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.
Coming out, according to Merriam-Webster, means to come into public view or to declare oneself. This is exactly what coming out is: you are stating something about yourself to someone else. It wasn’t until recently that I started to come out to anyone about my sexuality, so before I get any further I want to say: I am queer. But, coming out isn’t just about sexuality or gender identity. It involves any aspect of our lives or about ourselves that is not immediately apparent about other people. It can be about our religious beliefs, political beliefs, or literally any other aspect of ourselves.
Coming out and being your true self is important, but it is hard, and sometimes it is just not possible. Thankfully, I live in a community where I can be myself in all aspects of who I am, but I also live in Kansas, a fairly conservative state. There are times when I know it’s not safe for me to wear a shirt that has a pro-LGBTQ message or say that I am queer or even an ally. This is a sad reality that many LGBTQ people face, knowing that there are times when we have to stay in the proverbial closet.
As a Jewish person, there are also times when I don’t always “come out” as Jewish. It might not necessarily be because of my personal safety. Maybe I don’t want to hear the Jew joke that someone has in the back of their head, or maybe I am just tired of getting asked questions about Judaism. There are so many reasons why and so many places where we can’t come out as our true selves, so when we can, it’s liberating. It’s freeing to be able to just be yourself without having to worry about what the people around you will say or think.
When I went to my first Keshet Shabbaton this past September, it was a truly unique space. All the people were wonderful and the programming was awesome, but for me, one of the best parts was being able to come out as my true self: I could be Jewish and queer. I didn’t have to hide any part of my identity. I could wear my rainbow kippah with no questions asked. I didn’t have to explain my identity as a queer Jew because everyone just got it. I could just be me. There are so few spaces where we can truly be ourselves and be “out” about every aspect of our identities, and Keshet is one of them.
I know it was just my first Shabbaton, but the experience of being able to be completely, truly myself was amazing and life-changing. I can’t wait to go to the next Shabbaton.