My journey of figuring out my sexual orientation began when I was 12 years old and living in a suburb of Chicago. Before my school’s mandatory gym class would begin (where everyone would put on the same awkward-fitting tight blue jersey shorts and baggy grey T-shirts), 50 or so girls would be crammed like sardines into the locker room to change. Standing in the corner of the room, after a minute or so of staring into space, I locked eyes with a girl across the room. She looked around to her friends, as if for guidance, and abruptly pointed and screamed the agonizing word, “lesbian!”
This past weekend, the National LGBTQ Task Force convened its annual Creating Change Conference. Founded in 1998, the Task Force’s mission for Creating Change was to “to build our movement’s political power from the ground up to secure our overarching goal of full equality, social justice and dignity for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the United States.”
I spent the evening of November 3rd weeping. I’d been teaching Tony Kushner’s Angels in America to my high school juniors and seniors in a seminar on literature and identity. Angels is a masterpiece—so powerful, so beautiful, and so important for young people to encounter now that the 1980s and ’90s are “ancient history.” But when I added Angels to the course syllabus this past summer, I had no idea how painful it would be to read, let alone to teach, again.
It is powerful to see yourself reflected in history, in a story, or even in a room. That power is a profound sense of comfort, knowing that you are not alone, there are others like you. It is a feeling of belonging.
Luzer Twersky is an actor who plays Mendel in Season Two of Amazon’s hit television show “Transparent.” He grew up in an insular Hasidic community in Brooklyn, which he left in his early 20s, with help from Footsteps, an organization that helps formerly ultra-Orthodox Jews integrate into mainstream society. He is best known for his role in the film “Félix & Meira,” which is Canada’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Oscar this year. Luzer spoke with Keshet’s David Levy last week after the first episode of “Transparent” was released.
The AIDS epidemic began slowly, but one by one, members of our synagogue, Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, as well as many of our other friend’s friends, learned of their being HIV+. Our congregation’s Bikkur Cholim (outreach to the ill) Committee began discussing how our community might best respond. With gay men no longer able to donate blood, the women of the congregation began an annual blood drive and the men baked sweets and came to the blood bank to provide support with roses, massages, and hugs.
Abby Stein grew up in an insular, Hasidic community in Brooklyn. When she realized she wanted a different kind of life, she contacted Footsteps, an organization that helps formerly ultra-Orthodox Jews integrate into mainstream society. It turns out, that would be only her first transition. This story begins with Part One.
I often wonder what my life would look like were I a few years younger. Given how quickly the world has changed in my lifetime, I suspect my life might look rather different.