My intentions whilst writing this, with everything I write, is not to cause more controversy or add to the existing tensions that are very prevalent between myself and the orthodox Jewish community, the community that I was born and raised in. Rather to send a very strong message to every single person that has done wrong by gay people on the guise of their own hatred, homophobia or even religious "values" (quotes because I'm not sure how mistreating anyone in the name of god can be value) . As I speak out about what it was like to grow up in Crown Heights as a Lubavitcher and a gay person, the pain, the endless rejection and difficulties I faced daily placed before me by my family and community, as I tell the truth about how much trying to change my sexuality has harmed me, I can only hope that the guys or girls reading this that might feel similar to the way I do, the others like me that I've come to learn exist that they're not alone.
I was asked by many especially in recent times why I don't just "walk away", leave the community alone and stop trying to change something that I can't change. Why continue to write articles and talk publicly about my "desires" that some say shouldn't be anyone's business, that I'm supposed to keep to myself for the sake of modesty, and because these aren't things that are "supposed" to be talked about. And my answer to you, to every single person who thinks that I'm only causing pain to my family by doing what I'm doing now, you're wrong and I've seen it and experienced first hand. I can't even begin to tell you how many people sent me letters of support and thanks for speaking out, how I've witnessed homophobia and attitudes by many in Crown Heights shift especially those of my peers and people in the "younger "generation". Two years ago, before i came out people were discussing issues that had to do with gay people, it was as if there was a silent rule to never discuss this topic. Over the past two years, since I started coming out and talking to people, just telling them about me, and about my life, that akeward silence, the anxieties that many people clearly felt their first time discussing this subject, the unfounded homophobia, I've seen it change, I've experienced being rejected by someone's lack of understanding towards gay people and later on received full embrace and acceptance for who I was by these same people. And the best part, these experiences I mention weren't just with two or three people, they were with hundreds of people, literally. Although I know there are long ways to go in achieving more tolerance for gay people in places like Crown Heights, I'm amazed and humbled by how people become more open minded just by exposure to the "issue".
Growing up as an orthodox Jew has shaped a big part of my life and has influenced major facets of my life today. But as was evident in Oprah's recent interview with four Chabad women and her question about what one in Crown Heights would do should their son come out, most people inside the Chabad community, in orthodox communities are still in deep denial about how close to home having a gay son can be. Part of that is caused by the lack of credence to this issue by community leaders and overall people in the community, but also, the lack of people who come out openly about being gay or lesbian as opposed to getting married and living a "straight" life that's a complete lie. I know too many people who are in that position today, heck, I almost was in that position today, but I got really lucky and was forced to face the truth about who I was before it was too late and involved an innocent girl that deserved to be married to a man that loves her, a man that's heterosexual; and in my opinion not a man who "became" heterosexual either. Despite the claims by groups like JONAH that they have seen "thousands" of success cases, I don't know more than one or two, and even so, I don't know what you consider "success"? Being married? Having our attractions to men "under control"? Most of my time spent at JONAH I was told that most people don't really "change" but rather gain a "better insight" into our god given heterosexuality that existed within us somewhere - I never found it and I know I don't speak for myself on that one.
I hope and I pray that my willingness to continue speaking about this issue will help others come out one day. I hope that someone reading these words will realize that he or she doesn't have to pretend to be something their not because their family or community wants them to. Believe me, I wanted to be straight for my family and community and would've never dreamed of bringing them this sort of "shame" one day. But today, no matter what people say, I'm not bringing shame to my family or community, even if some of them don't see it that way right now. I'm speaking up and out against evil and bigotry, enough people suffer every day because of having to choose between "respecting" their community and family and just being honest with themselves about who they are. No matter where you are holding in life, be you still religious, formerly religious, remember that it's never too late to be true to yourself and find true peace of mind and peace at heart by being honest with yourself. I used to think that the struggle I felt, the one thing that ate at my conscience every second of my life would never stop, I thought I'd never be able to accept myself, and here I am today years later knowing how much those beliefs were wrong and a product of people's intolerance and homophobia.