone and allow themselves the permission to be human. They have monthly support calls and meetings to help learn from one another. www.Eshelonline.org. Let's get the conversation started. You and your child/children are the most important people of all. A child's coming out can create a huge strain on your relationship with your spouse and family. You and your family are way more important than the community that surrounds you. Put your priorities in order. Love yourselves enough to take the next step! Richard Dweck