Black, Gay, and Jewish: Part Six

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Black, Gay, and Jewish: Part Six

On Wednesday, November 3rd at 7PM I will be giving a talk entitled, "Black, Gay, and Jewish" to a room of Jews of Color as part of Be'chol Lashon's monthly meeting. I was told that my talk should be about 45 minutes and afterwards there would be a question and answer section. I've spent the last month trying to piece together my talk using my Velvet Park Posts as well as my blog posts and pieces of my memoir to help. Last night I had a run through with some of my closest friends and today, I'm feeling a bit nervous. Okay, it's a complete lie I'm fucking scared shit less. There, I've said it.

Let's just remember that while my blog, my Velvetpark Blog, and my memoir are all called, "Black, Gay, and Jewish" I'M NOT A JEW (yet). So what's this black dyke gonna talk about?? Being a black dyke who's converting to Judaism, of course. It sounds easy. It sounds painfully easy but the fact of the matter is that I'm not yet a Jew. It's the only thing that I'm hung up and the reason is that my audience is comprised of Jewish people of Color. They know what it's like to live in the world as a Jew as a person of color and the card that I bring to the table is the fact that I'm a lesbian.

When I gave my talk last night to my friends the feedback they gave me was that the "Gay" section needed to be longer. My black section, the section that has given me so much personal heartache as well of strength is the section that I've lived the longest. The Gay thing only came out 3 years ago and the Jewish thing? Only seriously studying since March. We circle right back around to the part where I'm gay. So, I wanted to ask you Velvet Park readers who are religious, in any way, what's it like to be a Gay Christian, a Gay Muslim, a Gay Mormon, a Gay Catholic, a Gay Buddhist? Were you accepted in your religious community as a lesbian and if you were not, have you found a religious community that has? I promise to add you to my speech and your help is MUCH appreciated!

 

Editor's note: Erika was named to the “50 Very Insightful Blog Posts on GLBTQ Spirituality”  by Theologydegreesonline.com



Comments [6]

Conlite's picture

I agree with Cam. below: 

I agree with Cam. below:  People have about a 30 second attention span for issues, but about an hour's attention span for a good story.  Don't talk about issues and illustrate with your stories; tell your story from the heart and pad it out by throwing in interesting talking points here and there!

On being Gay and Christian:

It has been said before here that some poeple see their religion as more a culture and community thing, whereas others see it as a spiritual experience.  The former might be those who say "I was raised Lutheran", whereas the latter would say "I got born again when I was ___ years old."  Both are valid life choices, but they affect you differently.  If your religion is more cultural, you can find another community or religion that accepts LGBT folk.  You will have conflict with your old community, but life goes on.

If however, your faith is a spiritual thing based on an epiphany (eg. born again) and reinforced by regular spiritual practice, it is not just a community for you, it will also become a part of who you are inside.  This is where I am as a Christian.  The propblem is that Christian society demands that I chose to either be gay or Christian, not both (same as the black/gay/Jewish thing).  Since both are a part of me this choice is impossible to make and remain whole.  To walk away from my faith for me would be like the lesbian who denies her sexual orientation and marries a guy and raises kids anyway.  It can be done, but that woman is not a whole person in the end.  For me to deny my homosexuality to conform to church doctrines is equally destructive.  Christians aren't supposed to tell lies, so how can I justify living one?  So people in my situation don't just have conflict with their community, but also with themselves.

Since homosexuality in the church is a hot doctrinal issue, calm discussions become almost impossible.  You are not questioning peoples' opinions here, but their convictions.  You are messing with a faith that they are ready to die for.  When I broached the subject with the sweetest, most peaceable pastor I know, he pretty much ignored what I had to say.  He gave me some standard stupid cliche responses, then (based on his conviction that I was deceived) demanded that i make the impossible choice: gay or Christian?  Whilst making the choice, he recommended that I remain in the closet to avoid the condemnation of fellow Christians.  In other words, a pastor suggested that I keep right on lying!

Statistically: 300 million in USA.  About 50% (150 million) identify as Christian, and about half that as evangelical/spritual-type Christians (75 million).  Homosexuality occurs in 4-15% of popuation (people argue exact figure), so there are about 3-12 million gay Christians like me in the USA today who sometime will go through the same spiritual and emotional turmoil.  Trying to reconcile two parts of themselves that all their friends and family say must remain enemies.  I don't know the figures for Jewish Americans, but I'm sure the nubmers are not small there either.

This is far too long a post, but I really hope you find some of it helpful.

Erika Davis's picture

Long and helpful!

I was nodding all of the way through it!  A lot of the reasons I stayed closted for so long was because I was trying to deal with a lot of my issues around my homosexuality vs. everything that had been ingrained in my brain as a child about what was and was not a sin.  Being gay-HUGE SIN!!

Thank you so much for your insight, it was truly helpful and very much appreciated.

Erika has spoken.
Now, go read my blog Smile
www.blackgayjewish.com

camomileroses's picture

In your heart you are a Jew

In your heart you are a Jew and something has drawn you, a lesbian of color, to Judaism.  discuss that.  Perhaps it is the principle of “tikkun olam” (the obligation of every Jew to heal the world).  Perhaps it is the idea of tzedakah, which, in the west is interpreted as the word “charity” but in Hebrew actually means justice…which makes more sense to me since there is no giving w/o receiving.  It is an illusion to think otherwise.  If I have an abundance of something & you don’t, it is just for me to share my wealth with you & I receive great benefit in knowing that I have helped you or that I have not hurt you more by hoarding resources that were never truly mine to begin with. 

Anyway, whatever brought you to this moment where you are defining yourself as a Jewish lesbian of color, talk about that.  You will transform people’s lives. 

BTW: I formally converted to Judaism 4 years ago but have been living Jewish principles & studying Judaism most of my life.     My Jewish community has uncompromisingly embraced my partner (a born Jew), me & our daughter...my 7 month old daughter & I went through the Mikvah together on the day of my conversion after the bet din.  Then my partner got in with us!  It was amazing.

 

"there will never be a technology more advanced than the human mind - fully engaged in the divine process of being. technology is a tool not a destination." me.

Erika Davis's picture

You're right

In my heart I totally feel like a Jew, I just haven't gone through the officials yet.  In my every day, I feel like I am.  I'm so moved by the fact that you, your partner, and your daugther got to go into the mikvah together!  I cannot even start to try to imagine what that must have been like! 

I'm definitely just going to tell my story and hope that it allows people to think about the many beautiful and varied faces of Judaism.

Thanks for the boost in confidence!

 

Erika has spoken.
Now, go read my blog Smile
www.blackgayjewish.com

camomileroses's picture

so how did it go?

so how did it go?

"there will never be a technology more advanced than the human mind - fully engaged in the divine process of being. technology is a tool not a destination." me.

Erika Davis's picture

Beyond amazing!

It went really, really well.  There were a few hiccups before I made it to the venue but all-in-all it went beautifully!  I had 10 pages of speech written out because it needed to be 45 minutes in length and ended up just speaking and letting the words on the page be my guide.  It got a little interactive in the middle because people were really engaged and getting into it-my moderator had to quiet the room down!  In the end, I felt relieved and have a lead on finding an agent for my book!!

 

Erika has spoken.
Now, go read my blog Smile
www.blackgayjewish.com