I suspected he was gay. He wasn’t allowed to say.
My friend said, “Men don’t wear such jewelry! He is gay!”
Hello everyone, meet my beautiful aunt Khen.
This is not what she looked like in the 80’s when I moved back to Israel. I was 13 year old Madonna-obsessed teen, wearing off-the-shoulder ripped t-shirts with fluorescent green décor and of course, bracelets galore. He had a proper crew cut, studied engineering and worked as a programmer. On the side he crafted creative purses from brown hide leather and made exotic jewelry from middle-eastern beads. Oh, and he had a very good friend, Dan.
My best friend and I suspected he was gay. We were together one day when he came to visit. He wore this funky silver ring with a beautiful black oval opaque stone that fascinated me. My friend said to me, “Men don’t wear such jewelry! He is gay!”
I didn’t dare ask him directly, because I didn’t want to offend. When I asked members of the family, they would shy away. It would take some time and persistence on my end to find out that it was a secret and no one was allowed to tell the kids. You know, it may be contagious.
Can you count the number of absurdities in this story (beyond the obvious fluorescent green décor)? How many blind spots did people in this story have? The person who guesses closest will get to choose any record cover from my 80s collection and a 30 minute 1-on-1 Zoom coaching session with me.
Khen was my inspiration for gay activism and pride. When called upon to speak up, I do. Below is a photo from a past protest in my town, after ultra-religious residents (a small minority in our town) turned to the mayor and requested to remove the rainbow flags during pride month because they found it offensive. Seriously?
Rehearsing to sing “Imagine” at a Gay Pride protest in my town.
Photo credit: Tzameret Fuerst
Yuval Noah Harrari, the gay scientist (how he frames his identity, as opposed to Israeli historian), was once asked by Ilana Dayan, as esteemed Israeli journalist: Is there a difference between Gays and other groups fighting for equal access and rights, e.g. blacks, woman and people below the poverty line?
I’ll never forget his response. He said, if you are born Black, your family is black, your community is black. You’re in it together. If you’re born a woman, you’ve got a mother, girlfriends. You’ve got a support system. Same with the poor.
If you’re born gay, you are not just alone, you are lonely. You have no support system. Your own family is your adversary. Can you imagine the pain of Khen 60 years ago, discovering his sexuality?
It does not have to be this way. Sure, a lot has changed and we’ve made huge strides. But, there is still A LOT of work to do if in 2020 not everyone can freely define, express and live their identity, and enjoy the same rights as I do. We need to be a global support system.
Today is June 30th, the last day of GAY PRIDE MONTH, but it’s not the last day of discrimination and hate. I’m proud of the corporations that took a bold stand, not just this month, but every day of the year. I look forward to a time where we won’t need to have this reminder on our calendars because it will be naturally ingrained in our hearts. People are people.