Sunday, April 22, 2012

Personal Redemption?

I’m writing this post a few weeks later than I intended, but it remains relevant in the weeks closely following Pesach. 
On Pesach we recount the tale of the four sons: one wise, one wicked, one simple, and one who does not know to ask.  Writers often pay attention to the wicked son because of his distinctive story.  The Haggadic author labels him “wicked”  because he separates himself from his parents nation, asking his father what the story of redemption means to him rather than including himself in those affected by the exodus from Egypt.  The Haggadah commands the father to rebuke this son, for with his attitude the wicked son would not have merited  redemption.   This year, during my family’s first Seder, this story struck a deep cord.  
As a teenager coming to terms with my sexuality, I often had great difficulty relating to my religion and my family.  Try as I might to present a positive attitude and partake in all the sacraments and rites of Judaism, my inner turmoil prevented me from embracing my faith.  And on one Pesach, at what I will forever remember as a low point in my life, I was wicked. 
My family was gathered at the Seder table, recounting the legend of the redemption and conducting the Seder according to customs passed down for generations.  And I, I had locked myself in my room, rejecting my heritage.  To this day I cannot imagine the shame my parents must have felt as extended family and close friends bore witness to my absence. 
But that was then and this is now. 
This year, as I led portions of the Seder at my father’s behest and fielded some of the questions posed by the same friends who were present all those years ago, I realized that I had made a change from wicked to wise.   I now eagerly embrace my heritage, my family, my sexuality, and my faith.   Realizing this, I smiled to myself and continued to partake in the Seder and the holiday with a sense of pride and accomplishment. 
But still, over the next few days something seemed out of place.
For many years after accepting my sexuality I limited the extent to which I came-out to ensure that my siblings’ Shidduchim would not be affected by my sexuality.  My parents did not ask me to do this, but I felt it was appropriate.  Thankfully, the siblings I worried about have all since married and have begun families of their own.  But still, outside of my personal circles of friends and my immediate family, I don’t discuss my sexuality that frequently.  I realized, as I sat around the table with non-immediate relatives and family friends I only see once or twice a year, that most of the people at the table did not know that I am gay. 
I haven’t yet brought a boyfriend home for the holidays and I haven’t done anything to suggest that I am anything other than straight.  Over Pesach I realized that many of the people sitting at the table were probably working off the standard presumption and assuming that I am straight. 
I'm not generally an uncertain person, but I’m not sure what to think about that.  Should what other people know, or don’t know, about me effect my self-confidence?  Does this mean that I haven’t come as far as I thought I have?  I’m certainly not closeted, I just don’t feel the need to share my personal life with someone simply because they are there.   And, for the purposes of full disclosure, there were some people I ran into over the holiday whom I don’t want to know about my sexuality because they lean to the right and I’d rather not rock the boat unnecessarily.  
I’d love to hear your thoughts.