This post is part of my 2019 Pride Month series “Proudly Reaffirming Identity, Diversity, and Equity,” exploring present-day issues facing the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.
“Pride is too sexual,” I hear them whispering. “I’d never take my kids to that.”
Or maybe the age-old classic: “Not in front of the children!”
So queerness–at least being gay or bi or lesbian–is reduced to being purely about love, and sex is a side subject that everyone skirts around because, well, children. But let’s all remember one critical fact: those children? Made by sex.
This post kicks off my 2019 Pride Month series “Proudly Reaffirming Identity, Diversity, and Equity,” exploring present-day issues facing the LGBTQ+ and allied communities.
We all know Shakespeare. We all know Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps not the first illicit love, but surely the most notorious. MacBeth gave us witches, and Hamlet gave us unanswerable questions, “To be or not to be?” and Romeo and Juliet gave us words.
I stumbled into yoga sometime around 15 – 20 years ago. My practice was guided almost exclusively by televised workout programs for those first few years, and then I took some classes, read some books, took more classes, and read more books. The only shortcoming of my life as a yogi has been my consistency: I might practice for a few years regularly, and then go on an unintentional hiatus for a few more. I even received a YOGA for Youth certification a few years ago, that has never actually come up as a teacher.
A staple of what I’ve learned throughout my practice is that practice alone isn’t what interests me: I’m also fascinated by the philosophy, and more than mere intrigue, I feel genuine attachment to it. Not to say it fills in the blanks of Jewish belief, but at times it seems to, and at other times it shines new light upon familiar scripture. The practice of Yoga, not merely the fitness of it, has persisted even when my exercise has not.
And when I finished reading the Sefer Yetzirah, a cornerstone of Jewish mystical thought, it seemed only natural to focus my gaze upon a cornerstone of the Yogic tradition: the Bhagavad Gita.
Last week President Trump visited Milwaukee. In class that morning, one student said, “He’s not my president.” The timing wasn’t right to go into the nuances of that statement, to correct the fallacy that blindly believes saying “He’s not my president” excuses us of his wrongdoings (when we, the collective voting citizenry, put him there) but merely excuses his ignoring us, so my response to her was subtler.
“Whether we like him or not, he’s our president, and we should respect that.”
I refused to get religious. In fact, “refuse” is the wrong word: I keep my faith wrapped around my neck but not gurgling through my vocal cords, so I never genuinely talk about religion with my students. Perhaps, this time, I should have.
Let me tell you a secret: After my bar-mitzvah (the ceremonial step from childhood into adulthood for young Jewish men), I was convinced that I had learned everything Judaism had to offer. I could read Hebrew, lead the prayers; I knew Torah stories, could even offer some midrash (commentary). So, I said, my journey in Judaism is complete.
I pursued spiritual fulfillment from other traditions, and I ultimately settled into Paganism, and Wicca in particular, for about three or four years.
Then, well, then I was Jewish again. Let me explain.
Funny story: So Yom Kippur is perhaps the most somber and important day of the Jewish year; it’s the Sabbath of Sabbaths, the Day of Atonement, the day our names our sealed in the Book of Life for one more year.
And Yom Kippur is tomorrow.
But my calendar (don’t trust calendars) implied it began last night, so I began fasting, trying to think of Yom Kippur things, and then I realized, today isn’t even Yom Kippur.
I have a confession: I am bound in chains and sometimes I like it. My flesh is tethered by bands of leather and holy boxes inscribed with the word of God. The numbness under the straps speaks to me of security, reminds me of an invisible, all powerful touch.
The truth is metaphor’s a nasty animal that rears its head and paws at the dirt and runs off chasing wild game the moment you think it’s majesty might actually be your own.
But the bigger truth is this: Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about freedom, about what it means to be free, about liberation, and all the chains we carry.
In my last post, I spoke about the uncomfortable reality of being a non-Christian in a country that mistakenly believes its religious identity (which doesn’t exist) is synonymous with its civic identity. I also alluded to a conversation with a friend who assumed Chanukah is a much bigger deal than it is–but instead of making my misconception corrections then, I decided to make them their own post.
Some may say I’m blowing this out of proportion, but probably I’m not: I feel like the material world has stolen Chanukah. Picked it up in a big red bag, slung it over its shoulder, and made off on a sleigh drawn by a dog with one antler. It makes me lax to light candles, eat latkes, even spin the dreidle.
On Monday I indirectly witnessed a motorcycle accident, and it left me feeling entrenched in shock. I wrote about my experience and my loss of words, my loss of feeling, when I learned the man had not survived. Yet still I felt numb when I woke up yesterday morning, and then I wondered if I should’ve posted about it at all–here I was, turning tragedy into an opportunity to increase page views and site traffic.
But it wasn’t like that: I was relating an experience that had a profound impact on me, that had left me in a state of apprehensive uncertainty, and sharing it helped me process it. On Monday night, as I typed out the last words of my post, it came to an end only because I’d written up to the point when I sat at my computer and started writing–but the story itself was still incomplete. It ended too soon. Too abruptly.