A reader writes:
I grew up Orthodox Jewish with both of my parents children of Holocaust victims (one set hid in Greece, the other survived several concentration camps in Poland). I stopped practicing at 18 when I left home, but still keep some of the warmer holidays and traditions, albeit with more modern and universal meanings to the old myths. I pretty much only dated non-Jews (and mostly Catholics at that). My parents didn't know for years, until a few months before I got engaged to my non-practicing Catholic wife.
I knew for sure that they were going to disown me, as it was very clearly explained and promised to me before I even started dating. Even after 7 years, 4 of them with a grandchild they've never met, I haven't heard a peep from them, and I have tried reaching out with love and forgiveness a couple of times.
When I began researching what I thought was an Orthodox Jewish phenomenon, the only first-hand accounts I could find were from gay children coming out to their parents. I think I found one Jewish story, and one other not-jewish, not-gay story, but 99.9% of them were about coming out.
The sadness, shame, longing for their love and approval, etc. are universal, or at least very similar. I was happy to have found the stories I did, though some were much worse than mine.
I think that just as it is important to highlight the specific pain and cruelty sometimes associated with growing up gay, it is also vital to realize that these struggles - of identity and family, modernity and tradition - are not only the particular to gay people. They are particular to all people, trying to balance personal integrity and freedom with the traditions they were born into. It is never easy. But some understanding of its universality is a useful antidote to solipsism and self-pity and victimology.
(Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty.)
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