Saturday, December 15, 2007

"Life is what it is......You just have to accept it because you have no other choice." - Stone Cold by David Baldacci

After a while,we started to share with some people that our son is gay. I feel that it is important to tell people in order to gauge who is genuinely our friend and who is not. Those who may feel disdain, or who talk about our family behind our back, are not worthy of having a relationship with us. I feel that by slowly telling a select group of people, a safety valve is released, our world of supportive friends and family grows, and we can move forward feeling comfort in the fact that our son is accepted by those people who remain important in his life. Those who are not accepting will be deleted from our simcha list.

The reactions of the people I have told have been quite surprising, but maybe because I have been selective in my choices. The first person I told was a women who works closely with me. When she saw me after my son came out to us, she asked what was the matter. I replied that I felt that I was just run over by a tractor. When I explained why, she responded that this was the same expression that her best friend used when she found out that her son was gay. I told a good customer of mine and he told me what life was like in his family once his older brother came out. These were not the reactions that I expected.

My wife has been more reluctant to tell people. She has told a few of her good friends and the reaction is tearful and understanding.

There is one reaction that has been elicited by a few of her friends that is actually quite disconcerting. That reaction is "Oh well, it's his choice."

It's his choice?

Do you think he wants to limit his career choices...because it's his choice?

Do you think he has to worry about losing his job.....because it's his choice?

Do you think he should walk in fear in some neighborhoods...because it's his choice?

Do you think he wants to be ostracized from friends and family....because it's his choice?

Do you think he wants to lose some of his civil rights...because it's his choice?

Do you think he wants to be discriminated against...because it's his choice?

Do you think he wants to put his parents through this anguish...because it's his choice.

I think not.


Check out the website of the American Psychological Association, especially on the topic of

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Asher Barah Sasson V'Simcha...Who Created Delight and Joy"

"So are any of your children married?"

My wife owns a flower shop. As I previously wrote, we live in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, so her clientele is mostly Jewish and primarily frum. She creates exquisite arrangements. Most of the time these arrangements are for l'chaims and weddings.

There is not a single day that goes by in which someone walks into the store and asks her if her son is seeing anyone...because they have the perfect girl for him.

Last week my wife, Michal, received a call from Israel. It was from a person who made Aliyah and who knows my son. She asked if he was dating anyone because she had the perfect girl for him. Both he and the girl are "chen" and they would really hit it off.

Not a single day goes by without being asked the question.

Not a single day goes by without dreaming about shattered dreams and what could have been.

Not a single day goes by without feeling sad.

And then, after a difficult and tearful day, he calls to find out how she is doing.

The same voice. The same boy.

She can breathe again until the next day.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

PFLAG-"It's like coming out over and over again each time you meet a new person."

At the suggestion of Rabbi Steve Greenberg, we considered attending a meeting of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). He thought that this may be a good place to seek support even though it is non-denominational.

All of the PFLAG meetings in our metropolitan area meet on a regular basis, usually monthly, in a church. It seems as if the programs are being run out of these facilities because the church is performing a type of "chessed" or "tikun olam" community work.

At first we were uncomfortable with the idea of meeting in a church, but then we laughed to ourselves, because of the type of community in which we lived, we were sure that no one that we knew would ever come to a PFLAG meeting because of the venue. Nevertheless, when we arrived at the meeting we were a bit apprehensive about getting out of the car.

Once we made it into the building, we were greeted by a group of warm and caring people. The leaders of our group are a husband and wife team whose son came out in 1975. They are proud to claim that their son is a wonderful brother to his four other siblings as well as being a fine person and a great uncle to all of his nieces and nephews.

Like any self help group, you go around a room and everyone tells their tale. Some stories are quite sad and some are amusing. The president of the group relates her story of her daughter who is now 30 with 2 adopted children. She tells us about her daughter's teenage years with all the rules that were imposed on her, such as a midnight curfew, no boys allowed in the room with the door closed, etc. The mother then tells us how she never had a problem with her daughter having her girl friends have sleepovers. She claims "boy did I miss that one!"

Listening to the stories of parents who have gone through this trip as well as hearing first hand stories from gay men and women does seem to help. My wife asked one man, who appeared to be in his late thirties, "if ten years down the road, will it get any easier for me." His reply was "No. Each time you meet someone, it's like coming out over and over again."


Sunday, December 2, 2007

"You cannot's like standing on the edge of a cliff..."

A few days after we met with our Rav, I made contact with Rabbi Steve Greenberg. We spoke for quite a while, and our conversation was most enlightening and heart-wrenching at the same time.

I gave him information about our family's background and some information about my son. I asked him if he knew of any Orthodox Jewish support group for parents of gay children. He responded that he knew of none because Orthodox Jewish parents were reluctant to talk about this publicly, even though there are plenty of parents in a similar situation. At best, he thought that maybe people could meet on a very informal basis. As far as our case was concerned, he thought that the best course of action for us would be to attend some PFLAG meetings and do some reading about Orthodoxy and homosexuality.

We continued to talk and he asked me some more questions about my son. He asked if I still loved my son. I said I did. He asked if I support him. I said I did. He then asked me what it is that I was having a problem with. I replied that I was having terrible guilt and anguish because of the suffering that my son has been facing since it became evident to him that he is gay.

He replied, "you cannot even imagine what he has been going through. Imagine yourself standing at the edge of a cliff, knowing that you must step off and not knowing what your fate will be. Imagine repeating this every time you tell someone that you are gay."

My heart broke.

Rabbi Greenberg then recommended that I read an article that he wrote in 1993 for Tikkun Magazine. He wrote this article under an assumed name because he had not yet come out. After reading the article I had a deeper understanding of the struggle that our children face as they come out of "the wreckage of life as (they) wanted it to discover life as it is."

The article is entitled "Gayness and God" and can be found at


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"Do not judge your fellow man until you have been in his position" Pirkei Avot 2:5

We live in a predominantly Jewish community with a large Orthodox affiliation in the North East part of the country. Like the old joke, we are actually members of three shuls, the one my wife likes to go to, the one I like to go to, and the one I attended when I was in aveluth.

About 10 days had passed and the chagim were finally over.

Having not received any answers we decided to seek counselling from the shul rabbi where I attend. It is a large congregation of 750 frum families. As is the case in most communities, it is moving farther and farther to the right. Nevertheless, we decided to meet with the rabbi of this congregation. He has known our family for almost twenty years and because he tends to such a large constituency we felt that he has the most experience in pastoral work. We figured (and we know of a few cases) that he has "seen it all" from where he sits.

When we sat down in his study we explained that everyone was healthy, but that we had a different and difficult situation to discuss. We told him that our son told us that he is gay. The rabbi looked at us, took a deep breath as his face paled, and sat in silence for a few long minutes.

When he broke the silence he said "you have such a fine young man as a son. How he must have been in tremendous turmoil over the last few years. It is your job to help him get through these tough times."

Then a small smile crept over his face. He said that before we came to see him, he was meaning to call us because he thought that he had the perfect girl for our son.

We talked for quite a while. We discussed our other children. My wife inquired about calls that he might receive for references on our other children. He responded that it is not an issue.

He went on to relay to us that he sees all kinds of problems and issues in the community.

Our rabbi then quoted from Pirkei Avot and taught us that a basic tenet of halakha is that we can never actually be in a position to judge our fellow man because it is virtually impossible to ever have the same experience, backgound, culture and genetics of our fellow man.

He was not helpful in terms of finding resources for us, but he was helpful in offering us his guidance. We ended the meeting with him asking us to relay to our son that he should feel free to call him at any time. He reiterated that we have fine children and we will get nachos from them, each in their own way and in their own time.

For a brief moment, we felt better.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Searching for Answers

Our son does not live in the same city that we do, so after the first two days of Sukkoth were over, he returned to his home and my wife and I were left searching, questioning, wondering if this was real or a dream.

Who could we turn to? Who could we trust? Who could guide us? Who had answers? Is there an organization that caters to the Jewish community? Is there a self-help group that can guide us through these times and answer our questions?

The only organization that I could find was PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays). But this is an international group that is primarily non-denominational.

In terms of Orthodox Judaism and homosexuality I came up short. The only link that I could find was the work done by Rabbi Steven Greenberg. I found his email address at CLAL, the organization where he works. I wrote him, asking him some questions, but I did not get a reply. I assumed that because it was Chol Ha-Moed he might be away and not answering his emails.

So many questions. No place to turn.

My wife and I would lie awake and relive our life with our child from childbirth to this day, wondering how we missed the signs and signals. Many nights I cried myself to sleep with such a deep sorrow that our son had to suffer by himself. For how many years did he live in turmoil and question his self-worth, his religiousity, the acceptance or rejection by his parents, siblings, friends. If he would have been physically ill, we would have been by his side, helping him get through his ailment.

But we were not there for him when he needed us the most.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Family Changed Forever

Our family was irrevocably changed on the second day of Succoth, a few months ago, when our child told us that he is gay. Even though we suspected that may be the source of his depression over the last several years, the words which he spoke, "OK I am gay," cut through to our innermost being. From that moment, our family as we knew it, no longer existed.

It is now eight weeks later and there are times when it all seems to have been just a dream when I heard those words uttered "OK I am gay."

He is still the same warm, bright and loving son that he has always been. That has not changed. We love him and we have pledged to always support him in all of his endeavors.

So why does it hurt so much?