Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dilemma

So I'm having 25 people tops at my wedding. Tops. It is the world's smallest wedding in the history of frum weddings. Everyone, EVERYONE invited is frum. Probably about 60% family. The guest list includes at least two PDF (Pretty Darn Frum) Rabbis, including my Rav. And the dilemma is:

Do I invite my good friend Shmuel? Shmuel's gay, but that's not the problem. The problem will be if he insists on bringing his boyfriend. His non-Jewish, slightly annoying boyfriend. Hmm.

Not even sure if I want to open that can of worms, but it's looking unavoidable. Shmuel's been a great friend to me throughout my divorce. We've known each other for fifteen years. He is an anomaly. He wears his yarmulka everywhere, keeps kosher, Shabbos, etc. (though he's told me that since coming out, he's lowered his kashrut standards a bit). We have a fabulous relationship, but he's got this boyfriend. Not sure how this will all work. Will he insist on bringing him? Will I feel guilted into saying yes to the bf? Will I say no to the bf and he'll understand? Will I say no to the bf and alienate him?

Here's how I generally deal with Shmuel's gayness: I've just made up my mind that it has nothing to do with me. And it doesn't. I don't need to decide if Shmuel is going to be gay; I only need to decide if I want him in my life or not. And I do. I've gone out with Shmuel and his bf, and it's totally comfortable and fun. But do I want his bf at my tiny, religiously-infused wedding? I decidedly do not. But what do I do?

Let me just say right now that while I welcome thoughtful comments, do not call me a bigot or a homophobe. I'm not. If I were, Shmuel would not be in my life. Understand that I run my life according to Torah principles and my wedding is an important, meaningful spiritual event. I grapple with this because I care about Shmuel, not because I hate who he is. So none of that crap please.

31 comments:

Nice Jewish Guy said...

The boyfriend is part of the package, whether you like it or not. If Shmuel is coming, the BF has to come (or at least be invited). If Shmuel is your friend, he will convey the need for sensitivity to his BF, and the BF will show up appearing duly respectful (satin peaked wedding yarmulka) and duly not gay (no PDAs with Shmuel). If anyone asks who he is, he can tell them he's from the other side. Give him a small camera and have him shoot some candid photos, if he's amenable.

AJ said...

Don't invited Shmuel. You're only having 25 people, so it should be easy to tell him that you're keeping it very small and that's why you're not inviting him. If you would invite him and he came alone you might feel guilty every time you see him that he doesn't have his boyfriend with him. You don't need to feel guilty on your wedding day.

G6 said...

Maybe get Shmuel to read your blog.... ;)

WebGirl said...

To Anonymous who posted that crude joke about gay people...that kinda comment is just not going to be posted here. There are frum people who are gay. You don't have to like it, it's totally fine to struggle with it (I do) but them's the facts.

mk said...

Agree with AJ, "small wedding, can't invite everyone", leave it at that. You don't need that pressure on your wedding day.

Let me be emphatic, you can NOT be frum & gay! They're mutually exclusive. I'm not debating whether to be gay or not, but you can't be both. Take your pick. Why does S need to proclaim himself "frum"? If he's ok with being gay, why can't he also realize that he's thrown away the frum? It's like saying "I'm an athiest, but I'm frum".
WTF, pick a side.

WebGirl said...

MK, really? You can't be frum and gay? What do you call a man who is shomer mitzvot and is attracted to other men and not women?

Would you prefer that Shmuel toss away everything and not keep Shabbos or kashrus anymore? Is his keeping Shabbos and and kashrus and putting on Tefillin every day, etc. all meaningless because of who he's sleeping with?

Look I'm not arguing that men sleeping with men is halachically okay. It's clearly not. But does that make everything else you do null and void?

WebGirl said...

And btw, I believe you can be an atheist and be frum as well. It's very problematic, but I don't think they are mutually exclusive, as long as you keep trying to work it out.

Don't think that Shmuel doesn't struggle with this too. He tortured himself over it for years, wanting to be like everyone else. He almost got engaged a few years ago. I'm sure there are plenty of frum gay men that do get married and I feel terrible for them and their wives.

I just don't think there is any answer to this. But there are frum gay people out there.

JM said...

There are people who try to follow halacha but have (unfulfilled) attraction to the same sex.

There are people who try to follow halacha but sometimes slip - probably even the best of us. We know that when we slip we're doing wrong, and we try to resolve not to do it again, or to do it less. for a gay person, a slip of that sort could be sleeping with the same sex.

I would suggest that either of those groups could be called "frum".

But what can't be called frum are those who say that a halacha doesn't apply, or doesn't apply to me. Someone who says "I'm frum but shabbat doesn't apply to me" is mistaken. Even if they try to claim that they have re-defined "frum", the normative use of the word is so different as to say that they must be incorrect.

So the question is what is meant by "frum and gay"? If it's someone who tries to do what halacha tells him, but slips, grapples and tries to bring himself nearer to halacha, then I would say that such a person can be described as frum.

But if he tries to bring halacha nearer to him, by saying that the prohibition on sleeping with men does not apply to him, then he cannot be called frum.

And mazel tov again. Your blog and your story are great, and inspiring.

MK said...

Thanks JM, that's exactly what I was trying to say.

WG, as you yourself said,That's why they call halacha Jewish Law. If it were all about the way we felt, they'd call it Feel-Good-Ritual-Meaningful-Stuff.

Everyone struggles with temptation, and sometimes we don't pass muster. Believe me, been there done that. But slipping up is different than rejecting.

Which is why the atheist can not be considered frum as long he denies g-d. The moment he *starts* to reconsider, he attains the status of "bahl tshuvah". If S were to reject his bf, he would attain a very lofty level of tshuvah because of his constant struggle against his desires.

As to the value of the mitzvos he keeps while maintaining his bf, honestly I don't know. But I don't think Hashem has too much "nachus" from it. Should one make a brocha before eating pork? Would you call such a person frum?

WebGirl said...

JM & MK,

If there's anything I learned from both being divorced and also from living outside of NY when I was married, it's this, that life is complicated, people are complicated, and that social realities are not necessary reality.

Shmuel's cheshbon is with God, not us. It is not for us to say whether God "has nachas" from Shmuel's observance, and it not for us to say whether other behavior "cancels out" whatever mitzvot we do. I know good frum married women who keep Shabbos and kashrut and don't use the mikvah. Do you think their shmiras Shabbos and kashrus is worthless? I don't. Of course what they do is less observable than what Shmuel is doing and I'm guessing that you might find Shmuel's relationship more personally repugnant. But you cannot pretend to know the mind of God (nor the heart of Shmuel). Again, I'm not claiming that Shmuel's relationship is halachically sound; it's absolutely not. I'm saying don't write him off as a religious Jew because of it.

I'm guessing that you would not want someone like him to be part of your life. I do. He's a complicated person and our friendship creates complicated situations (like this one).

MK said...

I guess I am not being clear, please let me try to explain.

I am not speaking against S per say, I don't even begin to try and guess what g-d thinks of him. I *am* taking issue with calling him "frum". He is not. The woman that doesn't use the mikvah is not frum. The chossid that cheats his customers in not frum. The kollel guy cheats on his wife with a shiksa is NOT frum. Doesn't mean they're not Jewish. Doesn't mean there is less of an obligation/mitzvah to love them. It doesn't even mean that they don't have a big place in heaven.

I have many relatives that are not frum. I have an aunt that was married to a goy. I have a cousin that's a recovering addict.
They're wonderful people, I love 'em and we are still close.

I have learned the hard way not to judge.

WebGirl said...

Ok, that's fine. We are defining "frum" differently. I think that frum comes in many different flavors.

MK said...

Glad we can agree, this is why I love your blog. LOL
So do I get an invite to your wedding? :-)

Nice Jewish Guy said...

MK, I have to disagree with you. You would write off an individual's frumkeit the moment they fail in a single, discrete area. You are also conflating things that you shouldn't, like being shomer shabbos or kosher with homosexuality. It's kind of an apples-and-oranges situation. It's also a matter of degree; certain issurim carry much more weight.

It seems that you would throw the baby out with the bathwater. Each mitzvah and issur is a separate entity. I don't think Hashem looks at it the way you do. So if a homosexual keeps shabbos and kashrus, then he's a shomer shabbos and kashrus man who also happens to be contemporaneously violating a separate issur. Violating parts of frumkeit don't necessarily negate the whole package.

"Frum" is more than a set of practices-- it's also a state of mind and a philosophy. So the chossid who cheats his customers, the kollel guy who cheats on his wife, the woman who doesn't use the mikvah-- it's not that they're 'not frum', it's that they are frum people who are flawed. 'Not frum' would be not keeping anything-- kosher, shabbos, mikvah, etc.

JM said...

No.

"Frum" means buying the package (as WG does with the haircovering).

As I said above; one can certainly be "frum" even if one slips in a halacha or even in a whole area (as many do, including me).

One cannot be "frum" if one accepts only part of the package and claims that halacha permits, or should permit, that which it does not.

The problem with the "frum and gay" question is that many (but not all) claim that they are frum and at the same time demand that the Torah permits what is forbidden. They are mistaken.

That does not make them a bad person, and it is certainly not for us to presume how Hashem judges them.

But it does make them mistaken.

This whole discussion might just be a matter of definitions. But I would suggest that the normative use of the word "frum" excludes those who re-write the Torah.

WebGirl said...

Don't assume that Shmuel (or any other frum gay person) assumes that the prohibition against homosexuality doesn't apply to him. I've had long conversations with him about this and he just feels like, well, what can he do? It's too difficult. He's been suffering for so long, pretending to like women. He struggles with it and ultimately has given in to being who he is. It's not that he feels that it doesn't apply to him; he doesn't think he has any choice in the matter. And I can't argue with that. I don't have any answer to that. And he's a sincerely frum person in all of his other observances.

Also, while I appreciate that you admire my covering my hair while I don't want to, that kind of minor sacrifice can't be compared to sacrificing your sexuality for life. It's not even in the same ballpark. If the Torah mandated that I sleep with women and not men, I don't know what I would do. I wouldn't say that it didn't apply to me, but I might say that it would be too hard for me to keep. See the distinction?

abandoning eden said...

I say you should invite the boyfriend- as someone who was just invited to a wedding without their partner, it's extremely hurtful to know that one's partner is not welcome to an event of someone you care about, and I think your friend will be hurt, especially if other (straight) people's significant others are invited. Why cause people unnecessary hurt, especially someone who has been there for you through your own difficult trials? It's not like the boyfriend is going to start making out with your friend in the middle of the chuppah, or bring you a big present made out of bacon. I think the most likely event is that no one will even notice.

(and I beat you in terms of small weddings- we only have 21 people, including us and the 2 photographers.) :)

WebGirl said...

AE,

First of all, it's not so much that I think the bf is going to whip out a ham in the middle of everything or start groping Shmuel (though I have to admit, he's a flamer; Shmuel is not). I'm not afraid of people who aren't Jewish and I'm not afraid of gay people. It's partly that when you have a frum wedding with such a small crowd, it's very participatory. We have 14 brachos, and 6 witnessing jobs to give out amongst the 10 or so men. It will be weird to have one man not included in that. And to be honest, everyone coming is either a family member or a really close friend...even the spouses of my close friends are pretty close friends. And I just don't want to have to deal with the questions and the looks. I want my wedding to be easy and pleasant and very spiritually and religiously infused, not a social statement.

And there is a part of me that feels that Shmuel will understand.

On the other hand, I feel really crummy and selfish about it.

Anonymous said...

I can really appreciate Shmuel's struggle. There's this woman... well, you get the idea. Each morning I pray to g-d that I can avoid running into her. Sometimes I just think I can't take it any more and want to be put out of my misery.
But I fight my demons and carry on as best I can.
I'm sure we all have our trials, the trick is to persevere and even if we sometimes fall, we can't just throw in the towel and say "It's too hard."
Even wearing a sheitel can be difficult. I had a friend who had beautiful hair and even though she was very "frum", she could not bring herself to cover her hair. To me it seemed odd, "What's the big deal?", but to her it was very difficult.
So while I really do sympathize with Shumel, he's gotta learn to deal with it.
Hey, if it was easy anyone could be "frum". LOL

Anonymous said...

It's your day and if he's your friend he should understand.
And you should not feel at all bad, you are *entitled* to have your not be spoiled.

Anonymous said...

AE,
So you think the bride should put her own feelings aside and not make her friend feel bad?
Does that mean you will be inviting your parents to your wedding?

WebGirl said...

Anonymous,

First of all, if you're going to start up with someone, don't post as "Anonymous." At least make up a name.

Second of all, AE did invite her parents. They aren't coming to her wedding because they object to her marrying someone not Jewish. The situations aren't comparable. AE is standing up for what she believes and her parents are standing up for what they believe. Leave her alone.

-WG

Anonymous said...

My sincere apologies.

G6 said...

I still say you should send him the link to this post.....
A true friend will see your honest struggle and understand.
This day is about YOU.

JM said...

WG

I accept that supressing one's sexuality is somewhat more of a challenge than covering hair. I haven't been asked to do either so I certainly can't, and won't, judge.

But let's note that every single person, for however long they're single, is also asked to supress their sexuality. And you know what? Some manage to do just that. They don't say "too hard, can't be done".

Gay men and women are not the only people for whom the Torah presents a challenge. But, as you say, it's called "Jewish Law" for a reason.

WebGirl said...

As a single frum person, you're asked not to express your sexuality, not to suppress it. There's a difference. I don't have to pretend I'm attracted to women. I just can't consummate my desire to be with a man. And that's only until I'm in a marital relationship. But frum gay people are basically facing giving up sex for life. And giving up a loving relationship for life. Look, I'm not trying to make the argument that it's ok to be in a gay relationship and still be frum...believe me, I struggle with it. You cannot imagine how my heart broke when Shmuel finally came out to me, when he described the agony of his dating years and that last serious relationship he had with a woman to which he almost got engaged. So painful.

What can he do? It was just too hard and too lonely for him to keep pretending. He was miserable. It was making him sick.

But at the same time, he was living his life as a Torah Jew, from an observant home, and religious practice was very much a part of who he was.

So what do you do with someone like this? Do you expect them to be alone their whole lives? What do you do?

I don't really have an answer and I don't think there is one. I accept the Torah as a package deal, including the prohibition against homosexuality. I just thank God that it's not my challenge.

mk said...

Do you believe that homosexuality is genetic and not a learned behaviour?

WebGirl said...

MK,

I'm not qualified to answer that question, but I can tell you what I've observed from the few gay people that I've gotten to know well. I think it's a combination of both, in different measures in different people. I've known some women in college who decided sophomore year that they were gay. They all had one thing in common...they were abused by some man in their past lives. They were molested by an uncle, forced to get an abortion by a boyfriend, beaten by a stepfather, etc. They all slept with other women in college and today, the ones I kept track of are happily married with kids. I think with them it is largely a learned behavior of choice.

But then you take a guy like Shmuel who was brought up in a Torah household where everything centered around heterosexual relationships, mainstream families, having kids, etc. His parents are very conservative, quiet people. There was never any porn or partying going on in his house. His siblings are all straight and married. He was never exposed to an alternate lifestyle. And he told me that he's been attracted to other men for as long as he could remember. So with him, I thinks it's largely genetic.

I'm guessing with most gay people it's a combination of both nature and nurture. But this is based on observation, not any kind of real study or science.

mk said...

It freaks me out to think that g-d could create a person that he calls an "abomination".
Aren't we supposed to have freedom of choice? The ability to choose good or evil?

WebGirl said...

The person is not the abomination; the act is. It's not a semantics thing...I think that's an important distinction.

But I don't have an intellectually honest answer to the free choice thing. I wish I did. I really wrestle with this one.

JM said...

WG

I accept your point that the Torah asks a gay person to give up on fulfilling their sexuality for ever. Maybe this makes it the biggest challenge ever.

Though it does also apply to anyone else who remains single forever.

But is an unmarried heterosexual person encouraged by the Torah to "express" their sexuality? Does the Torah tell them to flirt?
I don't think so.

So I stick with the fact that there are various groups of people whom the Torah forbids from expressing their sexuality and obliges them to express it.

Like I keep saying, I can't imagine how hard it is. But I think G-d knows what He's doing.