With every movement there is an unspoken, unwritten history that tends to be forgotten. The gay rights movement—and specifically the movement for recognition within the Orthodox Jewish community—is no different. Over the past few years there has been an amazing amount of attention to gay and lesbian individual. We have been the subject of panel discussions, video documentaries, op-eds and rabbinical statements. And we have seen progress within the Modern Orthodox community. People know, even if they cannot understand, that it is difficult to be gay and religious. Some have even begun to press for recognition of gay relationships. The forgotten individuals in our stories are our parents.
Obviously, I cannot tell you about the struggles that a parent faces when they discover or are informed of their child’s sexuality because I have not lived on that side of the story. I imagine that some wish their child was heterosexual. Others, if faced with a child who shirks religion in favor of comfort with her sexual identity, may pray that their child find a place in the fold of religious observance. When I came out to my father he was accepting (I was shocked) but disappointed that I would never have the chance to raise a family as he did. My mother wished (wishes? I’m not sure) that I would one day wake up and realize my heterosexuality. They both love me for who I am, but I don’t think they expected or anticipated my homosexuality while raising me.
It is not easy being gay, but it must be hard to know that your child is treated like a second class citizen and condemned by many in society. Little networking or support exists to unify and strengthen these parents in the challenges they face. In the past I’ve mentioned Tmicha, an e-mail list-serve that attempts to do exactly this. I’ve also linked to a blog the documents these struggles. But is this enough? While we protect and fight for our own recognition, we gays and lesbians must also ensure that our parents are shielded from the unfortunate small-mindedness that permeates our society. We must applaud those parents who accept and support us and we must understand those who currently unable to reach this enlightened level of being.
I am grateful for my parents and impressed by the positive energy I have seen emanate from some other parents I know.