And this is Josh.
Josh who is 24, who is a man, who is cisgender, who is gay, no specific order, just more time to think.
And if you think about it, Josh seems to have it easy, or at least easier than most members of the LGBTI community. He’s a man, he is white, he’s had a comfortable upbringing in Cape Town, received an education, got all love and support from his family.
But Josh is gay, and being gay too seldom can be something easy.
As long as he can remember, Josh has always known. And people around him too. His mother used to try to deter him from showing affection to other boys while growing up. Children, adults, used to make comments about his sexuality. It’s almost like people knew before Josh got himself the final proof that he too knew. And because these people, who seem to know better than you, those who like to point back at you, always make it sound that gay is not good; Josh, as smart as many, put up defense mechanisms ‘til he could be free.
He toned down any mannerism that could lead to knotty interpretations. He resorted to identifying as heterosexual when he was not attracted to girls. He let himself feed the taboo society had set around homosexuality.
Society, but not only. His community too. The Jewish community which Josh and his family are part of. The reformed side of the community, that happens to be more progressive than the orthodox one. Yet and still, reformed judaism chooses to place a big focus on family and it creates a problematic space for homosexuals. Or should we rather say, it deprives the latter of any space, inside and outside religion.
Again, in judaism too, there is a taboo and denial of anything that does not promote the traditional family scheme. In this case, the Jewish family, from which each member is encouraged to meet, according to their age and gender, the criteria that will make of them a good Jew. Again and again, it was nowhere written that homosexuals can be good Jews too. Again and again and again, if it’s not written, it is discarded.
So this is how and why Josh, throughout his childhood and in his neighborhood, built walls to protect his soul. His school, his education, as good as it might have been, his rabbis, his mates, as nice as they might have been, they offered no adequate option, no real role model.
And when, out of school, older and resolutely independent Josh decided to take down his own walls, it was emboldening, and there was no stepping back.
He came out to his mom. And she said she loved him. But as a mom, perhaps as a Jewish too, she expressed her regrets as for the family he sure would never get.
And if you think about it, we’re at the core of it. The core of the problem when it comes to LGBTI people. Even when they step in, when they come out, when they make peace; even when everybody around them seems to be fine with who they are and what they see, there is always, always a rusty stereotype soaked in tradition, religion, fear of one another, that tarnishes such strong endeavor.
Queer people can raise a family. Nobody said it was easy. We know it, being gay is not easy, but neither is raising a family.
Queer people can defend themselves. Don’t worry about their safety when they open up to you about their sexuality. Learning how to shape a shell and an ego against all odds seems to be a queer skill. Violence is dreadful, but ignorance does kill.
And it is ignorant to believe that gays, lesbians, queers of all sorts can’t access happiness. When they decide to come out to you, it is already one big mark of success.
Now, if you’re worried about Josh, don’t worry about him. He’s a big boy, knows how to navigate. He knows when to say ‘gay’, he knows when to fear hate.
Rather worry about the people around you that perpetuate a culture of denial around queer identities. Rather worry about yourself for not correcting them when they say something wrong. Rather worry about this backward layer of our society you like to mock, when your silence and inaction don’t make of you a better bloke.
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