Oy vey, am I right?
If you know me personally, you know that I am probably the most open person in the world. And if you don’t know me, you probably still assume that I am because I have an internet blog based solely on the fact that I am Jewish and gay. Let’s be real.
However, no matter how “out in the open” I am about my sexuality and my life in general, my grandmother has always been a touchy subject for me. She’s your average, adorable, matzah ball soup making, clothing misplacing, slightly over bearing, and even sometimes embarrassing grandma. A Holocaust survivor and someone deeply rooted in her Jewish religion, she has always inspired me to live life to the fullest and cultivate my own Jewish lifestyle and identity. But, as suspected, traditional values often combat and question the subject of homosexuality.
Naturally, I kept putting “coming out” off. I could never find the right time and place, and my family was always afraid of what she might say. But almost four years later, it felt awful keeping a huge part of myself hidden from her, and to be honest, I figured I might as well jump the gun before someone else let it slip.
I think planning for this great, big historic moment (and possibly World War III) was the weirdest part. Who the hell knows how to plan “coming out?” When I told my parents I was gay, it was them who brought it up and figured it all out. I didn’t have the time to prepare. Obviously, it all worked out, but definitely not as expected. My mom, aka probably the greatest human being alive (I see ya readin’), printed out one of the first articles I ever had published: a piece discussing my experience at a retreat for LGBT Jewish teens. Having my grandma read this would help put things into perspective and avoid awkward conversation starters. She would see my leadership in the LGBT community, understand my perspective on my identity, and not think that this was a phase that was coming from out of nowhere. That was the idea.
Okay, so it is noon and grandma comes over for lunch. My mom and I sit down at the table, start some small talk about a new bathing suit she bought me at Target (and other irrelevant things) and then I walk over to get the printed pages from the counter. “Here is a piece I wrote for a Jewish blog a pretty long time ago.” (And by a long time ago, can we say like, maybe two years?) “I want you to read it now.”
Tip: When you come out to your Jewish grandmother, (it doesn’t matter if she has glasses) she will NOT, I repeat, NOT be able to read the print article that confesses your entire life story. I mean, literally- not be able to read it. As in, the writing will be too small, and you will sit waiting in suspense sweating for five minutes as her eyes scan the pages back and forth. You think she’s reading it, and not saying anything because she’s angry, only for her to look up after what seems like forever and say, “This is too small. I really can’t read it, but can you pass the salad?”
Yeah. So after that complete and utter fail of spilling my family’s biggest secret, we walk little ol’ (and basically blind?) grandma over to the computer and pull up the article, changing the font to something a bit more readable for the elderly. And of course, she finds it necessary to read my article aloud, and hysterically laughed every time she read the word “queer.” It was so funny and awkward that I did not know how to handle myself, so I took this picture:
Here’s grandma sitting in a chair. And there’s my face chilling casually on the computer screen.
She got through the entire thing (click here to view the article on Keshet’s My Jewish Learning blog for reference: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/blog/keshet/2013/04/17/a-jew-a-queer-but-a-jewish-queer-keshet-youth-shabbaton-reflection/#more-3441) and still did not understand. Like, she read the words “As a Jewish lesbian” and dozens of other sentences about my epiphanies and how my religion and sexuality finally coincided and blah blah blah. (For those of you currently referencing to the article, you know what I am talking about. It’s pretty obvious. “Gay” is staring you right in the face. As we speak. right now.) Even then, she still genuinely had no idea what we were talking about.
Confused Grandma: So was this event that you went to for BBYO?
Mom: No, it was through another organization that promotes LGBT inclusion in Jewish communities, called Keshet.
Still Confused Grandma: Oh! Okay.
Me: See, I went because I am gay.
Really Confused Grandma *hysterically laughing*: You are gay? Are you sure? For how long?
The next twenty minutes were really interesting. She laughed a lot, which was totally not what we expected. My grandma used the words “decide” and “choice” a lot, and I’m not really sure if it was because she does think that it is a decision I made, or just because she’s not great at English and often uses weird wording. It didn’t really bother me though, because she did say, “Whatever choices in your life that you make, I will be okay with it if you are okay with it. Whatever makes you happy.” Yay, gold star for Grandma! As expected, there was a brief sixty-seconds of blaming my ex-girlfriend, (AKA: “that gay looking friend of yours”) which was quickly countered by my mom who said that I identified as a lesbian long before her. So, grandma quickly dropped the idea that I was “influenced.” Nice work, mom. (Hey Ali, since you’re reading- you’re off the hook. So let’s forget about that time where she told you that you had “germs.” Toooo good.) Next came the typical set of questions: When did you know? (Insert long story here.) Who else knows? (Um, everyone. But you.) Who is the “boy” and the “girl” in the relationship? (That’s not really a thing.) You know the drill. Grandma did mention that it’s possible that I could change my mind and that it could be a phase and that I probably don’t know what I want in my life yet because I am so young. Yeah, that’s not exactly how being gay works. But, grandma’s effort was extraordinary, unexpected, and meant a lot to me.
To summarize: Grandma still loves me (It is a known thing in my family that I am one of her favorites, so I’m glad to see that I still get the seal of approval) and the cat is out of the bag. To everyone.
While I was a bit busy being nervous to remember the entire conversation verbatim, lucky for you I do have some highlights. So, I present to you, grandma’s noteworthy collection of comments/questions/responses to my coming out.
"Are you still a vegetarian? Or has that changed too.."
"What type of women do you like?"
"Am I, like, going to have grandchildren?"
"Oh my god, you’re not going to have a wedding…?"
"Haha. Queer. That is a funny, funny word."
And my personal favorite:
"So I guess I will stop trying to set you up with all of my Jewish friends’ grandsons."