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 means 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.