Saturday night I finally sat down and watched "Trembling Before G-d," a powerful documentary about gay Orthodox and Hasidic Jews. Though I'm not Jewish, there was so much in this film that I could relate to. Mormons often think of themselves as Israel, as God's chosen people, so it was easy to put myself in the place of the Jews on the screen. As my wife remarked a couple of times as we watched, "They could be Mormon. They sound so Mormon!"
The film included the stories of gay men and lesbians; some married, some not; some still trying to fit into the community, others long out of it. Particularly touching for me was the story of David, a gay man from Los Angeles who travels to Israel to confront a rabbi who two decades earlier set him off on a course to fix his sexual orientation. David returned to tell him that therapy had failed and to ask this man--someone he had loved and looked up to--what now? The rabbi said that like all "evil inclinations," homosexuality was to be resisted and overcome. In the Jewish tradition (as I understand it) such inclinations are, in fact, created specifically by God to be resisted and overcome by those who experience them. David clearly accepted that interpretation for much of his life. It was moving to see him confront this rabbi and demand to know what this man expected of him now. Celibacy, he was told, is the only option.
Thank you, Bishop, er, rabbi.
For many of these men and women, there is no way for them to be gay and Orthodox. The two are incompatible. And so these gay Jews tremble before God, unable to accept themselves as fully Jewish or fully gay--and pained deeply that they can be neither.
I felt this conflict for many years as a closeted gay Mormon. But, now, finally, I no longer tremble before God. I've come to believe that the fear I felt about standing before God as a gay man was in fact fear of myself. We are created in the image of God, but I could not find anything gay in God. And so I feared what I felt. I denied it. But since I no longer fear myself, I no longer fear God. I don't feel judgment or trepidation. I have finally been able to offer love and acceptance to myself--and in so doing, I have finally been able to feel it from God, offered unconditionally. And this is no surprise, for God is love. I find God in the love I feel for my family, for my friends, and for myself. My failure to love and accept myself created a barrier between God and me that is finally melting away.
I am gay, and God loves me. Mazel tov!