Searching for the light

Finding a place to be Jewish and gay

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Growing up in the 90s felt like living on the edge of the sea. Technology was rapidly evolving, and my brain was sufficiently malleable to adapt to each wave. The progression of technology, however, didn't instantly revolutionize our culture. 

We were still living in a socially conservative society, and our culture was glacially slow to expand our sense of community to those who'd previously felt excluded. The near total lack of queer representation onscreen didn't keep me from being gay. It simply meant that I felt "othered." The gay characters I did see were either hopeless addicts or conniving gossips, and it felt like self-sabotage to dream of my future. 

I wanted the life my parents have--to marry my best friend, live in a two-story house with a backyard, adopt a couple dogs, and have three children whose faces and personalities were perfect collages of my spouse and myself.

With each passing year, it became harder to see myself in those dreams. I was never "groomed" into being gay. If anything, I was groomed by bullies and adults who let kids make fun of me, compelling me to pretend to be straight until I was 19. The shame was forced upon me by thousands of years of strategically crafted hatred. 

Love has often been called the most powerful force in the universe because it can push people to do extraordinary things, but our love only extends so far. Our families and friends hold sway in our hearts, but hate knows no bounds. Love can bring life into the world, but hate can murder millions.

We're all trying our best to experience every ounce of joy we possibly can before our one shot at life comes to an end, and few things are more heartbreaking than to spend this life lonely. To find a community that understands you and knows you as well as you know yourself is like opening your thousandth chocolate bar and finally being greeted by glittering gold.

When I first discovered YLD Pride, it felt like the sun's first glimmers upon a storm-wrecked world. I'd grown to expect rejection and disappointment from strangers to the point that I'd hide who I truly am. Now, all of a sudden, it was me they wanted to meet. My first Shabbat at a table full of queer Jews could only be described as coming home.

As it turned out, the Jewish and gay halves of my identity weren't two puzzle pieces that fit perfectly together, or two sides of the same coin--they were one and the same. A singular, unanimous, whole-hearted, and ferociously adamant me. To be proudly gay no longer meant I had to bend over backwards to prove myself worthy of my ancestors' sacrifices. Being proudly gay suddenly became the only way I could make them proud.

For thousands of years, both Jews and queer people have been vilified without reason. As we kick off Pride Month, let's remember that the only way we as a species can heal the wounds of hate is to spread love as energetically as we possibly can. Hate might seem like the most powerful force in the universe, but if we stand united and love as loudly as possible, even the darkest of storms will be drowned out by light.

YLD Pride--a group of JUF and the Young Leadership Division--offers a place for LGBTQ+ Jews in Chicago to connect, and aims to build and support a stronger, more vibrant Jewish LGBTQ+ young adult community in Chicagoland. Check out YLD Pride at juf.org/YLDPride and at Facebook.com/groups/YLDPride .

Adam Greitzer is the current Chair of the YLD Pride Committee. He works for the LA-based Motion Picture Corporation of America, and is an active and proud member of both the Jewish and LGBTQ+ communities.


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