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Does Courage Have Only One Face?

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My Facebook feed is full of posts depicting an American soldier in one picture saying “This is courage” and then a picture of Caitlyn Jenner, saying “Not this”.

I think the very people posting these and otherwise bashing Ms. Jenner are the very proof that she deserved the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. The amount of hate that is spewed by people when Ms. Jenner is mentioned is mindblowing.

I also, personally find the above mentioned meme offensive.  As a soldier I don’t think I’m very courageous. Courage in my own life looks very different. I know that many soldiers have a lot of courage. However, so do children and adults fighting cancer, people living with disabilities fighting their everyday battles, former cult members, first responders, parents, investigative journalists, gay couples willing to live outside the closet, and yes, Caitlyn Jenner.

While we in the LGBT community experience a lot of hatred, the T of the acronym even experiences lack of support or understanding, and sometimes outright hate from within the community. Transgender women are murdered and are driven to suicide in disproportionate numbers within our community. It takes courage to stand up and face the world. It takes a lot of courage to face closed minded people, who can only hate, because their definition of courage is very limited.

Congratulations to Ms. Jenner and all people displaying courage: the single mom handling a job and raising her kids, the agoraphobic lady in the neighbourhood who walked to the mailbox yesterday, the orphan who leaves everything they know behind to start a new life with a family in a foreign country, the student teacher on her first day in the classroom, the autistic child trying a new food, and countless others. By denying Ms. Jenner’s courage to transition to who she is, and publicly standing up for others, the courage of all these people and their everyday victories over circumstances or themselves is being ridiculed.

Let’s just all accept that courage can manifest in many ways, and that is why our world is full of brave people.

The Problem With Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair Cover

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The problem with Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair Cover is the exact same problem as with most other magazine covers: it is photoshopped to the degree that the person on the photo don’t look like real people. Caitlyn Jenner is just like any other rich, aging cover girls: not like the other people. I personally don’t think Bruce Jenner was handsome, and I don’t think Caitlyn Jenner is particularly beautiful. She is 65, and like other 65-year-old celebrities she appears to have had some work done on her face: a nose job and a facelift are my guesses. The real important thing is that Caitlyn Jenner looks comfortable in her skin.

I have to admit I know next to nothing about the Jenner-Kardashian clan, and most of that is meta-knowledge. I didn’t follow their reality show, and I didn’t even kow who he was till about three years ago. Yet I have an opinion of the whole thing. First of all, I do think that Jenner handled the transition very well and in a tasteful manner. As someone who had the kind of publicity surrounding him that the Kardashian clan had, he couldn’t just drop off the face of the earth forever. He could have disappeared for a while, then re-emerge as Caitlyn, but I think the path Jenner chose was the best way to handle it. By being honest and forthcoming, she managed to dispell some myths associated with the transition of transgender adults.

Of course Caitlyn’s transition is not representative of the experience of transgender people of less privileged situations. The struggle for each person is different, and it is often complicated by financial and employment questions. It takes courage to go through with the change from one life to another, from one (public) identity to another. Going from one very public identity as a man, transitioning into a woman, knowing that it will bring on judgement and ridicule, losing friends, supporters and business partners is very brave. Caitlyn Jenner deserves the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Yes, there are others, who also would deserve it.

When we look at Caitlyn, the wealthy, popular, courageous 65-year-old woman, let us not forget all the other people who have to go through a similar, difficult transition without the outpouring of public support Caitlyn receives. I am wishing all of them, and Caitlyn in particular on the occasion of her public debut, a happy, successful life.

Happy Birthday to Vanessa Hidary

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Happy Birthday to the Hebrew Mamita!

Today is the birthday of poet Vanessa Hidary, also known as the Hebrew Mamita. One of her most famous poems is the one below:

I first saw this recording about four years ago, and it really spoke to me. The lines, “You don’t look Jewish. You don’t act Jewish.” have echoed throughout my life. So have “You don’t look gay. You don’t act gay.” But I am. I am Jewish, and I am gay.

I pass as a gentile. I pass as straight. For centuries that was a tool for survival. Assimilation could save people from Anti-Semitic attacks, but at the same time assimilation is leading to the disappearance of our people. Passing as straight spared people from prison, castration, even execution. Passing as straight forced people to live a life of lies.

Today the message sent by Vanessa Hidary reminds me every day: I can’t not look Jewish, I can’t not look gay. I’m Jewish. I’m gay. And I’m not invisible.

A Few More Words About Pride

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Friday night a friend of mine told me about a scary moment she experienced when her recently adopted daughter disappeared for a short time. I am so glad she only told me after the Pride Parade, because that was my biggest worry about having our chioldren participate: losing them in the crowd. There were 100 000 (according to the Jerusalem Post) people both in the Parade and watching it, and in the constant movement and all the colours It would have been very easy to lose track of one of them.

Fortunately no one got lost, and we had a blast going as a family. Two of our boys in the army were not able to join us, even though they were scheduled to be home: they were and still are involved in looking for the three teenagers who disappeared from Judea and Samaria, presumed kidnapped by terrorist groups. We joined some friends and another family with three little kids. It was lots of fun, because there were all kinds of people in the Parade, and the support from the watchers was wonderful. There were less protesters and haters than I anticipated.

Just the day before Pride Harel Skaat posted an awesome update about his ambivalent feelings about Pride being replaced by an understanding. I have ambivalent feelings about going to Pride, because it’s usually too loud, too crowded, and at times too extreme for me. Same reason why I don’t go to festivals and other events with lots of people having music related activities for extended time periods. Yes, even this year there were the extreme costumes, and some weird music, and yes, crowds and noise and heat and everything. But it was important. It was important to see the other families. It was important to be seen by other families. It was important to look so boringly normal to be asked why we decided to join and then people being surprised that we are a same-sex-parenting family. It was important to be seen by all the other gay men, who are longing for children, to know it’s possible.

We had people watch out for our kids. We had people offer help. The littles got piggy back rides. And ice cream. They were loved on (and yet, they decided to limit their interaction with strangers in clear preference to us).

After the parade we hang around the park for a few hours, and some of the older kids and Kevin went on to the party on the beach, and I took the younger kids home for much needed baths and more ice cream.

Source: Ynet, JPost

Source: Ynet, JPost

7 Quick Takes – 24

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— 1 —

Israel has a new president! President Peres is leaving office, and the 10th president of the State of Israel was elected by the Knesset (the parliament) this week. It is MK Reuven Rivlin. (MK stands for Member of Knesset.) He is of the Likud party, the current majority governing party. President-elect Rivlin promised to rise above factions and parties, and represent the people. While he will be no President Peres, I believe that while I don’t agree with his party politics, he will be a great president of this country. He is taking office on July 24th, and he is expected to be president for a single, 7-year term.

Source: Wkipedia

Source: Wkipedia

— 2 —

I’m writing this post throughout the week, as it’s Pride Week here in Tel Aviv. We have been busy attending various events. This year’s theme is Families, and there are various family friendly events… including parts of the parade. The parade on Friday will end at a park this year instead of the beach, so families can celebrate together (before moving on to the beach for some partying, of course).

This is what some of the crosswalks looked like two years ago in Tel Aviv:

crosswalk

Source: http://www.algemeiner.com/

— 3 —

 

Today (Thursday) we went to a rainbow family picnic at one of the local parks. There were many families, with over thirty kids plus us. 🙂 It was good to meet up with other gay parents, discuss some of the issues we and our children face, and it was great for the kids to hang out with other kids from similar families. Well, smaller than ours, but two dads or two moms…

We have known some of these families for several years. Some of them live pretty far away and we usually only see them twice a year, so we had a great time catching up, eating great food and playing with squirt guns. Because what else would we do? Of course as the only parent there who had not served in the military I was in a disadvantaged position and got soaking wet in a very short time… Twice. 🙂

— 4 —

Our congregation is not a gay congregation, but we are gay friendly. There are several LGBTQ members, including our rabbi and his boyfriend, and Pride Week is celebrated at our congregation with home made pizza and ice cream for kiddush after the Shabbat morning prayer. It’s cold home made pizza, by the way, that apparently everyone loves. We usually have tons of visitors for this event. It was started in our previous congregation ten years ago or so, and carried over to this one after we split up (due to size). Our previous rabbi said he’d come visit as he is going to be in town! We are excited to see him.

— 5 —

Last year I gave a friend Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi for her 37th birthday. This year, for her 37th birthday she is getting Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi  By Yotam Ottolenghi. Next year for her 37th birthday she is getting Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. Good thing Plenty More is getting published in October, or I’d be in trouble after that! 

Iown Plenty and Jerusalem. Jerusalem was written by an Arab (Tamimi) and a Jewish (Ottolenghi) Israeli from Jerusalem, bringing the real taste of the city of the book. It contains recipes that can actually be made with access to middle Eastern ingredients and a regular kitchen equipment. They also share about how the food fits in with the Jewish and Arab and Christian cultures of Jerusalem. And, of course, the books have a Pride week connection, too. Beyond the authors being gay, furthermore Ottolenghi being a gay parent, on several scenes of Orange is the New Black, Plenty can be seen in Larry and Piper’s kitchen.

To be completely honest, I started enjoying Ottolenghi’s recipes way before I found out his sexual orientation. I found it fascinating that he has a vegetarian column in one of the British papers (he started out as a journalist in Israel before starting to cook) and he can also make the best meat dishes as well. He has fabulous vegetarian recipes: he is not afraid to re-invent the vegetables, and what my vegetarian son loves about his recipes most is that they do not try to replace meat or recreate meat dishes from vegetables: he creates dishes that are independently awesome.

— 6 —


That’s Harel Skaat singing one of the traditional songs I first learnt in Hebrew. It is called “For All These Things” and here is a good, singable translation.

— 7 —

I am just fascinated by the things people are willing to believe. From Chemtrails to the White House now being dedicated to Allah to secret Zionist conspiracies to control the weather with the (now closed) HAARP… people would be entertaining if it wasn’t so darn scary that they can vote and raise children!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

 

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