The 'normalcy' test
The time has come to understand that while every society has the right to set its own laws to protect itself, there is no justification for a society that does not give its members freedom and security to live their lives.
In a demonstration following the murders at the gay youth club in Tel Aviv, some of the gay and lesbian speakers called on others to come out of the closet. This is because the closet does bad things to us, they said. The closet compels us to live a lie, to live in constant fear. It makes us violent toward ourselves and others. It renders us vulnerable and exposed to blackmail. The closet empowers those who do not allow us to live life, and it moves us to destroy the lives of others.
But it is not just gays and lesbians who need to come out of the closet. Society's demand in Israel "to be like everyone" is draconian. Perhaps this is because we are a familial, close-knit society. Not like in America, where you can move to the other coast, far from family members and what they have to say. Maybe this is because it remains unclear to us what exactly a Jewish state is.
Yet one thing is clear: In Israel, there is great apprehension over "being different." And there is a belief that if we just abide by the rules of the mainstream, life will sail smoothly along without pain or trouble. This appears to be the reason for the aversion to - and the nonacceptance of - anyone who does not obey the strict standard. Their very existence ruins the chance for a perfect life. All forms of differentness - including homosexuality, bachelorhood, declaring one's piety or renouncing that piety - are viewed as flaws, a handicap. While it is impossible to blame the disabled for their limitations, fierce anger is directed at those who are different "by choice." How is it that you choose to be flawed when the straight path that lets you be like everyone else is available?
The establishment also does not recognize those who are different or their rights. And if they do have rights, they are separate, peripheral rights. The education system, for example, opposes the integration of physically and mentally challenged children into regular classes, preferring to banish them to special education programs. Let the different ones be with other different ones.
The time has come to acknowledge that it is impossible to hide from being different and that there are no insurance policies against it. Moreover, any attempt to combat this will put us all in the closet and guarantee us bad lives.
The time has come to understand that while every society has the right to set its own laws to protect itself, there is no justification for a society that does not give its members freedom and security to live their lives. If the laws of a society are destroying the lives of a few within it, then the laws must change.
There is no place for accepting those who are different out of "compassion" or "generosity." One must simply accept the other because each of us is different. But we are equal just the same. Simply because we were born equal. And different. There is no insurance policy for a life without problems, but the only way to improve the chances for such a life is to learn to live as well as possible - all people with their own individual qualities, and all of us together in all our variety.
The responsibility for such a change rests on all our shoulders. Anyone who is gripped by fear throughout one's life and tries to come across as "normal" needs to come out of the closet: No longer fear being gay, lesbian, a religious girl who wishes to pray out loud at a synagogue, a Haredi who watches television, a feminist, a person with an accent, a secular person who fasts on Tisha B'Av, an opponent of the occupation or enlistment in the Israel Defense Forces, someone with different physical features.
We must come out of the closet and oppose all repression, no matter how normal it seems.