Sunday, May 27, 2012

My Complicated Relationship with my Parents and the American Elections

My parents took my leaving the religious Jewish life style very badly. At first there was a lot of crying, screaming and some nasty things were said. For about a year and a half after I told them, things were very awkward between us. They kept me in their lives because they loved me, but they were terrified that any of their friends might find out that I was not religious. So while I knew they loved me (and they told me this often), I also felt that they were embarrassed by me and ashamed of me.

After this difficult and harsh reaction, I expected the worse when I told them I was gay. But my parents surprised me. While this news was very hard for them to handle, they knew that it was not something they could change and that since they wanted me in their life, they would have to figure out a way to live with me being gay. And today, I am happy to say that my relationship with my parents is better than it has been in years. We get along well and are able to spend a lot of time together. Not everything is perfect. They obviously still do not want their friends and our extended family to know that I am not religious or that I am gay, but I have made my peace with that issue. It is their problem, not mine. But all in all, for the first time in years, I feel comfortable and no longer out of place when I am with my parents.

The one subject that seems to get me very uncomfortable and pretty upset when talking with my parents is actually the US presidential elections. My parents are hardcore Republicans. They believe Obama is utter evil and his election would mean "the end of democracy in America". While I am no fan of Obama and cannot imagine that I would ever vote for him, I could also never vote for Romney and the Republicans. How could I vote for people that campaign on hate? How could I vote for someone that supports amending the US Constitution with a homophobic clause?

I know that you all must be thinking, "just don't talk politics". But the politics are just the microcosm. What really hurts me is that my parents can support someone that says I should NEVER be able to marry who I love (FYI, Romney is also against civil unions). I really hope that one day I will be lucky enough to find a guy that loves me and wants to spend the rest of his life with me and that I love him and want to spend the rest of my life with him. It hurts to know that my parents would not want to see any such relationship recognized at marriage. It hurts to know that they would want that written into the law. It is beyond my understanding how my parents can love me as much as they do and still support such a law. I cannot fathom how millions of people around the country that I have never met, could be fighting for my (and of course millions of other's) right to marry and my own parents that love me would be against it.

I know my parents are Orthodox Jews and that Orthodox Judaism will never recognize gay marriage. Frankly, I do not care. If you believe in some bronze age book of myths and rules that cannot change, that is your right. But the government does not work off that book. The US government is suppose to be about freedom and equality before the law. So just like my parents would recognize any man and woman they know as civilly married if some judge said it was so, I would hope they could do the same for me. But that is not the case. Any love that me and some guy might share someday, will never be good enough in my parents eyes to receive the title "marriage" and I do not understand why.

38 comments:

  1. A ton of people, generally of our parents age, really emphasize the word "marriage." Many of these generally moderate or even liberal people support gay rights, they just don't want it called "marriage." I don't know if they grew up with too many Disney movies, or if its a remnant of knee-jerk visceral distaste for homosexuality, but it is widespread. I think the gay community should focus on the more easily winnable war at the moment: equal economic and legal rights for partners in gay unions. Eventually the word "marriage" will come too.

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    1. I hear your point Ari. In general, I do not believe the government should be involved in marriages whatsoever. Marriage is a personal thing having to do with family, love, in many cases religion, etc. However, as long as government is involved, the should have to treat all citizens equally. By fighting the "winnable" fight for civil unions, it is conceding that homosexual love is less than heterosexual love. That is a dangerous precedent to create, don't you agree?

      And just for the record, I believe the claim that marriage can only be between a man and a woman is always sourced in homophobia. If it had anything to do with religion, than everyone would demand that only marriages within their religion are real marriages. But since Christians recognize marriages outside the Church, Jews without kedushin etc, religious groups have showed that they are willing to bend the rules for America's mixed society. But by drawing the line at homosexuals, they are saying "these people are less than us".

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    2. Interesting point, Ari, but I disagree. Equal economic and legal rights are abstract for many people to understand . . . the concepts are riddled with details, and legal terminology/minutae. Everyone understands what marriage is . . so if you want a "winnable war", I say use the most common language . . .

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  2. I cannot fathom how millions of people around the country that I have never met, could be fighting for my (and of course millions of other's) right to marry and my own parents that love me would be against it.

    That really sucks, man. Reminds me of Steven Weinberg's quote "With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion."

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    1. Very true. Hardly a day goes by that I don't see something or hear something that proves that quote true.

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    2. I've seen this quote before on this blog, and wouldn't mind discussing it.

      How do we define "good people" and "bad people", especially if we are not judging them as good or bad based on the things that they do?

      My impression is that most of the people do what most of the people around them are doing, most of the time. Moral outliers who are psychologically normal are often motivated by some sort of ideology or commitment to a set of values that goes beyond mere self-interest.

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  3. I can relate with the first part of your essay, only I'm the parent and my daughter went from non-practicing secular to ultra orthodox frummed out BT in the span of about a month. That was four years ago & I still haven't gotten over the shame & embarrassment of it. I've watched my child's life unravel & morph into "the thing." Her politics shifted from liberal Democrat to conservative Republican, her dress shifted from hip & stylish to dumpy & matronly, and she thinks the internet rally was an evidence of OJ's progressive move in the right direction, and that People Magazine should be filtered out. My daughter was only home once since she frummed out, but she said she might come visit this summer. I'm having a really hard time with this. I don't want her to come. I love my daughter but she embarrasses me. 1,500 miles from Brooklyn, the same friends who tell me to lighten up, (it's JUST religion), ask me why my daughter wears a black floor length skirt & long sleeves when it's 90 degrees out. If my daughter told me she was a lesbian I could get behind her. She'd still be my daughter. But religion turned her into a brainwashed "thing" that no longer resembles the wonderful girl I raised.

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    1. I am sorry things are so difficult for you agathe. I hope that you and your daughter can find a way to be part of each other's lives. Family can be very complicated, but in the end I hope and believe that family can transcend religion, politics, social standing, etc. But to each their own and in their own time.

      I am often asked if I have children someday, and they grew up and embraced some religion, would I reject them. My answer is, as long as my children are freely choosing what makes them happy and are not rejecting me, than I will have to accept their choices just like I want my parents to accept mine.

      Good luck to you. I truly hope and wish you and your daughter nothing but happiness.

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    2. agathe, do you have a blog? i would love to hear more about your story....

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    3. Agathe, you should start a blog. It is very therputic and there are many people that would love to hear your story.

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    4. Agathe,

      I think that being against your daughter's decision to become religious is just as closed minded as if you would be upset if she was a lesbian. I can understand if you are hurt because your relationship may be more difficult to maintain because of lifestyle changes, but if she is happy and safe then you should support her no matter who she decides to become...

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  4. Are your parents supporting Romney BECAUSE of his anti-gay stance, or despite it?

    If I was American, I'd be less than thrilled with the choices available. Once again, I'm thankful to be Canadian and able to support a pro-Israel Conservative government that allows gay marriage, abortion, parental leave and universal medicare.

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    1. Hey Mommy,

      I am curious as to the dividing line between Canadian liberal and conservative government.

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    2. Jon Stewart once referred to the Canandian Conservative Party as "gay Nader fans for peace".

      From my POV, the previous Liberal government was quite fiscally conservative, especially when Paul Martin was the Finance Minister.

      In foreign affairs, though, the government - and particularly the Foreign Affairs minister - consistently responded to the constant suicide bombings and deliberate murder of civilians by going on about the "cycle of violence", thus drawing a moral equivalence between murder and self-defense. The Conservative party under Stephen Harper has been unambiguous in its denunciation of terrorism. It was also the first government to announce that it would not attend Durban II (that's right - Canada withdrew before Israel) and Canada has refused to support anti-Israel resolutions at the G8 summit. The Liberals were good at saying the right things...when talking to Jewish crowds, and then saying something else to others. Prime Minister Harper has been consistent, regardless of the audience.

      [To give some credit where it's due - current Liberal leader Bob Rae is not anti-Israel, and left his previous party in part because he disagreed with the way that their anti-Israel rhetoric had cross the line into anti-semitism.]

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  5. >It hurts to know that they would want that written into the law. It is beyond my understanding how my parents can love me as much as they do and still support such a law.

    Because it's not about YOU. As much as they love YOU, there are decisions in the broader scope of society that go beyond the "YOU." That is what they are thinking. And though you disagree with them, it is at least important for you to have clarity and understand them.

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    1. HH, the idea that gay marriage would have any effect on anyone other than those entering the marriage is delusional. Simple as that. Gay marriage is legal in six and 8 countries states. How has your life been affected? It is legal in 10 countries around the world. How has your life been affected?

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    2. Im not going to get into this argument since we always go on in circles. My point was simply for you to have clarity of what they are thinking in relation to: our son vs society at large

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  6. Your issue is that you're looking at things from your point of view, not theirs. From their perspective, they're stopping you from doing something terrible. You're not happy about it, but that's better than allowing you to do something that bad.

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    1. They are not stopping me from doing anything. In their eyes there is no difference if I live with a sex with a guy or if I have a legal document saying I am married to a guy. In their eyes it is the same sin. So if they have already decided to accept me as gay, they should want what will make me happy.
      PS I find it horrifying that you would use a phrase like "that bad" to describe marriage and love.

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    2. I'm sorry if you find it horrifying, but face it, Orthodox Judaism views gay sex as a very bad thing. Even if they've accepted you as gay, that doesn't mean they approve of it. You're asking them to approve of it.

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    3. And people wonder why I hate religion. Religion should be a tool to brnig people together and make famalies come together, but many times it does the opposite. It divides. I'm sorry you think it is not realistic for my parents to want me to be happy.

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    4. No, religion is not a too. Religion is a belief in something higher than yourself. Judaism believes that there is a God who knows everything - far more than we ever will.

      As for your happiness, I'm sure your parents want you to be happy - but not at the expense of your soul.

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    5. >but not at the expense of your soul.

      I don't even think its a matter of his soul. I think they are simply viewing it as a principle element of a society. Judaim, like other religions lays out principles. Those principles usually don't get taken away simply because "someone wants to be happy." This, I believe is part of Ami's hatred of religion. It removes individuals liberty to make themselves happy in favor of a wider picture , that individuals, within that society, won't agree with.

      Just look at it more micro. Every parent loves their kid. That doesn't mean they allow their kid to do whatever they want. And it doesn't only count for the child's own welfare, but for the welfare of society around. I want my children to be responsible and productive members of society. Not because it makes them happy, but because that is what a healthy society needs. The outcome of that is that by doing so, they WILL be happy (hopefully)

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  7. Proud MO and HH:

    Ami has just said that his parents support Romney and hate Obama. He hasn't said that they are purposely looking for the anti-gay-marriage candidate. If there had been a Republican candidate other than Ron Paul who supported gay marriage, they may have supported that candidate. It just sounds like the issues that are at the top of their minds are different from the issues that are at the top of Ami's mind. My parents and I don't vote the same way either, and that's ok.

    BTW - is it possible that your parents may still interpret a vote for Romney as a vote that will help you? For example, do they think that Romney will be tougher on Iran and therefore lessen the odds of a nuclear weapon landing near you in Israel?

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    1. My parents think Obama is anti-Israel and will destroy America. SO you could twist that into saying they are voting for a candidate that they think would be good for me.
      But my parents also believe that "society must have limits" and that "marriage has to be defended and kept as a one man one woman institution".

      But yes, the number one issue on my parents mind's is Israel, than the economy, than social issues. I would have thought that having a gay son might make social issues and civil rights go up on that list.

      Also, please don't get me wrong. I love my parents and I am not angry at them. I just don't understand them

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  8. >I just don't understand them

    Yes you do. You just gave a run down on their priorities. You do understand them. You just don't agree with them.

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    1. Knowledge and understanding are not the same thing. I know my parents thing gay marriage is detrimental to society. I cannot understand why they would think that.
      As I have said many times, they live with millions of things, including marriages that Jewish law would not agree with, but this is a red live for some reason.

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  9. How would your parents react if you met someone, got married in Canada and had that marriage recognized in Israel?

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    1. I imagine that they simply would not "see me" as married. They also probably would not attend any celebration or ceremony.

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  10. >including marriages that Jewish law would not agree with,

    Do you want to go on this ride again that you are totally wrong on this?

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    1. No, I do not. I have yet to meet anyone that knows what you are talking about and you have never given any sources other than "I asked some rabbis". Just because modern Jews "recognize" nonJewish marriages, does not mean that this is a hallachic recognition. It is just part of modern social standards.
      In Judaism marriage is "kidushin" and I have never heard, never read, and you have never provided a source for anything else.
      While I love debating you, I won't debate this any more unless you give some source, because we just end up repeating ourselves. I do not think either of us want that.

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  11. Even a modern orthodox has to follow halacha and can[t make up that Judaism recognizes non-Jews can get married. If you want to tell me that they are not required to, like Jews, than fine. But I think you need to provide some source that says Judaism does not recognize that non-Jews can get married.

    Off the top of my head, I can think of this:

    Rabbi Huna said in the name of Rabbi Joseph, 'The generation of the Flood was not wiped out until they wrote marriage documents for the union of a man to a male or to an animal.

    The premise being that Marriage exists in the first place but was broadened to others.

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    1. The fact that nonJews have marriage ceremonies is not being denied. My proof is that Judaism gives a long list of laws that has to do with marriage. The only thing the gemara says about non Jewish marriage is that if a nonJewish man and a nonJewish woman live together they should be treated AS IF they are married.
      That is not the same as "god law" condoning marriage. Why would halacha give any authority to a non Jewish priest? What is a nonJewish marriage in the eyes of halacha? Is there any holliness to it? If a nonJewish institution marries two men, does halacha "recognize" that?
      If not, why not? What are you basing that on?
      If your using that as your source Jews should recognize nonJewish gay marriage as marriage.

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    2. HH, so now I have been shown some soruces. It might be that I was very wrong (always a risk). But I just needed sources.

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  12. Ami, I think you are making a mistake. The Talmud (see Sanhedrin 57) clearly states that non-Jews have the halachot of "beulat ba'al" - and eshet ish (see the Rambam in Melachim 9:5). Of course they do. See the Rambam as well at the beginning of Hilchot Isut (1:1) where he explains how it was before matan torah, and the Magid Mishna there says "it is clear from many sources that a non-Jew creates the status of her being his wife with "yichud" and once he has relations with her for the purposes of Ishut, she is an eshet ish halachikally", with all the stringencies that entails, such as anyone else having relations with her being treated as an adulterer.

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    1. It could very well be that I am making a mistake. I am only going off what I have learned. And I have also discussed this many people, religious and secular a like and HH is the first to tell me I am wrong.
      From the above quote HH brings, it would seem a marriage document is also enough.
      So tell me, would halacha see all non virgin non Jews as married?
      The Talmud, (I cannot remember the exact place) says that if a non Jewish man and woman stop living together, they are "considered" divorced. How does that fit in here?
      Would a church ceremony be enough?
      I know pleanty of rabbis that have told Jewish guys that if they "must" have sex before marriage than it should be with a non Jewish girl. So how is that not intermarriage?
      And if a ceremony is needed, would a non Jewish ceremony of 2 men or 2 women be reocgnized by halacha?
      I really want to know. I would love to put this argument to rest.

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  13. In sexual relations, intent is meaningful halachikally. See the Rambam in 1:1-3 of Hilchot Ishut, where he explains the difference between "bi'ah leshem ishut" and "bi'ah leshem zenut".

    So tell me, would halacha see all non virgin non Jews as married?

    A non-virgin non-Jew's status as a married individual would depend largely upon the intent during their copulation.

    Would a church ceremony be enough?

    A ceremony is not needed, it is the intent and act of the two people that does the job. However, the ceremony undoubtedly creates the understanding of intent. So it has meaning in that sense.

    I know pleanty of rabbis that have told Jewish guys that if they "must" have sex before marriage than it should be with a non Jewish girl. So how is that not intermarriage?

    I won't comment on that advice, but I can say that as explained above, this would not be intermarriage as the intent in that sexual congress is not for marriage, but for z'nut.

    And if a ceremony is needed, would a non Jewish ceremony of 2 men or 2 women be reocgnized by halacha?

    Halacha recognizes sex as an instrument of marriage only in halachikally 'marriagable' situations. The Rambam in Ishut 4:11 explains that a tumtum or androgynous creates safek kiddushin, ie, on the possibility that it is a woman, it would not create kiddushin. Implied is that the status of marriage between woman and woman (and also man and man, it would seem a fortiori) would be meaningless.

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    1. Very interesting. I never really learned much Rambam. The only reason I am surprised by all this is that I have spoken about only Jews being able to be married for years. The Rabbis in my Orthodox schools growing up, the Rabbis that taught me when I moved to Israel, religious Jews that I debate gay marriage with, etc.
      It was always taught that marriage is a gift for just Jews.
      You and HH are the first to question it.
      I would love to learn more about this. I wonder if there is a difference between Ashkanazim and Sphardim.

      Big picture, none of this affects my life. Its one less point when asking my parents to recognize secular gay marriage, but that was always a futile effort.
      I'm just looking to fill what is an obvvious gap knowledge of a subject I thought I was well informed on.

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