Shalom, bracha, and Happy Pride Day, Tel Aviv!
African-American Jewish hip-hop artist Y-Love, who came out the closet three weeks ago, sends greetings to Tel Aviv's Gay Pride parade Friday.
After coming out a few weeks ago there has been a lot of buzz, much of which came from the Jewish community. Having struggled with the closet since converting to haredi Judaism in 2000, for years the question "What will the religious community say?" was the reason I lived in secrecy - it was the reason I never pursued a normal life and family. I endured Shabbat and holidays with matchmakers setting me up with women for years. Never did I think that there would be an accepting voice in the religious community - however much progress our secular brothers and sisters had made in LGBT acceptance.
Since coming out, the outpouring of support I have received from the religious community has dwarfed any negativity, so much so that I regret not coming out years ago. One rabbi from St. Louis and a rebbetzin from New York have offered to be matchmakers for me. I have found LGBT Orthodox congregations – and one for LGBT Jews of Color. Every fan I lost was replaced by 3 supportive allies. One haredi rabbi from Israel who booked me on an Israel tour even tagged me on Facebook - when I was sure he would be angry for being "deceived" out of his investment. One prominent anti-gay rabbi made an oppositional video - only to have the page inundated with supportive comments denouncing his homophobia.
And perhaps most importantly, the messages have been coming in from gay Orthodox Jews who feel empowered, other Jews who have been inspired to reveal their truths and tell their stories - to Orthodox families and communities who have likewise accepted them.
In many ways, we are the Jewish "Stonewall generation" - much like the generation of LGBT pioneers in New York City in 1969. For the first time, the majority of U.S. Jews belong to a stream of Judaism which affirms same-sex unions. For the first time, even Orthodox teens have access to LGBT-supportive safe havens, support groups, and allies. And the anti-gay voices are increasingly getting marginalized by a culture long since fed up with bigotry.
We in the LGBT community still have a long way to go before we achieve equality and parity - but we are the generation moving faster than any of our forebears towards that goal. Just celebrating Pride in the Holy Land is an achievement not to be taken lightly. Be'ezrat Hashem we have only seen the beginning of what we, united, can accomplish! It not only gets better, it has gotten better, and we keep making it better every day.
Y-Love is a Jewish hip-hop artist, advocate for social change and ex-Hasid. Twitter: @ylove.
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