Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"Chaim, what do you want?" Mission Statement

Some people have posted comments on some of my articles and posts about the recent Oprah segment and the general topic of homosexuality in the Jewish community.Based on these comments I think some people been confused as to what my mission statement is, has been, and will continue to be: The reason I am choosing to come out so publicly and so honestly about what happened to me isn't to convince people to accept me personally, it's not about me anymore, my years of torture and pain for being gay in a frum (religious) environment are over and I have moved on to a place in my life where I have found peace in my soul. The work that I do is the voice of so many others who have endured similar and even more trying experiences while growing up frum and gay, and the hope is that the people who see this now, the parents, brothers, sisters, and friends of gay people might learn from this and treat a gay person in their life differently, but the biggest hope, the most important part, is that younger version of so many of us that felt alone and without support, the message is for those people, no matter which community you come from, even in Crown Heights, you're not alone.

Many have asked me: "why don't you leave the community behind? Why is your head still in this bad place, this negative seemingly closed minded homophobic community? Why wouldn't you just find another congregation or shul or community that would accept you and live there without this controversy? And then come the even sharper questions from people who continue to, and have in the past criticized me for the work that I'm doing now: "Why do you need to talk about this issue/problem publicly?" "Why can't you just keep it to yourself and not cause this pain and aggravation to your family by "flaunting" your gayness in everyone'es face?" The last two questions are very charged and have a lot of weight to them but I think they give you a picture of what these people are asking of me.They're asking me to "keep it to myself", they're saying they're ok with gay people as long as they don't act gay or talk about it in public. As is the history within religious communities like Crown Heights, based on my own personal experiences as well as many stories that I've heard from people who live in Crown Heights and are part of the Chabad orthodox community, subjects like homosexuality and sexual abuse have been avoided by the "leaders" of the community ever since I can remember. Yes it's true that  lately people have become more aware of the serious issue facing hundreds of children in Crown Heights who were molested and continue to be until this day, but because of the silence and stigma associated with sexual abuse in this community, most victims never get to bring their abuser to justice and see them be accountable for their actions. It's the silence that allows people who are a danger to children walk freely in the streets of Crown Heights today, that silence that has caused immense pain to people like myself who are gay and were and clearly still are heavily criticized by members of our own community simply for speaking up.

The support that I have received over the past month since the Jewish Press article has been amazing, and compared to the backlash I've been receiving, the support outweighs the backlash by far. However, many of my critics are from the Chabad community themselves and from other frum communities communities (I know the word frum is loaded and doesn't really represent any group of people, but let's just say that the people who wrote these comments were self identified as frum (orthodox)); many people have left anonymous comments on the Jewish Press article claiming to know me and attempted to destroy my character and bring shame to my family, others have simply asked the aforementioned questions, but I think it's clear that although having a dialogue is the best thing that can happen, even if it's not all positive, those questions and that tone of "keeping it quiet" only serve to continue this dangerous silence that ignores the serious plight of so many people that suffer just because they are gay, not because they commit "homosexual acts"

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