Frum Gay Girl: Chicago LGBT Activist, Goldie Goldbloom

I was surprised this morning to read an article in the Windy City Times about frum gay activist, Goldie Goldbloom, who recently gave a lecture, sponsored by Lavender University, on being gay in the orthodox community. The timing of her lecture coincides with Illinois becoming the 15th state to legalize same sex marriage.  The lecture is linked below.

My surprise is on two levels. The first level is that I am surprised to discover that Goldbloom is the author of a provocative new blog called, Frum Gay Girl.  I’ve been reading this blog for awhile, fascinated by the stories of frum lesbian women, some closeted and some out, within the orthodox community.  Perhaps more fascinating is that the women interviewed come from ultra orthodox or chassidish communities.  Goldie Goldbloom identifies as chassidish, and says that she lives in the chassidish community of West Rogers Park.  Hence, my second level of surprise.

I have never heard of nor met Goldie Goldbloom.  I also live in West Rogers Park, but I identify as modern orthodox, and my children attend schools that cater more to the modern orthodox community.  Interestingly, she mentions a lecture that happened a few years ago, sponsored by the Chicago Rabbinical Council, that advocated for compassion and inclusion of frum gay Jews.  It was a lecture that I attended, and it’s interesting to know that she was also in the audience.  I remember not recognizing anyone in the packed lecture hall, and feeling alone (among my personal acquaintances) in my desire to have gay or lesbian Jews feel accepted in our community.  I wondered if the audience members were actually gay people, friends and family of gay people, or simply professionals working within the community who dealt with frum gay people (it’s less risky to attend such an event from the detached vantage point of a professional).

In her lecture, Goldbloom speaks about a presentation given that night by Rabbi Chaim Rapoport, the head of the London Beis Din, who counsels and advocates on behalf of frum gay Jews.  She mentions four points that Rabbi Rapoport finds essential when trying to assist gay Jews – that they shouldn’t lose their lives due to depression, drugs, or risky sexual behavior; that homosexual Jews shouldn’t lose their family and friends; that they shouldn’t lose their rabbis, shuls or communities; and that they shouldn’t lose their relationship with God.

Goldbloom is adamant that she can and will live both as an orthodox Jew and an openly gay woman.  She doesn’t believe it needs to be one or the other.  She won’t give up her faith, and she is incapable of giving up her sexual orientation.  She recounts a disturbing conversation with an orthodox principal of a Jewish day school where she was thinking of transferring her son.  The rabbi had one question to ask her, “Do you have gay sex?”  He told her that if she was having gay sex then her son did not belong in his school.  She responded, “Do your kids know when you have sex?”  In other words, kids should not know when their parents are having sex, whether gay or straight – much less, what kind of sex they are having.  What goes on in her bedroom should have no relevance as to whether or not her son attends an orthodox school.

Goldbloom said that in 2 1/2 months, her blog, Frum Gay Girl, has gotten 0ver 28,000 views from across the globe.  Over 1/3 of viewers are from other extremist societies such as Iraq and Iran.  Goldbloom says that it’s indicative that issues of homosexuality and acceptance are universal among right wing societies. The blog contains “voices from the closet” in the ultra orthodox community.  In one anecdote, Goldbloom talks about posting an interview with a Satmar gay woman.  The next morning, she got a note from her Chicago area Satmar rebbetzin who had been shown the blog.  Goldbloom and this rebbetzin are friends and have a good repore, so the rebbetzin was honest when she wrote  “I know it’s not PC (politically correct) to say, but I really wish gay people would go back in the closet!”  Goldbloom said it was too late, the closet door is already open.

Goldbloom’s main point was that LGBT people need to stake their claim in the orthodox world and not be driven out.  That doesn’t mean that they have to fly their rainbow flag in the middle of shemoneh esrei, it just mean that they have to remain part of the community.  It’s easy to demonize and stereotype gay people when you don’t know any.  Many frum people claim that there are no homosexual Jews.  Goldbloom cites an interview done by Oprah Winfrey, in which a group of Lubavitch women insist that they don’t know anyone who is homosexual.  They say this an extreme occurance and even if it did happen the person in question would not broadcast it to the community.

By her own example, Goldbloom is proving that there is a way to remain both frum and gay. While she admits that she lost some friends by coming out, she also says that she is pleasantly surprised by how many people in her shul and community remain welcoming. If Goldbloom can maintain both identities, it is possible for other gay Jews to also live authentically as both Jews and homosexuals, without denying either facet of themselves.

46 thoughts on “Frum Gay Girl: Chicago LGBT Activist, Goldie Goldbloom

  1. I have been wondering for a while who the author of this blog is. I wish she would make the blog more reader friendly and that if they are in fact interviews, they would actually show more emotion. It comes off very two-dimensional. For a while, I was convinced the blog was written by a man.

    • Hi RZ! I have to say that I did wonder if some of the interviews were fictional. Apparently not. One thing I will admit to, is that I was disturbed by the interview with the lesbian mikvah lady. As someone who is embarrassed by the process anyway, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a lesbian woman or a straight man as my shomer or shomeret. Now that I know that the blog author is based in Chicago, I have to wonder if the mikvah lady she interviewed is too!

      • That would definitely freak me out. Not because I think they would be looking at me but more because it would be another reason to dread the mikva experience.
        (p.s. coming from the girl who had her (now ex) mother-in-law as a mikva lady)

        • Thanks for the information. The interview described the mikvah lady as being extremely respectful and striving maintain the tzniut of the women she served. Even so, that still wouldn’t make me feel more comfortable…but we each come from a different place and with our own baggage.

      • The moral of all of this is that gay Jews have been sitting next to you in shul, teaching your children, being your friends, witnessing your marriages, etc all along. The question is, will you create a community that will allow them to live an authentic Jewish life without having to deny who they are to themselves or to their community?
        Regarding the mikvah attendant, it’s important to remember that most people, gay or straight, are sexually attracted to only a very small percentage of people that they encounter. My guess is that a straight mikvah lady could be far less thoughtful and conscientious about maintaining tzniut than the interviewee in question.

        • “My guess is that a straight mikvah lady could be far less thoughtful and conscientious about maintaining tzniut than the interviewee in question.”

          That’s a similar argument used from women who prefer male OB/GYNs over female OB/GYNs. They feel that men are more compassionate than women in this area. If it works for other women, that’s great. That argument never worked for me. It’s a personal preference.

        • As someone who always found the mikvah ordeal difficult and intimidating, I agree that so much depends on the personality and demeanor of the mikvah lady. I had experiences with mikvah ladies who made me uncomfortable – usually because they asked personal questions and/or tried to snip every bit of skin from my hands. The one I had most recently, for many years, is a tzadekes. Welcoming, cheerful, but not nosy in the least, she made the process easier to bear, no matter how much I had been dreading it. I have no idea whether or not she’s straight, but as most people are, I assume she is. It would not have made any difference to me. Her heartfelt “Tizku l’mitzvos!” told me all I needed to know about her character.

  2. As always there is a tension between communal and individual needs.
    Individuals need to be treated with compassion and respect, while at the same time, the community we need to uphold the ideals of the Torah without normalizing that which the Torah calls immoral.
    Navigating that tension is supremely difficult

    • I think that there is room to love and accept all Jews, without delving into the personal details of their sex lives. After all, if we delved into the sexual improprieties of straight orthodox Jews, would we even be able to make a minyan on Shabbos? If we disavowed every frum Jew who, for example, masturbated, cheated on taxes, spoke loshon horah, or otherwise behaved in a manner against the Torah, our shuls would stand empty.

      • Indeed, Sharon I agree that people widely engage in wrong behavior, whether financial, sexual, whatever..,
        I think the difference is that nobody is trying to make that behavior normative.
        Nobody announces to the world I cheat on my taxes, or I masturbate, now accept my behavior as perfectly normal and in consonance with the values of the Torah. (How to deal with convicted criminals is a whole other discussion)
        The publicly anonounced gay Jew does exactly that.
        I’m not interested in what goes on in people’s bedrooms, but when they publicly announce what goes on and demand acceptance of the lifestyle as no different than a heterosexual marriage, I have a problem with that.

  3. Anonymous question via email –

    How would you feel about a school that accepted families with 2 mommies or 2 daddies? Any thoughts on that?
    Is it a good idea/bad idea? Do the values that the school is trying to espouse matter? Does the value of ahavas yisrael trump all?

    How would family events be handled: birthday parties in the home, play dates…etc.. when there are 2 daddies/mommies obviously living together and at the party. Can you see some parents objecting that the lifestyle openly violates the norms and values the school is trying to espouse?

    interested in your opinion

    I think that children who come from homes with 2 daddies or 2 mommies should be accepted. Why alienate these children? Why alienate the parents until they leave yiddishkeit altogether, thus alienating future generations of Jews, as they also remove their children from the community? I took my son to a birthday party hosted by an openly gay single woman for her child. She didn’t have a partner at her home during the party – but I don’t know if that was purposeful or if she wasn’t in a relationship. She had a lovely home, and hosted an appropriate event for her child. Why should the community shun her and her child based on her sexual preference? Actually, the only way I found out she was gay was because of an article in the newspaper…she is something of an activist. She didn’t advertise it to the class or the school.

    On the flip side, how would you feel if you took your child to a birthday party where the husband and wife were draped over each other the entire time, making out, and causing everyone to feel uncomfortable? Inappropriate behavior doesn’t have a sexual preference. I would assume that gay couples would know how to behave with proper decorum at a family/kid friendly event, the same way a heterosexual couple would.

  4. i dont think the objection is to open sexual behavior. yes, adults (should) know how to act appropriately regardless of orientation. The issue is the reality itself, a family with 2 dads or 2 moms. Is that something the parent body of a yeshiva should be thrust into explaining to their children?
    and if yes, how does one broach the topic?

        • I’m the queen of honesty ;)

          I’ll start by saying that I do not have kids, but if I did (and when I do)….
          I don’t think you can be frum and live a gay lifestyle. I wouldn’t want my kids to be surrounded by behaviors that I don’t find acceptable.
          I know I sound very closed minded and offensive and I don’t mean to. I do not hate or dislike people who are different than me.

          Sorry If I’m not coming off clear.

      • One of my best friends is a gay parent, her daughter has two mommies. I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that having to explain to my own daughter why her friend had two moms was one of the most eye opening and refreshing conversations I’ve had. You don’t approve of the lifestyle? Don’t live it. They’re not doing anything in front of you except for maybe holding hands.

        It’s far easier to teach our children tolerance at a young age than for us to squirm at their intolerance and hate at an older age.

  5. appreciate the honesty
    i happen to agree… this question aought not be framed in a context of “homophobia” or closedmindedness.
    It should be viewed as what are the goals of a yeshiva (specifically)
    People send to yeshiva and yeshivas are created to try to teach and model behaviors that reflect the values of the torah.
    The difference between that and say a family wherre the father is a convicted felon, is that the felon goes to jail; no one tries to make that behavior as normative

      • not what i meant
        i was answering the obvious question: Why are we not as reticent to having children of convicted felons in our schools? They also have publicly behaved in a way that the Torah forbids.
        for my answer, see above. although the problem of Orthodox criminals is a terrible one, that could engender a whole other discussion

        • “Why are we not as reticent to having children of convicted felons in our schools? They also have publicly behaved in a way that the Torah forbids.”

          Why? Because in many of these white collar crime cases, there is wealth and money involved. If you can make a sizable donation to the yeshiva, not only will your kids be accepted, they’ll put up a nice big plaque on the doorway with your family name. Also, and more importantly, there is the concept in some (not all!) Jewish day schools that cheating non-Jews/the government out of money isn’t halachically a crime. A completely misguided theory, but somehow, one that is an unspoken feeling among certain segments of the frum population. I suspect that if a wealthy homosexual frum couple wanted to dedicate a new wing to a yeshiva in exchange for admission, their child would be accepted, as long they kept their status as low key as possible.

      • That’s not what he’s saying.

        It’s pretty obvious that we all come from different sects of Judaism. While, I don’t believe that completely sheltering children is the answer, I do see the positive in it.

        Growing up, we were the only family on the block with a TV and kids were not allowed to play at our house. Back then, I didn’t understand the need for such control. Now, I get that it’s your job as aparent to educate and protect your child from environments that threaten their spiritual wellbeing, not just physical wellbeing.

        It all comes down to what your goals are for your children and even yourself. If you want to be tolerant and accepting to any lifestyle, then fine. I can’t justify sending a kid to a BY or yeshiva with a dual curriculum and teaching them halacha and then promoting a gay lifestyle as permissible.

        • I agree that promoting a gay lifestyle in an orthodox day school would go against the basic tenants of the faith. However, seeing as there are homosexual people born in the frum community, and that it’s likely that there are closeted gay students, teachers, or even administrators in our schools – doesn’t it make sense to teach compassion and tolerance of those with homosexual orientations? At the very least, when students are heard using the term “gay” as an insult toward each other (this is a common jibe among boys of 5th-6th grade and up), this should be noted and stopped.

    • In some of our communities, being convicted of a crime has much fewer repercussions than even the rumor of “unconventional” sexual or gender orientation. Normative? They are exemplified as heroes, in some cases!

  6. a- who was your last comment directed to? I’m getting a bit lost.

    Sharon- I never said not to be tolerant. And I’m sorry that you have seen corrupt people doing bad things. I would have trouble attending or sending my child to a school that didn’t have Torah values.

    There was a principal here that stole money from the school. Guess what, he was fired. And eventually the school shut down because so many parents pulled their kids out.

    • RZ – I was referring to people whose businesses were caught cheating non-Jewish people still being accepted and even honored in the frum community/schools. I think if it was a case of cheating people in the Jewish community, there would be a bigger chance that they wouldn’t be accepted. However, I’m glad that your community took a stand against the thief.

  7. of course it makes sense to teach compassion and mentsclichkeit and proper language, etc… but that’s not the question we are addressing.

    The crux of the question is this:
    By accepting a gay family into the yeshiva and making it appear as they are a normal family like a heterosexual couple, is the yeshiva promoting (or at least tacitly approving) a lifestyle/relationship that the Torah considers forbidden?

  8. How can someone claim to be both “tolerant” and “accepting” but then say that they would not want a gay family in their school? Gay people are okay but just not near me? That’s hardly the kind of tolerance that Rabbi Akiva was talking about when he said that Ve-Ahavta Leroecha Kamocha is the basis of the entire Torah. H-shem didn’t say “Love Your Fellow Straight Jew as yourself, but not your fellow gay Jews”

  9. c- “It’s far easier to teach our children tolerance at a young age than for us to squirm at their intolerance and hate at an older age.”

    I think this statement is right on the money! Unfortunately, they also learn a lot from their peers…and sometimes only voice their bias when they become teens. It’s tough to change those thinking patterns when bigoted attitudes are the norm among their peers.

  10. hidden jews:
    It’s a bit disingenuous to quote a pasuk from the Torah to justify and accept a lifestyle that the Torah explicitly forbids. The Torah also says “U’Beearta Ha’Rah Mi’kirbecha…” Perhaps that applies to the legimitization and normalization of homosexual relationships, to be on par with heterosexual ones?
    Quoting pasukim in a vacuum is not always productive.
    Again, I am not advocating disrespect or worse, I am saying that when parents choose to send their children to an Orthodox yeshiva, by definition, they are separating their children from the culture that surrounds them to be in an environment of like minded (note: NOT IDENTICAL) families who share the values of the Torah.
    For a family to join that institution while publicly and demonstrably living a lifestyle that the Torah forbids, makes it difficult for the others and the institution to uphold its ideals.
    My issue is not people’s private behavior, my issue is the public negation of Torah values and expectation of legitimacy.

    C:
    It’s not a question of approving the lifestyle; you are correct private matters ought to remain private. But as I said, when it’s a public matter in an institution that tries to uphold certain values, that’s a different story.

    One last question for the group:

    What if there is an intermarried family, husband gentile, wife jewish. Husband did not convert.
    family has interfaith traditions (ie christmas tree and chanukah, pesach and easter) but want thier child educated in an Orthodox institutuon.
    Should that child be accepted to your kid’s yeshiva?

    • a – So basically, do whatever you want in private, just don’t flaunt it in public – play the uber religious person as if you are acting a part in a play – and everyone can go on pretending that we’re all following the rules? I actually think you’ve made an astute observation.

      “What if there is an intermarried family, husband gentile, wife jewish. Husband did not convert.
      family has interfaith traditions (ie christmas tree and chanukah, pesach and easter) but want thier child educated in an Orthodox institutuon.
      Should that child be accepted to your kid’s yeshiva?”

      I actually know of a family who had just such a situation (I don’t think they celebrated non-Jewish holidays). Yes, the kids were accepted to orthodox Jewish schools, and yes the gentile father gladly paid for their tuition. The kids are Jewish – why cut them off from their own religion?

  11. Sharon;
    1) It’s not acting a part in a play or being ubber religious. The reality is nobody is perfect.Everybody struggles with some aspect of life, religion, observance, etc.. and nobody questions that.
    Struggling privately with something does not negate an ideal that’s espoused.
    In addition, the things people struggle with are not expected to be legitamized.
    A public flouting of an ideal, and trying to legitimize as proper something that the Torah explicitly forbids is different from individual private struggles.

    2) I certainly believe that these are very difficult questions that the administration needs to deal with individually.
    Just one question Was it a well known fact that the dad was not Jewish? or was it something known only to those “in the know”?
    A forbidden marriage is also something that can be kept private… For example, if a kohen is married to a divorcee, that’s usually not public knowledge, ie those peope are not publicly asking for a forbidden relationship to be legitimized; it’s a private affair.
    The nature of 2 dads makes it such that it’s automatically a public matter.

    you raise great points and i appreciate the opportunity to rethink and articulate my position

    • It was a well known fact that the dad wasn’t Jewish. The situation was what it was. It certainly was unusual for the community/school, hence why people knew the situation. However, the kids were not penalized for their paternity.

      On a similar note, although I grew up in a non religious Jewish adopted home, and never met my birth parents, my birth mother was Jewish and my birth father was not. Should I have been prevented from going to day school? Should my kids now not be allowed in their orthodox schools because their biological grandfather isn’t Jewish? Just a question to consider.

  12. “I think that there is room to love and accept all Jews, without delving into the personal details of their sex lives. After all, if we delved into the sexual improprieties of straight orthodox Jews, would we even be able to make a minyan on Shabbos? If we disavowed every frum Jew who, for example, masturbated, cheated on taxes, spoke loshon horah, or otherwise behaved in a manner against the Torah, our shuls would stand empty.”

    Brilliant. Sharon- this is simply BRILLIANT!

  13. There’s a yiddish saying “zei git tzi yedem ober nisht mit yedem”, meaning that you should be good to everyone but not WITH (meaning to be very close friend) everyone, treating people with respect is mandatory regardless of their personal life, but to become close friends is a whole different story.

    My point is that treating a gay man\women with respect and even davening in the same shul does not say that one accepts or rejects them, I know a gay guy in my shul and I even shmuz with him here and there although my believe is that gay is absolutely against torah and yiddishkiet, the fact that many states in the USA made it law does not change the torah.

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