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.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Nonsensical "Values" of Conservatism

According to the Torah, the Jewishness of a child is determined by the father. I know that many of readers will be surprised to read that because today everyone knows that a child's Jewishness is determined by the mother. But if you were to read the Torah, you will see that the many lists of different character's lineage only contain men. Women/mothers did not enter the writer's heads. So what changed? When the Roman Empire conquered Ancient Judea, it became very common for Roman soldiers to rape Jewish women. When a married woman was raped, there was no way of knowing if her child was her husband's or the Roman soldiers. So the Rabbis of the time decided to switch the determining parent from the male to the female.

I know that must surprise many of my readers as well. Rabbis at one point in history actually decided to change and adapt. For thousands of years Judaism revolved around the Temple in Jerusalem. When the Temple was destroyed, the Rabbis once again adapted and changed the religion to survive. All this happened before the idea of "conservatism" was invented (I am referring to the general social/political idea and attitude. Not to be confused with the Conservative religious sect of modern Judaism). 

Today conservatives around the world, Jewish and not Jewish believe that change must be fought. They believe they have certain practices, certain ideas or "values" and any discussion that things might have changed over the last tens, hundreds or thousands of years is simply wrong. But if people had always thought this way, their religions that they love so much would have died out hundreds or thousands of years ago. The world is always changing and smart people know how to learn and adapt where as conservatism insists on staying the same and refusing to adapt as if their attitude will stop time from passing. 

Today religious Jews are absolutely panicked about intermarriage and "assimilation". If a Jewish man marries a non Jewish woman, his bloodline and his lineage are lost to the Jewish people and any children he fathers with his non Jewish wife will not be Jewish. They believe that if this growing trend continues, Judaism as they know it and accept it will disappear. However, since history shows that the Rabbis can and have switched the determining parent between the man and the woman in the past, wouldn't it make sense for Rabbis to say it is enough that one parent be Jewish? Than there would be no danger of their religion vanishing. But their conservative mind set tells them that they cannot bend. The world must not change and their religion must not change. 

A few days ago, 40,000 ultra-orthodox Jewish men went to a rally at Citi-Field in New York to listen to Rabbis warn them about the dangers of the internet. These Rabbis commanded their followers to avoid the internet and warned them that it is evil. (Obviously new technologies and unrestricted access to knowledge is very dangerous to ultra-Orthodox Judaism). One Rabbi, Rabbi Wachsman told the crowd that whoever did not follow these new edicts and bands on the internet would not be able to get into heaven. 

Obviously, I really don't care if people believe Facebook and Gmail will stop them from getting into fantasy "wonderland".  But I must ask again, why be so conservative? Why would the ultra-Orthodox not use the internet to communicate between communities around the globe and share ideas on their religion? There is no value to this kind of conservatism. 

The same conservative attitude is causing all the grief in America over gay marriage. The conservative says that "marriage has always been between one man and one woman and therefore cannot change". Ignoring the fact that that statement is in no way whatsoever even slighly historically accurate, why can't marriage change? Through most of history, marriage was all about producing children. Today marriage is about love. So why can't the "institution" adapt and include the love of two men or two women? If you don't agree with gay marriage, than don't have one. But how does it affect you if someone else does? What do conservatives gain by telling people no? 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

GOProud, Orthodox Gays and Other "Queer" Combinations

Controversial gay activist Dan Savage was recently asked to apologize for comments he made about the Bible. His exact words were "We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people, the same way we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation". The main group demanding this apology, is a group called GOProud, the "gay wing" of the Republican party. While I appreciate that members of GOProud are homosexuals that tend to be fiscally conservative and prefer small government (2 opinions I personally agree with), I cannot understand their social conservatism. How can they defend the evil the Bible says about homosexuals and at the same time call themselves proud gays? 

Even more so, I do not understand how this group can endorse a a candidate for the presidency that wants to write into the US constitution an amendment that is anti gay marriage. I understand party politics. I understand that members of this group can be gay and still religious and therefore don't want their churches and religious institutions to have to change. However, I cannot understand how this group can abandon their fellow human beings that are fighting for what they feel to be their civil rights. I can't understand how they can endorse the homophobia of the Bible and yet claim to be proud?

Similarly, there is a growing trend in Israel of openly gay, orthodox Jews. These men wear kippot, women that dress according to Jewish conservative standards, keep Jewish dietary laws, as well as the Jewish Sabbath and have openly homosexual relationships and march in gay pride parades. Again, this is a group of people that accept the homophobia of the Torah to be the word of the one true "god", but at the same time are proud of their homosexuality? 

While talking about a group of openly gay Catholics in the episode of "Bullshit" dealing with the Vatican, Penn Jillette says, "A gay Catholic seems like a Jewish Nazi to us". While Orthodox Judaism is a little less harsh than the Catholic Church in regards to their view of homosexuals, I have to admit that I find the combination to be somewhat ridiculous and to a large extent self hatting. How can someone claim to both be proud of who they are, including their homosexuality and at the same time believe that an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscience god condemns and hates homosexuality? 

Obviously I agree with Savage and Penn when they dismiss the bible as "bullshit" (their word choice, not mine). How can a book so full of hate and evil be true? But there are these groups that have somehow reconciled their gay pride and their belief in this book and I simply cannot understand how they do it. I am a huge proponent and individual rights and freedoms. I am the last person that will tell these people that they have to change their views or anything like that. But I am genuinely curious about how they mix these contradictions in their lives. I would love to ask any of my readers that have any insight on the subject to please comment on this post. Are these groups delusional or is there something that I am missing?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Night Out with my Wing Girls- A Night to Remember

A few nights ago, I went out with my friends Jessica and Emily. The original plan for the evening was that Emily was going to introduce me to a guy that she thought I might hit it off with. However, in between the time that the plan was made and the day we were supposed to all meet up, this guy found himself a boyfriend. So me and my friends decided we should still go out and have a good time. They had never seen a drag show before, so we went to the Tuesday night show at Evita Bar in Tel Aviv. They also said they were determined to find me a guy.

I am a little nervous about writing about what happened that night. Not because I am embarrassed about anything that happened - not at all. I am just worried that the events of that night cannot be fully appreciated by people that were not there. But I will push my writing skills to the limit and I will try and tell the story over as best as possible. 

We started the night out at a nice restaurant were we had dinner and some cocktails. We later went to Emily's apartment were we drank some vodka. The show was suppose to start at 11pm, so we made it to the bar by 10:15 so that we be would able to stand as close as possible to the stage. While we waited for the show to start, we had more cocktails and shots. 

The drag show was great as always. The main performers were Talula Bonet and Diva D, who are part of the Gevald line that I wrote about in an earlier post. They also had some young guest drag queens that performed wonderfully as well - Karma Sutra and Glory Holy-Wood. During the show my friends had a few more shots.

By the intermission we were all quite drunk. Jess and Emily went hunting for guys to introduce me to. We all started talking with this guy who seemed very nice. But midway through the conversation, some other guy joined our conversation and hit it off with the one we were talking to. I told the girls, "thanks for trying, but you are wasting your efforts". They insisted they would find me someone. We went back in for the second half and had more drinks.

After the show, (around 1am) the place started to empty out. Normally I would go home at this point, but Emily wanted to stay and dance on the stage. All in all, we had a good time dancing, and I even learned a bit how to dance from the girls. Around 230am, we went to sit outside to get some air. That is when he showed up. He was a bit shorter than me, about 5'11'', with medium length blonde hair sticking out from under a beanie, big blue eyes, full lips and an amazing body. He was wearing a wife beater that allowed any on lookers to get a glimpse of a few well placed tattoos on his back and chest. He was walking his dog and asked the guard if he could tie his dog up outside and than he went in. 

My friends followed him in and talked to him for a few minutes, after which they signaled for me to come join them. They bought a round of shots for everyone left in the bar (about 8 people). I stood next to the sexy blonde guy (who we will call B). He put his arm around me and started to talk to me. He was very sweet and very friendly. He pulled me out to dance and we danced for a few minutes. After that he danced with my friends for a bit.

He than came back to me and we talked a bit. He kept telling me how Jess and Emily said so many great things about me and how lucky I am to have such great friends. As we talked he held my hand and played with my fingers. He seemed very interested in me. At some point we went back to the dance floor. He pulled off his shirt and started dancing with me very intensely. He had the softest, smooth skin. I kept noticing his perfect smile and the nice smell of shampoo from his hair. We danced until they turned off the music and told us that the place was closed. 

The girls wanted to go to a near by 24 hour breakfast place (because they were drunk off their asses and needed to eat something). They told B he should join us, but he said he couldn't. Just then some friends of his showed up and he said he had a boyfriend and had to go. He started to walk away than suddenly turned, ran back over to me, gave a quick kiss on the lips and than turned and left. 

Needles to say I was quite frustrated. At this point Jessica and Emily were so drunk that they could barley walk. They sat down on the sidewalk and joked around for about 45 minutes before we finally made it across the street to the breakfast place. The girls ate their food and spilled syrup and water all over each other while I kept thinking how it is possible that I finally met a guy that seemed like he was interested in me and yet am still alone. 

At about 5am the girls finished their breakfast and we started to walk towards Emily's house to drop her off. Along the way I started to tell the girls how I was very frustrated about how things had gone with B. I was holding an empty diet coke bottle which I threw down on the ground in frustration. I looked down to see it shatter, but when I looked up I was shocked. Their was B and his dog asleep on a street bench looking very cold and uncomfortable. 

We were not sure what to do. I went over to him and woke him up. We asked him if he needed anything and told him that he could come sleep at any of our apartments if he needed. He insisted that he was very close to home. He thanked us and than ran off with his dog. 

We were stunned. Here was this really sweet guy that we just got to know and now it would appear that he was in some kind of trouble. At first we thought he must be homeless, but than we realized that could not be the case. His clothes, as well as his body and his dog were all very clean. But than Jessica said she noticed some kind of mark on his arm that made her think he might be using heroin or something of the sorts. A few minutes before I was feeling very low, but after seeing B sleeping on a street bench, all those feelings vanished. All I wanted to do was help him.

But I do not know where he is and I have not seen him since. I have been back on that street a few times since that night and I keep looking and hoping to see him again. I want to make sure he is OK and see if there is anything I can do for him. I want to talk to him and find out what is his story. I want to hold him and to kiss him and listen to what he has to say. I want to be able to tell him that things will be OK. But I probably will never see him again.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly someone can find a place for themselves in my memory. I won't forget how much fun I had dancing with him. I also will not forget the feelings of shock and helplessness I felt when we first saw him asleep on that bench. Where ever you are B, I really hope you are OK. Hugs and kisses from Ami.