I’m 14 and crying in the back of the car as my friend’s parents drive us home from the movies. I’ve just seen Love, Simon and decided to come out. With shaking hands, I type out, “Hi Mom, I’m sorry to do this over text, but I’m scared, and it’s difficult to say. I’m bisexual. *bisexual flag gif*”
When I enter the house, I’m received with hugs. I still have a home: the relief is euphoric.
Two weeks later, my extended family arrives for Passover. My uncle tells me his angst-ridden story of coming out in the ’90s. Over chopped liver and matzah, my great-great Aunt Jita pats me on the shoulder and laughs, “So boys and girls?”
After the Seder, my mom surprises me with rainbow macaroons—I know I still belong.
I’m 15 and dancing with other Jewish LGBT+ teens watching Priscilla, the Queen of the Desert. I feel free. It’s the last night of the Keshet Shabbaton, and I know I need to share these spaces of belonging.
Later that year, I create the community page memes_for_mayor_pete. Pete Buttigieg amazed me. He united his queer and religious identities, overcoming a divide I realized existed in myself. While the page gained thousands of followers and Pete continued his campaign, I poured over queer Judaic theory and reembraced my religion.
Months later, I meet with my rabbi to discuss my sermonette for my confirmation service. I explain, “Creating a Community for All,” encouraging members of our congregation to create a place of acceptance for LGBT+ people. My heart pounds as I await his reaction. Rabbi Prosnit smiles and encourages me to include my experiences with Keshet and lobbying for the Equality Act.
I’m 16, and I feel wrong. I go to the hairdresser to cut my hair short, but I cringe when the stylist says he’ll cut it so it still “looks feminine.” I think, “That’s not what I want.” The thought terrifies me.
I struggle finding something to wear that doesn’t make my skin crawl. I message my friends from Keshet, and as we talk, my confusion eases, and I define the “wrongness” as gender dysphoria.
Junior year I join the jGirls Magazine Editorial board. I love sharing the voices of young Jewish women, but it’s difficult to engage with a female-centric space while questioning my gender.
Months go by and the disconnect remains. I feel like I’m lying. But my connection strengthens as I embrace myself as nonbinary and see our magazine welcoming gender minorities.
I’m 17 and in a jGirls meeting. We’re asked to say our names and pronouns. I freeze. I pray no one will comment when I skip my pronouns. I don’t want to lie but my parents are in the room. It’ll have to wait. Not being out to family is exhausting, not being out during a pandemic is destructive.
It’s senior year and I’m sitting anxiously on the kitchen floor. My mom is baking macaroons, and it’s time. I begin explaining the concept of gender. I forgot about a backup plan; I have 40 dollars and my cousin lives close by; it will be enough. I choke out, “I’m nonbinary.” She doesn’t understand, but she will try. Trying is enough. My dad is quiet when we tell him; he’s confused, but I’m here to explain.
Later, my mom brings me a macaroon with purple sprinkles. My parents need time to process, but I know who I am.
I am 14 and crying
I am 15 and free
I am 16 and wrong
I am 17 and exhausted
I am I am I am
I am rainbow macaroons and purple sprinkles
I am jewish and queer
I am me.
A long time ago a scared kid came out to their family and received validation, but there was much left to be accepted in themself. This journey is just beginning.
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