Thursday, February 28, 2013

Purim; acceptance and hope...

I wanted to take a moment to thank so many people that made my Purim so special. I was very nervous going into the Holiday because it was the first time in about 8 months, since my story went public, that I planned on spending a nice amount of time in my former community. This is a community in which at the time I was outed, while getting a nice amount of support, I got more than my fair share of negativity, sprinkled with some very hurtful false rumors. I felt vulnerable and anxious going in.

A little bit of a back story. The week leading up to Purim was a great week. It had consistency. I was at peace with myself. I accomplished a lot at work. I hung out with a wonderful person who's friendship was recently rekindled. Initially I had planned to be in another city away from home for Purim. It was an incredibly exciting idea. A much hyped Purim party with many of my friends that I hadn't seen in a bit. For some reason that I couldn't quite put my finger on, I woke up on Thursday before my flight, anxious about going. Work was a bit crazy, my week leading up to it was so good, should I be changing my environment by traveling to another city?

I called a friend and presented my dilemma to him. He suggested that staying within my old community was dangerous because there were going to be people drinking heavy. He didn't want me to face people saying mean and insulting things to me. He didn't want me going backwards and creating more resentment in my life. I saw the rationale in his words. He is usually spot on. This time (thankfully) he couldn't have been further off base.

I initially followed his advice. I left town for the big city. I had a nice Thursday night with a friend. Friday morning I again woke up with anxiety. Work was crazy and to be honest, I was homesick. I made a quick and impulsive decision to go home. After many flight delays I got home literally minutes before Shabbos.

Purim came and I went to my old shul for megilla. Everyone I met was incredibly friendly and welcoming. The same thing happened when I went to a friend that evening. I used to go collecting for a local charity on the night of Purim with a bunch of close friends. 8 months ago I would never have thought that I would be doing that again. I was so humbled when I was invited to come along. I joined friends and even my ex-wifes family for this yearly event. I visited many homes of people who know my challenges, many intimately. They still welcomed me with hugs and kisses.

On Purim day I went to an old friend for a big breakfast bash he throws. I was invited to sit up front next to him. I again enjoyed meeting many old friends who showered me with love. I know this is boring and I sound like a broken record but the evening seudah brought me the same experience. At this party I met a number of Rabbi's who I hadn't seen in a while and they treated me with much love and support.

So again, I thank them all and I truly am humbled by their acceptance. This sent a strong message to me. It told me on a personal level that it is possible for me to reintegrate within the community as my comfort level allows. (With as much humility as I can say this) it told me that when one handles himself with class, dignity and grace and allows people time to digest and learn about something that is strange and confusing to them, it pays off in the long run. People who act impulsively and try to go on the offensive tends to push away rather than pull closer (I say that with no judgment).

On a big picture level I wonder if this is a sign for things to come. Could this have happened just a few years back? Is tolerance and sensitivity growing within our community? Can it be that seeing real, genuine and live people struggling with homosexuality gives them cause to rethink their position? I think the answer to all these questions is yes. This should truly be a cause of hope for the many suffering in silence and loneliness. It truly feels like a miracle.

The prayer 'Al Hanissim' certainly had more meaning for me this year. Hopefully more and more for years to come.

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