A Confused Rainbow: Can I Be Pro Gay Rights and A Religious Jew?
Recently during one of my Social Science university courses, the term “cognitive dissonance” was being taught. Our professor explained that cognitive dissonance is a state of mental conflict. It’s a mental state of disagreement between two forces that we both want to abide.
She illustrated the concept with a few classic and remarkably common examples - a young man who desperately wants to move to a new country but is both fearful and guilty about leaving a weary mother behind (responsibility vs independence). Or, wanting to lose weight but also wanting to have your cake too and so on.
As the lecture was coming to an end, she gave us a home assignment - to write a paper on a personal cognitive dissonance. As she gave us the assignment, I smiled to myself, because this particularly personal inner conflict had been boiling up within me all lecture long and I was excited and somewhat relieved to be encouraged to put pen to paper and express it. I knew exactly what I was going to write about. My biggest dissonance: Being a religious Jewish woman and the pride I feel for the LGBTQ community.
On the one hand, my Jewish beliefs teach me that homosexuality is an abomination, a man mustn’t wear a woman’s dress and every day we make a blessing in gratitude to the gender we have been assigned to. Furthermore, male on male intercourse is forbidden, seed may only be spilled into one's wife, and yeah, being any sort of gay is a no-no.
On the other hand, my western values teach that love is love, and all people should be treated equally, regardless of who they are or who they love. There is nothing strange about questioning your identity, and that same-sex marriages are, well, how else to phrase this? Marriages.
I really find this clashing of beliefs, this cognitive conflict, so challenging. Part of being religious is understanding that even the parts that you don’t understand or believe in, should still be take on or the very continuity of the religion is threatened. If we believe that religion is G-d given, and we as humans allow ourselves to alter it, the religion will keep on evolving until its no longer what G-d intended.
But. Also. Like. Killing gays?! No, definitely no.
I am a true supporter of how far the LGBTQ community has come and their accomplishments in advocating for representation and fundamental rights. I also feel very blessed that we don’t live in a country where people are hurt or killed for their preferences. I love the fact that my daughter will grow up in a more tolerant time and space. Ultimately, Pride is promoting love, acceptance and celebrating difference, and we need more of this in the world. It upsets me greatly to hear about Gay people being thrown off buildings or stoned in other middle eastern countries, yet when I turn to my own religion’s history, I know damn well that only 1500 years ago my faith would have justified this same fate.
So where do I stand? I’ve written this paragraph and deleted it so many times because the truth is - I’m not sure. In order to be a healthy, modern-orthodox Jew, I must have a personal relationship with my religion. I don’t believe in thoughtlessly following, I believe G-d wants a relationship with us, and in all real relationships, there will be times where we see eye to eye and times where we disagree. Dissonance is both as inevitable as it is crucial because they show us where our lines are, they show us where our personal borders become stretched and by interrogating these inner conflicts we can figure out how we feel about the world.
Currently, I relate with both sides, respecting one and obliging the other. Personally, my line will forever be drawn at harming (or killing, to be more specific) each other. The one thing I do know is that I will treat both sides with respect, love and acceptance. I will not discourage or disrespect either of them for living their truth.
I will stand here proudly, with one foot in each camp. And even when I don’t see so many other people here, I know I’m not alone- that others are standing here in the middle, conflicted, right along with me. And even if they aren't using their voices and putting it all ‘out’ there like me, I have learned that there is a certain dissonance in feeling something and saying it and well, it isn't such a bad thing.
More about Hadassa:
Hadassa is a recent graduate with a degree in psychology. She spends her life running and swimming between motherhood, coordinating adult programs, helping break stigmas and educating people about Judaism. And recently, Hadassa has started developing new entrepreneurial projects around modest fashion.