EZRA'S COMING OUT STORY I came out to my parents mostly by accident. After coming out to my rabbi during my year in Israel, he asked me if I wanted any help speaking with them. “That won’t be necessary,” I chuckled. “They’re never finding out about this.” I then spent the next three years gradually telling pretty much everyone but my parents that I was gay. On my first day of Zoom University Graduate School, it would have been hard to miss the giant Jewish LGBTQ+ pride flag I put up on the wall behind me. But my parents, as far as I was concerned, were going to have to find out from the Borei Olam. This was not because I wasn’t close to my parents. In fact, we were very close and enjoyed a lot of time together. Some of my best memories are when they’d let me skip school so I could spend the day with them. My mom would always take me along to the art shows she’d attend. Occasionally my mother and I would spend an afternoon sifting through some of her latest finds together, a pastime which survived well into my adulthood. And that’s exactly what we were doing one cold day this past December. “It’s got a lot of florals on it. It probably won’t do well in the house,” I commented on the print she held in her hands. She agreed with me. “I guess I’ll sell it, then. There’s also way too much pink in here for me.” We kept the procession moving. We had started to pack up the lot of them when I came across the floral print again. With it now in my own hands, I got to look at it a little closer. “I think I want this for my apartment.” It would have looked great in my place. The pink definitely had the potential to liven it up and maybe cover the huge paint chip in the living room. “My mom has an artistic eye,” I thought. “She’ll definitely agree with me.” But when I looked up from the art piece, I noticed my mom just staring at me. “Why are you looking at me like that?” “Um… are you sure you want that one?” she asked. “Don’t you think it looks a bit feminine?” “I don’t know. I like it. Don’t you think it would look nice?” She laughed. “It’s kinda queer. What are you, gay or something?” “Yeah,” I answered. “Pffft, please.” She shooed me, then chuckled to herself as she walked out of the garage. I’d become quite good at these kinds of conversations. The skill of saying the truth in such a way that it almost sounded like a joke. I figure that when you grow up queer, the art of lying just becomes necessary to survive. Which is why this particular interaction meant very little to me. In fact, I thought nothing of it. So, when my mother brought it up later that night, it would be an understatement to say that I was surprised. She paused our movie. “You know what you said to me today?” I was nervous. Had I offended her by accident? “What did I say?” I replied. She paused for an uncomfortable period. I could tell that she was considering whether to answer me. She took a deep breath. “I asked you if you were gay and you said yes.” Cue. Gay. Panic. She had never asked me this question seriously before. I was bugging out so much that I answered her just a moment too late. “It was a joke!” I insisted. She stared at me with confusion. There was so much happening in her eyes. I couldn’t lie to her anymore. “It wasn’t a joke.” “What?” she said. “I’m gay.” “No, you aren’t.” “Yes,” I slowed. “I’m gay, mom.” More silence. The confusion on her face shifted to anger. “How do you know?” “I just know, mom.” She began to shout at me. “HOW DO YOU KNOW?!” I was visibly startled. “DID SOMEONE TOUCH YOU?! ARE YOU HAVING SEX?!” My dad ran into the room. “WHAT’S HAPPENING?!” “Ezra says he’s GAY!” “WHAT?!” His eyes shot daggers into me. ------------------------------------------------------------------- The three of us ended up speaking for only about twenty minutes. In that time, my parents yelled at me, fought with each other, cried like mourners, grilled me about my sexual history, called my religious observance into question, and accused an old rabbi of mine of child molestation. I did the best I could to quell their anxieties and answer any questions they had, while also attempting to maintain a line of privacy, but at a certain point I saw that they needed time to be alone together. I told them that I love them and that I am open to talking about this again whenever they feel comfortable. Then I took a long shower. I thought I would be distressed, but I wasn’t. Internally, I was glowing. I knew two things to be true: My parents love me unconditionally. Though they spoke in anger, I knew that the heart of their emotions was concern for my well-being. My parents hadn’t had a decade to process this information. They were attempting to do in ten minutes what I had done in ten years. It was hard to stand through it, but I realized that my relationship with my parents will eventually move through my coming out. Every question they asked, every word they said, every moment they spent discussing what I had just told them was another step closer to the calm I knew would eventually come. I am unequivocally gay. It took me a long time to finally feel comfortable with that. Much of my teenage years were spent worrying about the future. What will my life look like? Will I have a community? Will I have a family? Will I be happy? I was nineteen when I truly began to accept the reality that I existed in and gain back my internal locus of control. It didn’t matter how the world viewed me. I loved myself and knew that I would make it work. Everything would be ok. They’ve since apologized for it, but even before they did, I forgave my parents for how they reacted. The night I came out to my parents felt like a true role reversal. In a strange way, I was the parent leading them through their own unravelling. I thank G-d for giving me the insight required to get me through some of the hurt I had felt in those moments, but it should not have had to be that way. Parents owe it to their children to accept their differences, however unexpected. When I came out to my parents, I was 22, in graduate school, in weekly therapy, and surrounded by a massive support system of friends. Evidently, I was in a place where I could take what my parents threw at me and still manage to stick around to watch them grow. Other children do not have such privileges. Yes, my parents were not prepared for me to come out. Quite frankly, neither was I. But even if they meant well, they still said some wildly hurtful things to me. Forgiving them was not my responsibility, but it was the only way I could free myself of the weight of their words and the burden of a rift in our relationship. I forgave them, not for their sake, but for my own. ------------------------------------------------------------------- A week later, I walked to my parents’ bedroom and knocked on the door. “Just wanted to let you guys know that YU is hosting a panel of queer students and alumni over Zoom. I’m gonna be hooking up the computer to the TV downstairs and would love to watch it with you. It’s okay if you don’t want to come, but I think it’ll be really nice.” I went downstairs and signed onto the call. As others logged on, I waited for the talk to start. The person on the screen had just started speaking when I saw my mom tug my dad into the room. “Move over. Who’s that woman speaking?” My parents love me unconditionally. Everything will be okay. ---- Author Bio: Ezra (he/him) is a student, a poet, and a singer. He grew up in Long Island in a Sephardic household and a Modern Orthodox community. Since starting graduate school, he's been set on fostering environments where all Jews can feel welcome. When not writing blog posts for JQY, you can find Ezra studying, hanging out with friends, or babysitting his adorable nieces and nephews. #ezra #lgbtlogs

Posted by JQY at 2021-10-11 18:34:39 UTC