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Rising from the ashes — finding life in a hopeless place

Thanks to my readers, my blog has just gone over 22,000 hits. I started this blog a little over five weeks ago, and the incredible response seems like a dream.

The past few weeks have been crazy, exciting and even turbulent. But, even within negative encounters, there is much hope.

Harlan Ellison wrote “I know that pain is the most important thing in the universe. Greater than survival, greater than love, greater even than the beauty it brings about. For without pain, there can be no pleasure. Without sadness, there can be no happiness. Without misery there can be no beauty. And without these, life is endless, hopeless, doomed and damned.”

Without pain we cannot truly appreciate what we’ve gained. Without pain there is nothing to hope for, to strive toward, to fight for.

And, I am fighting.

I am fighting because I recall when I was bullied and felt hopeless and alone. I had believed that I had nothing to live for. I lost years being ashamed of who I am. I spent years undergoing traumatic “therapies” in order to attempt to change my orientation so I could fit in and be accepted by my family, friends and only community I had known.

I am fighting to shed light on the struggle of gay Jews in Orthodox communities in an effort to spare others the pain I survived. Despite our differences, Molly Resnick once wrote “Light one match and the darkness recedes.Save ONE life and it is as if you saved the universe.”  During the past few months I had the privilege of bringing to light the precarious reality faced by those who grow up frum and gay.

No one ever believed that the Jewish Press, one of the most religious conservative newspapers in the world, would publish an article even remotely supportive of gay people. Yet, it allowed me to tell my story in response to a negative opinion piece on the Gay Orthodox It Gets Better Video and my participation in it. It did this despite threats from its advertising partners. Furthermore, it made very clear that the Jewish Press will not be silenced and will stand up for the rights of people at risk of being put into potentially life threatening situations.

It has gotten better. This gives me hope, and I hope it inspires others. It certainly inspires me.

Many people have questioned how I can handle such tireless work, frequent conversations about gay rights, clarifying many misconceptions about gay people, and, most difficultly, talking about some of my most personal and painful experiences. I believe that hope starts with the telling the truth light one match and the darkness recedes.

There is much darkness to confront. 212 rabbis, doctors, licensed therapists and other “professionals” signed a “Torah” declaration mandating that gay people undergo “therapy” to cure homosexuality, despite the condemnation of such practices by every professional medical and mental health professional association. Research has demonstrated that such practices are dangerous and ineffective, putting patients a much even greater risk for trying to hurt themselves when this “therapy” doesn’t work. After reparative “therapy”, I was still gay and had found myself even more broke than before, alone and hopeless. My story is just one of many.

But, it got better. I am proud to be Jewish and gay and privileged to participate in a cause that is bringing about real change.

The shift within the Orthodox community has been nothing short of groundbreaking. Many rabbis have come out publicly and privately to support this cause. Ten years ago, we would have never believed that rabbis (plural!) would even acknowledge that gay people exist within Orthodox communities. Now rabbis are actually condemning the dangerous practices of reparative “therapy”. These rabbis advocate for nothing but the same compassion, understanding and love for any Jewish person coming to them for solace and comfort, towards gay people who are navigating the difficult and seemingly conflicting issues of reconciling who they are both as gay and Jewish.

It is getting better every day, despite negativity and pain. And, because of the negativity and pain, I appreciate the changes I am seeing so much more. I am still here despite the pain. And, because of it, I am committed to fighting. Some people may be uncomfortable with hearing about pain, but it is an integral part of hope.

When Pandora opened her proverbial box of suffering, the last thing to emerge was hope. By coming out and opening up with my story, I have seen hope emerge, and I want to share that hope with others.


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