Posted on February 16, 2014 by Avi Benson-Goldberg
Probably I don’t get this as much as I feel like I do, but hey, we are all humans and so sometimes I go to work in my normal pants and sometimes I go to work in my garish neon-rainbow-flag leather tuchus-less chaps!
This is really a hard one for the Jews to grasp, but it shouldn’t be, because as Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria liked to say, everyone is themselves, it it doesn’t matter if they look on the outside like how they feel on the inside (ברכות) really he just removed Rabbeinu Gamaliel’s decree that only people who’s insides matched their outsides could come and learn: תוכו כברו.
But Bogo and the blog are doing a really good job at learning about gender and identity, so I think we all should: Lacan posits a strong separation between Gender (an identity) and Sex (physical characteristics). Don’t even get me started on performed, anticipated, recieved, or externalized genders; misgendering; cross-gendering. In short, your gender is sort of equal parts what you wish to be perceived as:
Mixed up with how society desires to categorize and perceive you:
And your sex is going to be either your penis and a lack of functional mammary glands or your vagina and rocking functional mammary glands (that is wearable functional art! Marcel Duchamp loves you, God!).
So when you’re shocked because I’m not “gay” like you want me to be, you should really be checking your assumptions of how you relate my gender as I perform it to the gender you perceive as appropriate for an adult gay male from the Northern American continent.
You caught me! I have a hidden dungeon lair! Here’s the part where I’m supposed to do “damage-control” for the straight overlords, and pretend that I never have “indecent” sexual relationships, that I’ve never hooked up with a stranger, etc. There’s a lot of carrot-and-stick out there trying to keep me in line: career opportunities will go away from me; I might be receiving the side-eye from the larger (mainly-straight) Jewish community; I will be branded as that guy!
So I’m going to probably chicken out and cut this from the final product, but here goes:
Yes. And no. I have and am willing to have, cheap one-off sex. I also like to be in relationship. With one person. Because I don’t think I could really manage to be kind and loving to more than one person in that way. And you know what? Tons, metric tons of straight people, are also doing this. It just gets a free pass, because straight sex is imperceptible due to its prevalence in our culture.
please note I am but one homosexual. Other homosexuals may hate the word homosexual. Other homosexuals may disagree with this. Many homosexuals date, get gay married (which is where everything matches and is made out of Gucci’s personal collection), and never fool around, or have kinky sex, or whatever. But the important queer question I want to ask back, then, is why? What’s special to you as an individual to want to buy into what is, ultimately, a tool of patriarchal social control? Find your reason. If you don’t you can’t own it, and you can be owned by it. Maybe no one should be married and we should make it easier for people to live as individuals, and shower them with love when they decide they want to join their individualness with someone else, because they want to have a team-mate to go the long road with!
Not a question. Rude! You can’t see it because we’re on the computer here, but I’m giving you such a side-eye. #throwingshade!
I think this is a good question. It’s a little broad, and shows a lack of reading comprehension, but A for effort, as we say. The text says…
die in a fire homosexuals!
Just kidding! It says:
ואת זכר לא תשכב משכבי אשה תועבה הוא
I took out the vowels and the trope. Those aren’t in the text ;). And anyways, we aren’t Karaites. So I don’t know that I care so much about what the Torah says, because I know the Rabbis are going to come along and help me make it much worse.
Ultimately, for me, I can only do one thing (it’s really a lot of smaller things put together): I trust my instinctive reading of Leviticus which is that it’s the big book of “don’t do what Canaanites do.”
I don’t think that the sort of relationships I have with men really fall under the larger umbrella of idol worship. On the one hand, I am neither God nor the majority opinion of the Rabbis, so I don’t count for much. On the other hand, which one of us is alive?! (h/t Nietzche)
This is the hardest question, because usually people don’t actually want to hear my answer as much as they want to fight with me from one side or the other. As Queen Bey says: All them fives need to listen when a ten is talking.
What does that mean? If you’re stepping to me, asking me to tell you something about my life, you gotta feel like my answers are worth hearing. Otherwise, you’re too basic for me to keep up with you. Which leads us to:
OFTEN THIS COMES ALONG WITH “CAN I HAVE A GOLD STAR FOR BEING A DECENT HUMAN BEING?”
Here’s the deal kids. The rules are simple. Like, forget Jesus and the Greeks if you want. ואהבת רעך כמוך. It’s not like he learned it from scratch. It’s right there, black on white! And even when the Rabbis clarified for us, they didn’t limit it to something trivial.
This is pretty much fundamental Judaism. And modern Humanism. So no. No gold star because you stopped being sexist, racist, homophobic, a huge jerk. That’s like asking for a gold star because today, you kept breathing all day!
Don’t get it twisted, even though I’m answering 10 questions I made up that approximate the average of the top 50 questions I have ever gotten, I’m not here to be your private tutor. That’s your job. I’m going to give you a great big bibliography—and anything that I said here that made you uncomfortable, that riled you, I challenge you to read up on that. Question why you felt threatened! Assess your privilege.
Here’s what I will tell you—the key to being an ally, and even an advocate, is to remember that your job isn’t to silence whoever it is you’re working with. And when you step forward and use your privilege powers to speak up for that group, it’s very easy to silence them. Right now, I am guaranteed silencing various other members of the Pardes queer community; of the larger queer Jewish community; of the queer community at large. If you want to be a good ally, don’t let the story stop with me. Talk to a homeless trans* youth of color; ask a young lesbian woman from India what her life is; Kimberlé Crenshaw posits that we cannot disentangle the different worlds of privilege and oppression we inhabit—she calls this intersectionality—and my intersectionality is pretty comfy to the outside observer. (my Frum followers will recall this as marit ayin. I don’t get a choice, right?)
moment of silence for Mikveh I live in Jerusalem because it’s a beautiful place; because I’ve never had the chance not to live in Jerusalem; because it has the distinct troubles of intersectionality built in—Jews, Christians, Muslims; Arab-Israelis, Jewish-Israelis, erasure of identities, explosion of suppressed identities into the larger discourse.
Tel Aviv doesn’t have the Black Panthers.
There are plenty of gay people in Jerusalem. Less of them may be out than in Tel Aviv. But to be honest, Tel Aviv is not the bastion of free and open gay love that the hasbaranikim and the board of tourism wants you to think.
This just shows you didn’t do your research very well.
Adam is the man, Eve is the woman.
Oh, I’m sorry, you meant in my relationships and sexual encounters! That’s a pretty poor understanding you have—see, gay means we are both men! Or if I were a woman, both women! Neither of us is the woman.
There’s what to unpack here about the language that LGBTQI and BDSM communities use:
I see that you map that like this: “passive” recipient of sex act = submissive = woman; “active” initiator of sex act = dominant = man. That’s pretty limited. It’s pretty accurate to Judaism, depending on how you choose to read the texts, and the worries about the Rabbis.
At times I’m pretty sure the Rabbis are worried that the women are the active, dominant parts of the bedroom. This is a very complicated and involved process. Let’s have lunch to explain that one.
In general, I am the man. He is the other man. Usually, I am the one more in love.
No! That would be z’nut. Which is forbidden!
More seriously, I feel confident that you haven’t tried an exclusivity test to confirm that you don’t actually have secret latent homosexuality. So I won’t ask you why you haven’t just tried!
Give me a break, interlocutor, these questions are getting sort of boring and repetitive.
Well, I’m good at it. I didn’t know I was at first. But I’m interesting in talking Jewish, and I had approximately everyone tell me to go to Pardes. It took me a while to accept that sort of sign.
I learn Gemara because at Pardes you are required to learn Rabbinics and Chumash, and after about 3 hours of Rabbinics I was hooked. I learn Gemara because someone taught me once that there are 70 paths to Torah, and the Messiah will come when we’ve uncovered them all.
Did I mention that I’m good at it? It’s important to me to advise you that I had acute appendicitis in the middle of finishing this post, and I lost the thread, which is why these answers grow progressively less urgent, less focused. Shorter.
This isn’t a question either, buddy. Here’s what I got for you, it’s like the cosmic TL;DR of this blog-post (series?).
I do not think I’m alone in saying that I regularly navigate an untenable course between two very appealing but usually exclusive identities. I like being a contemporary gay man from the secular world. I like buying into traditional Jewish mores. I’m really tired of microagression from both sides. It’s not going to stop anytime soon, and to say “both sides,” as if there are only two sides is laughable. Ben has been asking recently about what his seat at the table looks like. I guess I’m not even sure I know I have a seat at the table. As long as my colleagues will say, good-naturedly!, that ‘after all, you don’t really *care* about the halachic system,’ because I’m vocal about my dissatisfactions with the current place I have at the table; because I’m tired of being a respectable gay man; because I can’t see my way to the damn table, forget about if there’s a chair there—as long as this happens, I’m not really here.
I’m still the 14 year old kid who grew up in a family that tried to celebrate each of its children for their talents and gifts and humanity, that taught us that to love was the point; that 14 year old kid who was afraid to say yes, I am gay, thank you because he didn’t want to miss out on being in.
I’ve missed out on a lot, but being gay at Pardes hasn’t been one of them. Not yet.