Pulse

Last night I was on the rooftop of our residence hall here at Rice University, sharing drinks and dancing and laughing with friends from the Milwaukee Teach for America corps. A few of us had gone to Rainbow on the Green, a family-centered LGBTQ celebration here in Houston, and since I hadn’t been able to attend, I eagerly listened as my friends shared their thoughts on the music, the atmosphere, the same-sex couples walking hand-in-hand with their children (“Life goals, right there,” Sean said, his hand on his heart, his eyes closing ever so slightly, and all I could do was smile and agree). And Houston Pride is two weeks away, so we’re already making plans to attend as a group.

Then this morning I was sitting at breakfast, and another friend said, “I’m kinda scared after Orlando,” and I didn’t know what she meant (my first thought was, “I haven’t been on Facebook lately” since that’s where I tend to get my news), and when she told me last night had been the largest mass shooting in US history–with more dead and injured than at Virginia Tech–and that it happened at a gay nightclub, I was stunned speechless.

It’s easy to rationalize different places and different spaces as a series of overlying Venn diagrams, here there is inclusion, here there is not, and here is that region in the middle full of tension and bated silence and awkward encounters at the bar, leaving everyone uncomfortable. But such drastic dehumanization forgets the fact that while we were celebrating our queer identity in the middle of a college university in Texas, the lives of hundreds were impacted by the bigotry born and raised in Florida.

We may be in separate places, but this space is shared: the sudden fear that all our years of visibility and changing hearts and minds has brought us nowhere, that the hatred against gay and lesbian and bi and transgender (and all other sexuality/gender-non-conforming) people is as paramount today as it was in the nineties when DOMA was passed, when Matthew Shepard was slaughtered, when Harvey Milk was assassinated.

Earlier this week someone told me that I “don’t really look gay,” and later this week I had a conversation with peers about a presenter who we all had thought was gay, and isn’t, and it only pushes to the forefront of our minds that sexual orientation and gender expression are not purely inherent, individual identities, but faces that can be inscribed upon others through the lenses of ignorance and assumption: I can move through the world being assumed straight, and that demands my authenticity even more. That privilege obliges me to be open about my sexuality and speak about all of these issues.

Because even when we speak openly, even when we keep to our own and stay in our own spaces, outsiders can and will and have come inside to shoot us down, to end our lives.

I will not be held silent. I will speak, and I will sing, and I will stand against hatred in each of its forms, before each of its faces, because if I cannot live bravely, who can?

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When Our Names Expire

There’s a man in my writing class who is perhaps one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met at N.C. State. He’s a little scruffy, has an adorable smile, and says some pretty cool things sometimes. For our second round of short stories, his protagonist was gay, and it made me think, here’s my chance to see where things could go.

So after class, I told him again how believable the character’s voice was (because honestly, it was) and then I asked, “Are you gay?”

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The I is in Israel

I spent six weeks in Israel the summer of 2009. It was one of the most amazing and definitive experiences of my life and served as the perfect bridge from homeschool and Hebrew school to college. One of our writing assignments near the end was to write about what it means to be Jewish. A lot of people despised it, many of us knew it was coming, and I just sat in the computer lab until it was finished.

No matter, as a prelude to the assignment, we were asked to walk around an area of Tel Aviv where we were visiting for the day and see what people living in Israel considered Jewish. We went up and down the streets in small groups. We walked to a cafe. We walked past soldiers. We sat down with some modern Orthodox Jews. It was exciting, yet nerve-wracking approaching strangers in a strange land (alright, it wasn’t that strange, but I’m naturally quiet, so it was surely an exercise in extroversion!). And then, with our classes, we sat down. And then they dumped it on us.

The essay doesn’t stand as my best example of writing (in rereading it, I feel it lacks an air of sophistication about its coherence and structure), but it reflected my evolving views on Judaism and being Jewish at the time, and for that, it did what was intended of it. I hadn’t ever had the intention of sharing it at the time, at least with none other than our teacher, and since length wasn’t it issue, it ended up becoming a fair bit longer than the bit I posted yesterday. So, without further ado, I present to you the essay I called “Recon.”

(Short for “reconfirmation,” of course.)

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701 Words to Remember

“More Than a Moment”

It’s not that I don’t want to get married
it’s simply the fact that I can’t
but what would it matter even if I did
when I know how they all end anyways
Well I guess they don’t all end
but you know what I mean when I say
that most of them do go anyways.

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Shattered

It was this day two years ago that my life changed forever. After living a double-life for longer than anyone should be forced to, I came to a terrifying realisation that I wasn’t just gay and Jewish, I was a gay Jew. The feeling that coursed through me brings to mind the stories of the shattered vessel of Kabbalistic fame, wherein God’s breadth was too great to be contained that it shattered what had tried so carefully to hold it in. I became that shattered vessel: I had longed to hold God within me, but his breadth was too great, and I shattered.

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Ten Reasons to be Me

Sometimes it’s not enough to try. Life beats us up, throws us down, tramples us dead on the ground. Sometimes it’s just not enough to try. We falter, we fall, we fail. Once we’re there, bathed in darkness, it’s hard to swim to the shore. Sometimes I think it can’t be done at all.

But even in the deepest darkness there’s still light, and when we’re on our knees, it’s to that star inside we must turn our eyes. Listing the things we admire in ourselves, recalling our strengths, can draw that light nearer, and with our strength returned, we can finally swim ashore.

Today I’m diving in. Will you swim with me?

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Completing the Square

I started this blog ten years ago. True, the calendar reads only six months today, but I began with a New Year’s special in which I looked back at the last ten years of my life. The ups, the downs. All of it. In all honesty, I had intended to post it on a forum I frequent (rather infrequently now, I’m afraid), but with a longstanding desire to start a blog of my own, it seemed the perfect time–and the perfect topic–to do so.

So I did.

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Gay Doesn’t Always Mean Happy

Halakhah and Homosexuality

Jacob is an Orthodox Jew. He thinks Benjamin is attractive, but because the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, he resists his impulses and tries to find his girlfriend Sarah more appealing. Meanwhile, Sam, a Conservative Jew from a nearby congregation, is studying to become a rabbi with the encouragement of his family and his boyfriend Dan. How is it that these two Jewish men lead such similar, yet drastically different lives? What causes Jacob to hide his homosexual feelings but allows Sam to live openly gay?

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Day of Silence 2010

Yesterday, the sixteenth, was not just another calendar day, was not just any old Friday. Yesterday was the Day of Silence, a national youth movement to raise awareness about anti-GLBT bullying, name calling, and harassment in schools. Usually it’s done by mostly by high school groups, but college groups also participate, and ergo, I participated for the first time this year.

It wasn’t hard being silent. Let’s face it, until about a year ago, silent was my usual state of being. What was difficult, however, was what being silent entailed: When people held the door for me, I could not say “Thank you,” and if I were to hold the door for them, I’d be unable to say “You’re welcome” (a fact that unconsciously kept me from holding the door all day). Furthermore, this warranted impoliteness created an impasse when people asked me for help: I’m usually inclined to be helpful, but how could I respond?

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