Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Impossible Dream

So far in my life, I have had very bad luck in the romance department. I have fallen in love twice and once someone has fallen for me. In the first case (that I have actually written about before), the guy was straight. So that had never had a chance of becoming anything. In the second case, the guy simply said that “I am not his type”. Then there was the one guy who claimed to be in love with me. He was a nice enough guy and I was attracted to him, but I was in no way in love with him. In fact, I often found him to be very annoying.

This has left me feeling very pessimistic. Am I doomed to fall for guys that are unattainable? Will I always go for guys that are “out of my league”? Should I consider settling? If there is a guy that falls for me, should that be enough?

My greatest fear in life is ending up alone, never having had a loving relationship. So maybe that means I should compromise. I have been told that my view of love is “too Disney”. Could it be that my standards are too high and my dreams unrealistic? If that is the case, than I am simply setting myself up for a life of disappointment and failure.

There are days that I feel that it is an impossible dream and that I will never find the guy that loves me the same way I love him. I think to myself that in order to not end up alone, the next time I find someone that claims to love me, I should just stick with them even if I do not love him.

However, simply not being alone is not enough for me. I want a guy that when I look into his eyes, I see that he is looking lovingly back into my eyes. I want someone that I will be excited to come home to and that will miss me when we are apart. I don’t think this is impossible, but it definitely feels like it is impossible. Who knows? I hope the day will come that I will look back at this post and laugh about how pessimistic I was and how wrong I ended up being.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Big Anniversary

The other day was an important anniversary for me. On August 14th, 2011 I told my parents that I was gay. It was an extremely difficult day for all of us. While I my parents told me they loved me and would never cut me off, they cried a lot and had a very difficult time grasping the game changing news.
For me it was the point of no return. I was out of the closet and going to live my life as an openly gay man. My parents knew and I was hoping that there was a way that we could be as close as ever in spite of all that had just happened. So as shocking, scary and difficult as that day was, I really hoped that things would eventually improve.

For a while it was difficult. The subject often felt like the pink elephant in the room that no one wanted to talk about. When the subject did come up, my parents approached it in a very somber and sad way. Of course I understood - I had really shaken up their world.

But the good news is that things did improve. A few months ago my mom called me to tell me that she had read a good review about a café in Tel Aviv that was known as a popular hangout for gay guys in the city. This was a huge step! Not only did she recommend a gay hang out to me, it was a non-Kosher restaurant. Just a year earlier, when I was in Vietnam and I posted pictures of good food I had been eating, my dad called me saying that they could not handle seeing pictures on non-Kosher food that I ate. Now, my mom was recommending this café. Why? Because she loves me and thought I would enjoy it.

A few months later, after there was a sudden wave ofhomophobic comments being made by a few Israeli politicians, my mom called me and we discussed how she and my dad thought what was being said was horrible. A year earlier, I am not sure my parents would have disagreed with the statement that gays should be banned from serving in the army. Now my parents said to me that they think gays should be allowed to serve. What a turnaround!

Over the last year I have learned that my parents love for me is great enough and strong enough that they can learn to accept that I am gay and even change some of their preconceived ideas about gays. Are things perfect? No. But they are better and I am sure things will continue to improve. I am very lucky to have such great, loving parents and I love them very much.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Kosher and the Politics of Food

A big part of being a religious Jew has to do with the religious dietary laws know as "Kashurt" or "kosher". Basically the Torah lays out a list of animals that can be eaten and those that are forbidden to eat. As most people know, religious Jews can eat beef and chicken, but not pork or shell fish. On top of that, the Torah has a cryptic line about cooking a baby calf in its mother's milk, which rabbis have interpreted to meaning that it is forbidden to mix dairy and meat products. So no cheeseburgers allowed either.

Of course as everything in orthodox Judaism, there was a need to make this more complicated. There are time periods to wait between eating meet and dairy. There is a need for separate tools and utensils. Then there are hundreds of different stringency added by different rabbis and groups over the years. All this has led to food politics in the religious Jewish world.

Kosher restaurants and kosher food producers must get certification that their food is kosher by some rabbi organization  In America there is the OU, the OK, the Start K and many others. In Israel there is The Chief Rabbanit, "Adah Charedi", "Bedatz"," Bet Yosef" and others. All of these different certifications mean the food is kosher. However, different people wont eat from certain certifications because it is associated with a specific rabbi, or not associated with a specific rabbi. Or even because one certification is given by rabbis of Middle-Eastern heritage as opposed to European heritage. Supposedly the places you will eat from say something about your connection to Judaism. People proudly say, "I only eat food from x certification", or "I would never step foot into a place with y certification".

Back when I was religious, I always hated the food politics. In my eyes, if it was kosher and tasty, I would eat it. If it was not tasty, or not kosher I wouldn't eat it. Why should their be politics involved in my food? Food is to be enjoyed and sustain your body. Nothing more. But now, somehow the politics of food has become a big deal in the U.S.

Recently, CEO of the fast food chain "Chick fil a", Can Cathy, came out and said that he is against marriage equality because he thinks it will piss off god and god will than take his anger out on America. It also became common knowledge that "Chick fil a" donates money to many anti-gay hate groups such as "The Family Research Council". In response, those that are for gay rights called for a boycott of the fast food chain. This  makes because if you would not want your money going to the groups Cathy donates to, why would you pay pay for his products. It does not make sense if you simply don't agree with his own personal beliefs. Chances are you buy stuff every day from people that you do not agree with. Everyone is different and won't always agree.

Rainbow Pride Flag outside Chick fil a in protest

The calls for boycott were followed by religious right-wing leaders like Mike Huckabee saying that people that support "traditional marriage" should go out of their way to support "Chick fil a". He even called for a national "Chick fil a" appreciation day. So now, people went out of their way to wait in long lines for mediocre fast food chicken, not because they wanted to eat the chicken, rather because they wanted to make a statement about their position on marriage. The politics of food has come to America.

People waiting in very very long lines to buy their chicken

Personally, if the CEO had stated his own personal belief and did not donate to hate groups, I would probably eat at "Chick fil a". I always said I will never deny myself a product because I don't agree with the politics of the provider. Nor would I go out of my way to get a product because I agree with the provider's politics. Food is food and mixing it with politics is silly. Millions of people around the world are starving while we have the luxury to chose whatever yummy food we may want. So why would we start denying ourselves food because of something like politics.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Jerusalem Pride Parade

Yesterday was the 10th annual Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade. People that do not know much about Jerusalem might not realize how significant it is that there is a pride parade in the city that is holy to Judaism. Christianity and Islam. So here is some background.

For around two thousand years, Jews, Christians and Muslims and been killing each other over the ownership of the city. However, the three religions seem to be able to find common ground and work together when it comes to the issue of gay pride in the city. Every year since the first parade in 2002, the radical religious groups in the city and from around the world try and do everything they can to stop the parade from happening. In 2005, one particular nutcase rushed into a group of marchers with a knife, stabbing 3 people. In 2006. the threat of violence against the parade was so great that the police said they could not guarantee the safety of the participants. So the parade was moved to a stadium and no spectators were aloud.

Besides Jerusalem's special significance to the 3 major monotheistic religions, it has a large personal significance as well. I lived in Jerusalem or in its suburbs for around 8 years. When I dreamed of coming to Israel as a young boy to" fulfill my religious and nationalistic duties", I dreamed of the city of Jerusalem. When I first started to leave the religion, living in Jerusalem made it very difficult. The secular community of Jerusalem is shrinking and it lives in the shadows of the growing ultra-orthodox communities. When I would tell people that I did not believe in god, they would look at me like I was a total lunatic. The city life also revolves around religious life, meaning that from Friday night to Saturday night pretty much everything is closed and all you can do is stay home.

Coming out as gay in Jerusalem was even more difficult. For about a year I worked as a security guard at Jerusalem's Hebrew University. It was not uncommon to see some of my coworkers make fun of openly gay students. On a number of occasions, I heard coworkers announce how they would refuse to work side by side a gay security guard. Needless to say, I was always very worried that someone at work would find out I was gay. So Jerusalem became a symbol of my old religious, closeted life.I could not wait to get away and move to a more tolerant city like Tel Aviv.

Today, when I go back to Jerusalem to visit and I see all the men dressed in black and all the women with their hair covered and in long heavy clothes in the summer, I think to myself "how was this ever a part of my life? I am so glad I got away from it and can live my life freely and in a way that will make me happy".So now going back to Jerusalem for a pride parade, I was looking forward to celebrating how far I had come in the last few years.

You can be sure that the Jerusalem Pride Parade is very different than most other parades. It is more of a protest than a celebration. The sidewalks were not full with cheerful spectators rooting the marchers on, rather the sidewalks were pretty empty. There were a few people clapping here and there. There where a few people making rude hand gestures. But mostly there was just police.

My personal highlight was when the parade passed by "Hachel Shlomo", the offices of the Israeli Chief Rabbanit. The chief rabbis are among the leaders of the anti-Jerusalem pride parade camp. They say how having LGBTQ people march in the "holy city" is a desecration. But there I was, marching past their offices anyways. Tolerance had beaten superstition and hate. For years religion made me deny and feel ashamed about being gay. And now I was marching in a gay pride parade, holding a rainbow pride flag, in Jerusalem, right under the noses of the intolerant and hateful rabbis. What a feeling!

That is me holding my flag during the parade. The tall building with the dome in the background, is  "Hachel Shlomo", the offices of the Israeli Chief Rabbani   

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Confessions of an Insomniac

Lately I have been suffering from insomnia. I will have 2,3 or 4 sleepless nights in a row. This is followed by a night in which I pass out and cannot even wake up in the morning. I wake up after 12 hours of sleep and then the cycle repeats itself. It would be wonderful if I could put all these extra "awake hours" to good use. I have a thesis that is due soon, a seminar paper, summer classes and tests for which I need to study. But no, this time is waste. I am too tired and frustrated to focus on anything important. Instead I lay awake in bed frustrated, hoping to fall asleep.

For as long as I can remember, I always had trouble falling asleep. On average, it would take me an hour or 2 of lying in bed to actually fall asleep. But I use to enjoy the time in bed, surrounded by the darkness and left to my thoughts. When I was little I would imagine I was a super hero or something fun like that. When I got older I used to fantasize about becoming an amazing, professional hockey player (quite the fantasy), or about romance, and of course about sex. Sometimes I even put the time to good use and I would make plans, or set new goals for myself. So, I was never really bothered by that hour or so that it took me to fall asleep.

But today it is different. It is no longer just an hour or so. I am awake pretty much the whole night. My mind no longer wonders to fantasies and dreams. Rather I get nervous about school. I think of all the work that needs to be done at my job. I wonder why I fall in love with guys that do not love me. I look at the clock and get frustrated at the fact that I am still awake. I count back how many hours are left for me to sleep before I must wake up.

I am not sure why my insomniac nights are such downers. I do have a lot of pressure to meet a number of super important deadlines that are quickly approaching. But other than that things are looking up. Hopefully I will soon graduate from my Masters program. If all goes according to plan, in just a few more months I will be moving to Vietnam and hopefully getting the chance to press the restart button on my life. I have good friends and I live in a wonderful city in which there is always something to do. However, in spite of all this, my sleepless nights remain negative.

I am not sure why I am writing this post. But it is 1:00am and I am lying in bed, dead tired, yet wide awake. Maybe writing about it will put my mind at ease and I will get some sleep. Tomorrow evening is the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade. I know it will be very different than the Tel Aviv Pride Parade from a few weeks ago. You can be sure there will be a post about that.

Goodnight world and here's hoping I fall asleep soon!