Keshet is a national organization that works for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life. The organization equips Jewish leaders with tools to build LGBTQ-affirming communities, creates spaces for queer Jewish teens to feel valued and develop their own leadership skills, and mobilizes the Jewish community to fight for LGBTQ justice. Keshet’s blog spotlights this work, as well as the voices of LGBTQ Jews, our families, and allies.
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Like any college student, I’m both dreading and ready to come home to my family for holiday break.
I’ve been out to myself and my close friends for the past few years and I’m finally ready to take the step and come out to my family.
This year I’m bringing my boyfriend home with me, and I don’t want to introduce him as “my, um, friend.” I want to introduce him as “my boyfriend.” My parents are fairly liberal and accepting people, but I’m afraid it might be different when their own son comes out.
Do I warn them ahead of time? Drop the news at the start of a family dinner? Take them aside and tell them one at a time? I have no idea! I also need to know that it’s okay if I chicken out.
Coming Home & Coming Out
Dear Coming Home & Coming Out,
My advice is to come out to your family before the holidays; give them time to adjust. If you can’t do it in person before the holiday, I would write them a letter. In the letter, I would ask that they wait to respond to you for at least a day; they are most likely going to have some really interesting reactions, and sometimes it’s best to process those feelings for a bit before giving voice to them. In short, some things cannot be unsaid, and it might be best for them to have some time to “not say” them to you.
Regarding your boyfriend, either you come out before the holidays and make it clear who he is, or you come home by yourself. Whatever you do, do not bring your boyfriend home to your family if they don’t already know who he really is to you. He is not a prop to be used, and treating him as the “tangible proof of your homosexuality” is not going to help your relationship—neither with him nor with your family.
The holidays are a time for family, and your coming out at the start of it makes the time all about you and your coming out, and that’s not fair to anyone—especially your poor, unsuspecting boyfriend, who will find himself in a rather uncomfortable situation. I know the impulse is to be as dramatic as possible (trust me, we’ve all been there), but you’re going to need to game this out a bit before you act; you are going to have to come out by yourself, on your own terms.
[Editor’s note: if your family needs support and resources, make sure they know about the Keshet Parent & Family Connection for parents and family members of LGBTQ Jews.]
I was very moved by your answer to “My Brother’s Keeper.” My question comes from the other side of the situation—unlike “My Brother’s Keeper” who was mourning a loss when his sister transitioned and became his brother, I’m the one transitioning. I too have a protective family member, one who is so worried for my safety that they are standing in the way of my transitioning.
I’m constantly being told that expressing my gender isn’t something I should do—at least not outside of the house. How can I convince them that I will be okay?
Dear Not Afraid,
The question is whether or not you are listening to this advice. Assuming you are not, your family member will hopefully learn through experience that you are, in fact, safe. That said, be smart.
Trans people are more likely to become the victims of violence than their cisgendered counterparts, and you need to protect yourself and be safe. There is something to what your family member is saying; what you need to do is explain to him or her WHY there is no need to worry (you are going to safe spaces, you’re surrounded by friends, etc.).
Ultimately, the choice is yours, but rather than just telling this family member off, guide him or her through your choices so that fears can eventually be quelled.
I am a Jewish (non-Orthodox) man, with two Jewish children and a Jewish partner. We are active in our Reform Temple, and our kids go to a Jewish day school. Our children’s birth family is Orthodox, and we are occasionally obligated to daven, or pray, in the birth grandmother’s Modern Orthodox Shul (where acceptance is limited, but they tolerate us).
My problem isn’t the cold shoulder from the members who have figured us out. My problem is trying to daven while surrounded by handsome young men.
I’m totally faithful to my husband, but the distraction is there. I almost never experience this in egalitarian settings, probably because the majority there is women and older couples.
The mechitza is having the opposite effect of its original intention on me! I feel too distracted to actually pray in this separated and segregated situation. Do you have any advice?
A Distracted Eye
Dear Distracted Eye,
Prayer is a form of religious meditation; the repetition of the same lines and phrases with the goal of focusing your thoughts. One of the most important parts of meditation is allowing yourself to experience your thoughts, not repress them. Sex and sexual desire is part of what makes us tick. It is healthy and normal to be attracted to attractive people.
Instead of focusing on NOT noticing the cute guy standing next to you, take a moment to look at him (in a non-creepy way), appreciate his attractiveness, and then, when you’re ready, move on. I don’t know what your arrangement with your partner is, but you should be allowed to look at the menu, even if you can’t order anything.
You seem to be preoccupied with repressing your thoughts to make them go away, which, as we all know, never really works.
We are constantly surrounded by stimuli that distract us from the tasks we want to focus on. Sometimes the distraction is mild, sometimes it’s strong. You are the one who ultimately is in control of how susceptible you are to these distractions. So, try to work on how you react to these stimuli in a more positive way, and eventually, they won’t bother you so much.
If that doesn’t work, just follow this advice from “The Book of Mormon.”
Best of Luck!
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