Dear Parents: You're Allowed to Love Me – A Rabbi Said So

The first iteration of this blog was called “Coming Home OTD.” The point of it was to show the difficulties and challenges of returning to our parents’ homes and our communities when we have chosen a different path. I abandoned that for a number of reasons:

First, I had decided to stop trying to go home, to stop putting myself in a position to experience the excruciating pain of “conditional acceptance,” of “sad love,” of whatever you want to call it. So I had no more new material to post about.

I wrote some blog posts for a little while longer, drawing on past experiences. But then, for my own emotional health, I had to stop. It’s one thing to carry those memories, to have a bout of rants on Facebook every so often – it’s quite another thing to relive them enough to be able to write about them, and to write about them well.

Second, I realized that while I wanted to show frum (ultra-Orthodox) people how hard it is for us to come home to them, how their treatment of us makes “family time” something to dread – that was pointless.

Of course, my purpose was always more than that – I wanted fellow XOs to know they’re not alone, I wanted people unaffiliated with or unfamiliar with either group of people to know the struggles and the horrors (yes, horrors).

Most of all, I wanted a conversation.

But none of that was happening or showed any signs of being a possibility, so I changed tack. The blog has gone through multiple re-imaginings since then.

I’ve been returning to that topic now, as in this past post. My perspective is different. The snippets of incidents I write now are more sad, less angry. (That’s because therapy works, yo! ๐Ÿ˜‰)

Here’s a little bit that’s not exclusively from or about me, but ruminations about maintaining ties with parents from a few fellow XOs:

The conversation started when one participant shared the two screenshots below, from Aish.com:

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Now, ignoring the fact that the rabbi assumes the non-Jewish girl believes in and prays to Jesus when the letter-writer gave no indication of that (and ignoring the misspelling of engrained….), there are obviously lots of problems with this response – not least of which, the idea that a non-Jew cannot feel the same level of horror and grief at the genocide of millions of people.

But that kind of idea is all over. It’s not very surprising or shocking. We exclaim over it, us XOs, each time we stumble across it. Each time we find something that blatantly displays the frum sensibilities of elitism, of racism, of insularity and exclusivity, of… we do exclaim over it, but it’s more resigned sadness than shock or surprise.

Here’s where it gets interesting:

Why did my fellow XO come across this?

Because they were looking for halachos that would tell them what their parents would be required to do and how they would be required to act if their child married a non-Jew.

Turns out that all of us in that group conversation had worried about this possibility at some point or another – if I marry a non-Jew, will my parents come to my wedding? (We all agreed: probably not.) Will they allow me to still visit them? (Probably yes.) Will they allow my spouse to visit with me? (Likely not, but maybe.) Will they acknowledge my married status and welcome my spouse as a spouse? (Almost certainly not.)

As a bisexual person, I also wondered at times how my parents would react if I introduced them to a female partner. When I still cared about this stuff, I had also done some research – if it ever came to that point, I would be armed with things rabbis had said about female versus male homosexuality, etc. I would have halachos and rabbinic responsa to help me argue my case – to help me try to convince my parents that they should be happy for me that I’m happy, and not keep trying to save my soul and lock me away again in anguish and despair. (My melodrama is showing again.)

In the course of this conversation, we all agreed that all this research is useless anyway – our parents would ask a rabbi what they’re allowed to do and what they’re required to do, about their child’s impending marriage to a non-Jew. Anything we told them would be suspect, or at the very least not enough. They would ask their own rabbi.

Some of us wondered if the rabbis our parents consult are of the “type” to say they should celebrate with their child (I speculated that Rabbi Yakov Horowitz might be someone who would advise that, though I have no way of knowing that for sure).

And then we reminded each other that we already know that regardless of how much a rabbiย allowsย them to love their children, they won’t.

One group member recounted a time when their aunt asked a rabbi about having their XO cousin over for shabbos, knowing that he would drive over. The rabbi said that they should invite their son for shabbos. The parents were uncomfortable with this psak (ruling) and didn’t invite their son. (I wrote about a similar story involving a friend of mine in this past post.)

As one person put it: “If rabbis start getting too lenient, my parents have no problem being more stringent.”

How sad, that we who are simply trying to be happy, to live our lives, to be true to ourselves, to chase our dreams –

that we who are often accused of causing pain to our parents and grandparents and rabbis and teachers and siblings and communities –

that we expend so much energy worrying about the pain we will cause them –

that we want our parents to love us and accept us, so desperately that we comb through rabbis’ discussions of laws we find ridiculous, rules we hate, ideas and ideologies we can’t stomach –

and all this, knowing that even if they’re told they areย allowedย to accept us –

they won’t.

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