Many parents are unable to pinpoint when their kids change religiously. There is usually no single moment that a parent can remember that caused the trajectory of their child’s observance to move in one direction or another. In many cases parents are left with only hindsight as a tool to decipher the mystery of their children’s religious choices. This can happen both when kids move more to the right or to the left of the religious life they were brought up with and obviously happens with both straight and gay kids. I don’t claim to have any answers about how to be more in tune with a child’s religious struggles, choices or ultimate decisions but I have found myself presented with the unique opportunity to observe how my own child navigates down his own personal religious path.
In some ways I think I’m luckier than many parents. I’m not starting with the assumption that my child will turn out exactly like me religiously. As I’ve said many times before, it would be unfair to expect my son to stay Orthodox when the greater Orthodox world has yet to make LGBT people feel truly welcomed (and in more cases than not, makes them feel actually unwelcome) in their communities. This is neither a commentary nor a conversation starter on how the Orthodox world treats LGBT people, this is just a statement of fact. If my son ends up Orthodox, I won’t be disappointed at all. I just don’t necessarily expect this from him. So here he is, 15 years old. Gay and definitely starting the path of his religious metamorphosis.
He started his new school this week. He’s attending the pluralistic school in our area now. He left the Modern Orthodox Day School because he felt like he couldn’t be comfortable as a semi-out gay kid there. Because this school is pluralistic, my son has many choices for prayer. Each student is assigned to a minyan that they must attend for at least one semester at a time. My son was originally assigned to the “mechitza minyan”. It’s what it sounds like. A traditional Orthodox minyan. Part of his rationale in switching schools was a desire to feel comfortable and like he belongs in a Jewish environment, even if it isn’t Orthodox. So he requested to switch minyanim and is now in the non-mechitza egalitarian minyan. From what I understand it is an abbreviated minyan where males and females participate equally. There are so many minyan options. There is a mesorati minyan which seems similar to the Egalitarian minyan but it is normal length (as well as numerous other choices). I totally get that my kid would pick the shorter one. Whatever the case is, yesterday he came home and said, “I really enjoyed Minyan today. I got an aliyah too.” I don’t know why he enjoyed it. Maybe because of the length. Maybe because he felt less pressure with girls having equal roles. I really don’t know. But my kid who has NEVER been into davening (he was put on a behavior modification program during davening in first grade, not even kidding) came home and announced that he enjoyed prayer time in his school.
So as his parent I’m now watching this and thinking that this might be part of the path he decides to pursue religiously. I don’t know. I know that this may be the 1.5 or 2.0 version of his religious self and there will probably be numerous iterations as the years go on. I don’t know how this will affect him over the next few years. He still comes with us to our orthodox shul for the high holidays and he still attends every shabbat (and by attends I mean that he hangs out in the hallway with his friends and comes to kiddush). I’m not thinking that his Jewish life will change because he found his egalitarian minyan. More likely than not, he knows he has to attend minyan in school and right now this is a lesser of several “evils” for him and he’s making the best of it. It’s just interesting to watch as it occurs. Then again, I’m sure hindsight will be interesting too.