Tag Archives: lgbt

Ellen and Janis: A Love Story

This month, in honor of Valentine’s Day, we are sharing love stories. We heard about a proposal at a Pride Parade from Aden and his fiance, Josh, a story of love and parenthood, what it means to bedemisexual, and how to enjoy Valentine’s Day while single. If you have a love story for the Keshet blog, let us know

The year was 1983, it was springtime and love was in the air. We were both 23 years old. I was just Jande2finishing college at Northeastern University and Ellen had moved to Boston from NY and was living on Beacon Hill with some old college girlfriends. Every Wednesday night, the now defunct lesbian bar, The Marquee in Central Square Cambridge, featured a dance party, and we both attended.

We saw each other that night, Ellen asked me to dance, and the rest is history.

We began dating, and 3 months later we moved in together and setup house. (Long time for a young lesbian couple!) I graduated from school and Ellen began a masters program at Emerson College. We bought our first home together in the Southend in 1987 and since that time have we have lived in the South End, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, and now back to Jamaica Plain.

JandEInitially I worked in commercial theatre, managing the Wang Center, the Colonial Theatre and later becoming Director of Operations for Clear Channel Entertainment. Ellen was in sales first in advertising and then office furniture, she than went on to real estate sales where I joined her in the business about 11 years ago.

We married in 2010 at Larz Anderson park using the gazebo as our huppah and have been together for almost 32 years. We now have a successful real estate team. In our spare time we love to travel, go to services at Temple Sinai, spend time on the Cape, where we are fortunate to own a home in Ptown and work tirelessly for human rights. We are proud supporters of Keshet and the work they do.

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Posted on February 24, 2015

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When Sam Met Sami: Making Time to Find Love

This month, in honor of Valentine’s Day, we are sharing love stories. We heard about a proposal at a Pride Parade from Aden and his fiance, Josh, a story of love and parenthood, what it means to be demisexual, and how to enjoy Valentine’s Day while single. If you have a love story for the Keshet blog, let us know

Sam

Sam

I was the typical commuter grad student. I worked two jobs, hung out with my friends, and watched Pretty Little Liars on Tuesday Nights. Of my two jobs, my work at a Harley-Davidson dealership was my favorite. Life was pretty much—well almost—perfect.

The only thing missing was having a cute girl to text.

I grew up in a very Jewish area so I dated a lot of Jewish people, but it wasn’t a requirement for me. I saw it as a nice “bonus.” It was nice to be with someone that I could celebrate the holidays with. My parents are interfaith, so I always felt most comfortable dating someone who identified as Reform or Reconstructionist, even though I was raised Conservative. And, I tend to go for Jewish looking girls. I like dark eyes and dark hair. I like an average build and not too tall (I’m only 4’11).

Between work and school meeting people wasn’t always easy. I had an amazing work schedule, but I had Saturday classes for my grad program. My Friday nights were pretty much nonexistent.

When one of my co-workers asked me what I was doing for Halloween, I explained that weekend classes pretty much ruined any Friday night social plans. She insisted that I should do something. I thought to myself, she does make a good point.

I decided to venture over to the Pride Center for a Halloween Party. This being my third time there, I only knew a few people and was eager to meet more. I thought to myself, “ If I meet someone, that’s great, if I make more friends that would be great too.”

I sat down and started noshing on some of the snacks at the party. In walks this super cute girl in a green costume with braids and red tips in her hair. She ends up sitting next to me.

Sami

Sami

In my head, I’m thinking: Is she someone’s straight supportive friend, Is she someone’s girlfriend? After I chase away all of these thoughts in my head, I strike up a conversation.

We talk about our names (we have the same first name, luckily she tends to go by Sami and I go by Sam), work, school, food, sports, and cars. We talked about a local restaurant, Harold’s, and how it has the best matzah ball soup.

That’s when I was stopped to ask, “Are you Jewish?”  I later found out that our backgrounds were nearly identical. Her mom is Roman Catholic like mine and her Dad is Jewish, as is mine. I converted when I was very young but Sami did not.

I have to thank Sami’s favorite professor for giving her that nudge that brought her to the Pride Center that night. I believe that it was bashert, or meant to be, that we met that night. I believe that G-d has a plan for everyone, and I’m so happy that Sami is a part of mine.

We celebrated our three month anniversary this Valentine’s Day.

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Posted on February 17, 2015

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Being Single on Valentine’s Day

This month, in honor of Valentine’s Day, Keshet is sharing love stories. We heard about a proposal at a Pride Parade from Aden and his fiance, Josh, a story of love and parenthood, and what it means to be demisexual. If you have a love story for the Keshet blog, let us know!  And, celebrate all kinds of love with our queer Jewish Valentines! 

I’ve been single for nearly 4 years.

DanielThe last time I had a Valentine’s day date was 2011. Actually, that has probably been the only time I’ve had a “Valentine.” So, to say that I have had complicated opinions on this particular holiday, would be an understatement. I’ve gone from absolutely dreading it and refusing to acknowledging it, to now, marking the day in my own special way. Recognizing the love of self.

The Torah teaches us “V’ahavta L’Reiacha Kamocha”, or, “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself”. What does this mean? For me, I think it highlights the idea that you cannot truly love someone else until you fully love yourself. Or as the world-famous drag queen and TV personality, RuPaul, says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” Can I get an amen indeed!

Finding a person to enter into a romantic relationship with is challenging. A lot of it is, arguably, out of our control: fate, luck, chance, timing, chemistry. What we can control is how we love ourselves. Self- care and self- love is a journey that all of us are constantly on.

One of the most important steps for me on that journey was coming out and loving myself as a gay man, being proud of that aspect of my identity—something that took 19 years. Once I was honest with myself about that, the floodgates opened and I began to explore more aspects of who I was, not that they weren’t there before, but by loving my gay identity, I was able to love all other aspects of myself.

During this period in which I was learning to truly love myself, Valentine’s Day turn on a variety of meanings. After I first came out and I was desperately wanting to be in a relationship but wasn’t in one, Valentine’s Day became a day of mourning for a romantic love I didn’t have. Sometimes I would react with sarcasm and anger-celebrating Single Friend Awareness Day.

As I matured and became more comfortable in my identity, I realized that Valentine’s Day could be a day to celebrate love in all of its form, including yourself. That’s why, this year, I plan on using the day to take care of myself. To treat myself. To love myself. Once I committed myself to this, and stopped worrying about finding a Valentine’s Day date, I was amazed to discover that I wasn’t stressed out about not being a relationship.

I’m looking forward to taking myself out to spending the day doing my favorite things—exploring New York City, taking myself out to a nice dinner, and seeing a Broadway show. But why only practice self-love on Valentine’s Day? When you take care of your personal needs, every day can be Valentine’s Day! And if loving yourself makes it easier to show love to other people and receive their love, then perhaps this act of self-love will help make my sphere of influence a more inclusive place!

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Posted on February 11, 2015

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Parenting an Openly Gay Orthodox Teen

In this post from Kveller, Elana Altzman reflects on her family’s journey when her oldest son came out. You can read the post in its entirety here.

13458701445_0ea733e792_zThe conversation over Shavuot lunch at a friend’s house three years ago started innocently enough—we were talking about the Israeli Rabbinate’s reluctance to provide kosher supervision to food served at non-Orthodox events in Israeli hotels. One of the guests at the meal responded with, “The rabbis have to control who comes in. What if homosexuals come in?”

Like me, this guest was a mother of four sons, an immigrant who came here as a young girl, a woman who did not grow up observant, but became observant as a young adult. Our kids were close in age. Perhaps these similarities made her comment even more shocking to me. Like her, I love my children and care about their happiness, education, and religious commitment. Unlike her, I have a gay son.

My oldest had came out to us a few months before, at the end of his sophomore year in high school. At 16, he was secure enough to come out first to two of his closest friends, then to us, and then to all his friends outside of our community.

But in our neighborhood and our shul in Brooklyn, he remained completely closeted, and knew his chances of being accepted, or even allowed to remain in the shul he grew up in, were slim. He tested the waters some, mentioning that a friend from a summer program was gay, an acquaintance was a lesbian. A neighborhood friend told him gays are disgusting. Another informed him he would burn in hell for being friends with a lesbian girl. An adult leader of the youth minyan, where my son lead services and read Torah regularly, railed against the lifting of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” one Shabbat morning, as part of his discussion of the weekly Torah portion, telling the kids in attendance that homosexuality would lead to the downfall of our society. Another adult shul member told him that someone like him, a teen who was accepting of gays, did not belong in the shul we had been members of for over a decade.

How much worse would it be if he were out as gay himself? We feared the repercussions on all our children, the emotional trauma that would result when our son would be rejected by the community he grew up in. That Shavuot conversation reaffirmed our fears. Our son quickly said goodbye and left the holiday lunch; our younger kids were playing, and my husband and I were thankful that they were unaware of the conversation.

Read the post in its entirety at Kveller.

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Posted on February 10, 2015

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On Love and Parenting

This month, in honor of Valentine’s Day, we are sharing love stories. We kicked things off with a two part series from Aden and his fiance, Josh. Today’s story is one of love and parenthood. If you have a love story for the Keshet blog, let us know!  Celebrate all kinds of love with our queer Jewish Valentines! 

Lonely.
Fear.
Anger.
The Closet.

Hope.
Liberation.
Self-Determination.
Coming Out.

Lust.
Sex.
Love.
Dating.

Commitment.
Community.
Bonding.
Marriage.

Longing.
Questioning.
Exploring.
Dreaming of our family.

Anxiety.
Anticipation.
Joy.
Conception.

Heart pumping.
Adrenaline racing.
Tears streaming.
Birth.

Love.
Love.
Love.
Family.

This is the journey of our lives. Having been together for over 19 years, my husband and I have traveled this wonderful path. If we had only overcome the first stage, dayenu, that would have been enough. Had we only reached just one additional stage thereafter, dayenu, that too would have been enough.

But, we did want more. While we had a very full and blessed life as a couple we knew very early on in our relationship that we shared a mutual desire to have children and create a family. How we would do so remained elusive for several years until we decided to have children via surrogacy.

Lee and his family.

Lee and his family.

Today, we are blessed with two beautiful children, an almost 8-year old son and 4-year old daughter. They are the true joys of our lives. They complete us and we are blessed.

In writing this blog, I was asked to ponder how love and parenthood go hand in hand. So many books have been written. So many stories have been told.  In so many ways I feel inadequate and certainly very humbled trying to articulate my own thoughts and ideas about such an important and awesome emotion and responsibility. Yet, I recognize that with all that has been said in literature, in the press, on social media, so much more needs to be said because the writings of love about LGBT parenting remains under-represented and certainly under constant attack. My husband and I stand in stark contrast to that precept and loudly say that we love our children unequivocally and as wholly and as wholesomely as any loving and devoted parent on the planet.

When I saw my son crawl and then walk, I felt love.

When my daughter gives me a kiss and a hug, I feel love.

When my son performs his piano recital, I feel love.

When my daughter kicks the ball and rides her bike, I feel love.

When my husband and I sit down to Shabbos dinner every Friday night and recite the parental blessings over our children, I feel love.

When I wake my children up in the morning and prepare them for school, make their lunch and put them on the school bus, I feel love.

When my husband puts our children to bed at night, reads them a book, sings a song or lullaby, I feel love.

When they spend time with their cousins, their grandmother, their loved ones, I feel love.

When I pick my children up from Hebrew School and they tell me a story from the Torah that they learned this week, I feel love.

When we roll around the floor, get goofy, make silly noises and have all out belly laughs, I feel love.

Love.

That’s what I feel every day I wake up and look into my children’s eyes.

This is love. This is my love. And no one will tell me otherwise.

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Posted on February 5, 2015

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Will You Travel Through Space and Time with Me?: A Proposal at a Pride Parade

In honor of Valentine’s Day we are sharing love stories this month. We’re kicking things off with a two part series from Aden and his fiance, Josh. We’ve followed Josh’s story since he first came out, and it’s great to see him so in love. Tomorrow we’ll hear Josh’s side of this love story! If you have a love story for the Keshet blog, let us know!  Celebrate all kinds of love with our queer Jewish Valentines! 

I first met Josh when I was on a date with my previous partner.

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A friend of ours had asked if we had wanted to go to a Keshet Shabbat dinner and we obliged. After the service concluded we sat down with a couple of strangers and began talking. I remember telling Josh about my switch from going to school for Unitarian Universalist ministry, and then finding Judaism.

I told him that sometimes, there are things that are unexplainable, that cannot be reasoned, and that is where faith in God begins. As I was leaving the Shabbat dinner that evening, I remember thinking “wow, if I were not with my current partner, I would totally date this guy”.

In April, my relationship of over four years, began to unravel. For the next six months, my ex and I were on and off. During one of our breakups, I had begun online dating, not looking for anything too serious. In early October, we officially ended our four year relationship. I met Josh, again, just a few weeks after.

Our first date was amazing, we talked about the intersection of queer identities and religion. We were so engrossed we walked roughly 5 miles. At the end of our date we sat outside, and I gave him a little kiss on the cheek.

Prior to this I had been in only heteronormative relationships, and was terrified of being perceived as visibly queer. I was afraid to give up any of my privilege that came with being in what was perceived as a normative relationship. Our third date was my conversion ceremony; Rabbi Zecher of Temple Israel of Boston asked how Josh and I knew each other. I hesitantly explained “we’re dating.” I was reluctant to put a label on us that would make this a real relationship.

Despite my best efforts to run, I found myself falling in love with Josh. I loved going to shul with him on Friday nights, debating scripture, and spending holidays with our families.

After six months of dating, I began to look into rings. I tried desperately to talk myself out of this proposition. I had always viewed fast engagements as irresponsible. I could not reason this feeling away. I truly believe that our love is beyond time and beyond reason.

Pride season is Josh’s favorite time of the year. He talks about it in all seasons of the year and usually marches with Keshet. So, one night while out at a bar Josh and his family, listening to Josh’s uncles’ band, I found myself asking Josh’s cousin what she was doing the day of the Pride Parade. I had decided in that moment to go for it and make a proposal during Pride. I gave myself two weeks to buy a ring, plan the proposal, and to ask for his parents’ blessing.

On Saturday, June 14, 2014, Josh and I headed into Boston bright and early to help Keshet set up.  I got down on one knee holding a sign asking Josh to travel through space and time with me, a reference to our favorite show: Doctor Who. Nothing could have ever prepared me for the embrace of our community. The whole route, we were congratulated on our engagement, and I was truly beaming.

Before this moment Pride was simply the “Queer Fourth of July,” yet I now see it as time to make the invisible visible. I cannot be more proud of our relationship, our love, and our faith. I look forward to sharing our next part of our Jewish journey.

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Posted on February 2, 2015

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Honoring Our Allies

This year we celebrated the work of two allies to the LGBT Jewish community with the inaugural Landres Courage for Dignity Award. The award was established by Shawn Landres and his family to recognize individuals who display public courage as allies to support the full inclusion of LGBT people or others whose dignity is at stake. The award was presented earlier this month at Glimmer, out Bay Area fundraiser.

Check out these short video profiles of our award winners:

Ayala Katz, an Israeli mother transformed by tragedy into an advocate for LGBT equality. Ayala was Named “one of the 50 most influential people in Israel” by Haaretz.

During her tenure as the CEO of the San Francisco based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, Jennifer Gorovitz championed outreach and inclusion for all Jews in the Bay Area who felt excluded from Jewish life.

At Glimmer we also honored Martin Tannenbaum with the Rosh Pina “Cornerstone” Award. Martin is an inspiring leader in the Jewish communities of the Bay Area, Salt Lake City, and beyond. and is a past chair of the Keshet Board of Directors and a member of the Board of Directors since 2010.

You an check out our photos from Glimmer here.

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Posted on December 29, 2014

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Finding a Space to Feel Safe & Accepted: The Keshet/Hazon LGBTQ & Ally Teen Shabbaton

One day at synagogue, my friend excitedly came up to me, and asked me to come to the Keshet/Hazon LGBTQ & Ally Teen Shabbaton with her. Now, I had no idea what she meant, but she went on to explain that is a weekend retreat for queer Jewish teens. It sounded cool, and she was really excited, so I said “sure, I’d go.”

Alex KohlI never expected what I’d find there. I identify as bisexual. I’ve never been particularly shy about anything, including my sexuality, but I never paraded it.

The phrase “I’m bisexual” always came out of my mouth as quietly as possible.

Most of my friends know, and the ones who don’t know because it just hasn’t come up. I’ve met a few people who have had issues with it—I’ve been told I’m “not natural” and that “being homophobic isn’t any worse than being homosexual”—but overall, most people I’ve met have been great about it.

However, at the Shabbaton, among a community of Jewish teens, people weren’t just accepting of my sexuality—they embraced it.

I was surrounded by people with every gender and sexuality under the sun, and I loved it. One of the aspects of being bisexual is that biphobia isn’t just a phenomenon among homophobic heterosexuals—I’ve experienced biphobia from members of the LGBTQ+ as well, including the statement “so you’re not really queer.”

At the Keshet/Hazon LGBTQ & Ally Teen Shabbaton, for the first time, I felt truly safe and completely accepted.

Safe is a word that gets tossed around a lot—a safe environment, a safe space, etc.—but that’s because having a space where you feel truly safe is a vital aspect to being human.

And regarding my sexuality, my safe space had been a few people here and there. But at the Keshet/Hazon LGBTQ & Ally Teen Shabbaton, I found a whole community who embraced me with arms wide open.

Giving Tuesday 2014That’s why I send rainbow-themed pictures to the friends I made on the Shabbaton. And why, when my female friend suggested wearing a tie and slacks to the next Shabbaton, I nodded enthusiastically.

And why, whenever I say the phrase “I’m bisexual,” I say it loudly.

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Posted on December 2, 2014

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Hints of “Queerness” from Our Ancestors, Our Sages, and Our God

lisa_1

Rabbi Lisa Edwards

Rabbi Lisa Edwards, of Beth Chayim Chadashim (BCC), offered these words last week as leaders from day schools across Los Angeles came together to discuss concrete strategies and tools for creating more LGBTQ inclusive institutions at the Keshet Leadership summit in LA.

We come together in the midst of our annual study of the Book of Genesis, with its many examples of the presence of LGBTQ people—of alternative family structures and gender non-conformity. I thought to mention a few examples, in the hopes you’ll take opportunities to study these and others later on.

First, consider Sarai, matriarch of our people, who while unable to get pregnant, suggests that her husband Avram have a child with a surrogate (her handmaid Hagar). Our first alternative family structure—not only surrogacy, but one dad and two moms.

By the way, one of our Talmud sages, without a hint of irony or distress, amidst a discussion of the mitzvah of parenting, takes note of the long years of infertility of Sarah and Abraham, and suggests that our matriarch and patriarch appear to be tumtumim (people of indeterminate gender).

Rebecca and Eliezer by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.

Rebecca and Eliezer by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.

Later, and again without criticism, the Torah and our tradition show us there has always been gender non-conformity.  Consider Rebekah when first we meet her in Chayei Sarah—how “butch” is Rebekah!—strong enough to hoist bucketful after bucketful of water to water many camels.

And then Rebekah and Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau, whom we meet in Toldot, remind us that there have always been boys who present more “macho” and boys who present more “sissy”—consider the rough and tumble hairy hunter Esau—“a man of the outdoors” (25:27)—twin but certainly not an identical one, to his smooth, mild brother Jacob, who prefers to stay at home and try vegetarian recipes (red lentil stew, for example, 25:29).

Or, in the Genesis stories still to come, consider the children of Jacob:

How Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter, “went out to see the daughters of the land” [34:1].  Did she “go out” to see the “daughters” or did she “come out”? We know nothing of what Dinah thought or felt or intended or did on her visit. She never speaks a word in Torah, and we don’t know what eventually became of her.  We do know that when she ventured forth, away from home, to visit other women, Shechem, the Hittite prince, “saw her, took her, lay her down and raped her.” [34:2]

How many women and LGBTQ people today find themselves unsafe to venture forth alone anywhere in the world? And how many lesbians have been rudely told or violently “shown” that their attraction to women is only because they need a man to show them “how it’s done”?

Jacob blesses Joseph and gives him the coat.

Jacob blesses Joseph and gives him the coat.

Why does Joseph’s coat of many colors make his brothers so angry? Were they simply jealous that Jacob favored their little brother? What if something else was going on? What if Joseph himself favored the coat because he was drawn to different colors? Because he liked its length or it felt like a dress to him?

What if his brothers bullied him for being too feminine and his father’s favor of the coat was a way of telling Joseph that, whoever he chose to be, Jacob would love him always?

It shouldn’t be surprising that in our tradition we find hints and even discussion that “queerness” existed, as well as a certain comfort level with it on the part of our ancestors, of our sages and of God.

What should be surprising is that so many of us are still taken by surprise at these suggestions.

Recently, I sat around a table with seven other gay men and lesbians between the ages of 55 and 71, and told them about Keshet’s Leadership Project. They all join me in thanking you for doing the work, for already understanding, already knowing, that a leadership summit like this one is necessary. We speculated a bit on what our younger years might have been like—how much better those years might have been (and later ones as well)—had our teachers and schools—especially religious schools—set LGBTQ inclusion as a priority.

Do not oppress the stranger,” one of them said, we’re taught that over and over again but it doesn’t always register with people that a stranger could be your own child or your own parent or sibling.

“Do not hide yourself from your own kin,” we read in the haftarah on Yom Kippur morning, and when will everyone come to understand that hiding yourself isn’t only what a person who is “in the closet” does, it’s also what people do when they sense someone is in the closet but don’t open the door and invite that person to come out into open arms and open minds and open hearts.

field-corner_hpWe are told, said another of my friends, DO NOT harvest all the way to the corner of the fields, but leave some there so that the vulnerable ones among us might come and find sustenance, might share in the fields of plenty, might glean nourishment for themselves and not just “depend on the kindness of strangers.” This mitzvah is not only about physical sustenance, she said, though that’s vital; it’s also about spiritual sustenance—that’s why there are Jewish day schools; and it’s also about emotional sustenance—if you are asked (either subtly or outright) to deny or ignore a core part of yourself each time you enter your home or shul or school, how long before you’d stop trying to come in at all, much less stay in?

“Diversity is what we all have in common,” someone said last night. Diversity is what God created and delighted in from the first week of creation and ever since, saying gleefully over and over—ki tov—how good is this, and even tov ma’od —how very good indeed!  So shouldn’t we, created in God’s image, also embrace diversity and delight in it just like God does?

Indeed we should.

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Posted on November 24, 2014

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Coming Out & Staying With My Husband

In honor of National Coming Out Day, Keshet will be sharing and celebrating coming out stories throughout the month of October. If you have a story you’d like to share, let us know!

October 11 was National Coming Out Day. Coincidentally, it is also my husband’s birthday.unnamed

I met him over 21 years ago; he was 19, I was 17. We had so much in common: both recent immigrants from the Soviet Union, both raised in traditional non-religious Jewish homes, both with strong family values and ethics.

I fell in love with my husband deeply. I wanted to marry him and have children with him. I watched him grow into the beautiful strong man that he is now, and he watched a little girl transform into a wife and a mother. We married 7 years after we met, and had 2 kids soon there after.

We were a perfect family… until 5 years ago, when I developed a crush on a girl.

The moment I saw her, I was smitten. She was occupying all of my thoughts. I could not sleep, I could not eat, I could not think about anything else. So, one morning when both my husband and I were still in bed, I stuffed my slightly-embarrassed face into a pillow and confessed my crush to him.

My husband is a very open-minded, confident man. He has always supported me in everything. When I expressed desire to become a rabbihe was the one researching rabbinical schools. When I wanted to take on photographyhe got me a camera and a book. And 5 years ago, he held my hand and pushed me to explore myself and my sexuality.

My crush turned out to be another straight Jewish girl, and with the permission of my husband, I joined an online support group for married women who have feelings for other women.

There I met my (now) ex-girlfriend. She was also married, had children, and lived locally. Unlike me, she has been struggling with her sexuality for over 10 years and, through therapy and together with her husband, decided to open up her marriage.

We got to know and grew to love each other deeply. We felt so natural with one another. The intimacy that we shared was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced; the glove finally fit! And within just a few months, it was clear to both of us that we were, indeed, gay.

And then the struggle began: do we continue living two lives? Or, do we separate from our husbands, break up our families, and live authentically as gay women? After two years of tears, confusion, and torment, we hesitantly chose to separate from our husbands.

That decision to separate was incredibly hard. I really loved my husband. I loved him deeply. I did not know myself outside of “Him and I.” We were ONE; he was my second half and I was his. The loss of my second half seemed so big that it was impossible to even think about it. My husband compared that sense of loss to a feeling of losing a parent. We both felt devastated, numb.

Coming out to our immigrant family was one of the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. My own mother called me names that a mother should never call her child. My mother-in-law fell to my feet and begged me “to not do this to the kids.” I’ve lost many friends because they agreed that I “cheated” on my husband and left him for HER.

My relationship with my girlfriend suffered as well. It became clear that developing a relationship with one person while disassembling a marriage to another was an impossible task. The days I spent with my girlfriend were filled with tears, depression, and anxiety attacks. Ultimately the pressure became unbearable and our relationship ended. I lost the woman I was planning to marry, while at the same time, helped my husband buy a separate home and write a JDate profile.

I dated heavily. I was single for the first time since 17, in a lesbian sea of opportunities. Face after face, restaurant after restaurant, I went out on many, many dates. A drummer, a nurse, a writer, a marketing director, an accountant, a psychologist, a stay-at-home mom…the list went on and on.

Dating started to feel like work… and each time I would look at a woman across the table, I’d feel nothing but guilt for not being home instead, with my husband and my children. It was finally my chance to explore my sexuality, yet all I wanted to do was to stay home with my family, cook, and do crafts. My sexuality started feeling “this” little, and I started questioning all the choices that I had made up to this point.

Surprisingly, the kids seemed more or less okay. They would run from dad’s house to the one they called “our home” with a new-found sense of excitement. I, on the other hand, could not pass my husband’s townhouse without feeling sick to my stomach. What had we done?

We had been the happiest couple on earth, never fought, never argued. He was my best friend, my partner in crime, my protector, the love of my life. He made me laugh silly and took care of me when I was sick. I knew by heart his every wrinkle, every gray hair, every sun spot. I had not witnessed a more perfect union. Our only struggle was in my sexuality. So, I started questioning whether one’s sexuality is really that much more important than all those other beautiful things that we shared. Many of our friends struggled in their marriages in all of the ways that we didn’t… And yet, there we were, leaving each other…

And that was when I realized that one’s sexuality does not define them! It is a part of one’s identitynot the whole identity. Yes, I am gay. Yes, I feel most natural with a woman. But I also love the man I met 21 years ago, and that person is my male soul mate. There is no one better suited for me than him, even if he is not a woman. And I also love my family; I want to raise our children together with him under one roof.

So, one day,  after a very short conversation and a needed exhale, we decided to get creative. We chose to move back together and try a life that would not be constrained by our Russian-Jewish suburbia. We decided to consider a version of an “open marriage” where I can be me and live out a part of my newfound identity. Our new relationship is one with rules, boundaries, and respect. A relationship where I can be out and proud, with no more boxes or closets.

That was about 8 months ago. Having learned a lot from the painful experience of the past 5 years, we have been rebuilding our “home” and healing the wounds. It has not been easy all the time. Our relationship is a new reality, one that comes with new challenges.

And the future? It remains to be written…

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Posted on October 28, 2014

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