Apparently when I wrote the post about social stories I should have included the question, “So will your son lead a celibate life?” Yep, I was asked that. Someone recently stopped me to ask how my son is doing in his new school. She was thinking about sending her daughter there but had some doubts. She wanted to know WHY we chose to send my son there. I’ve had this conversation numerous times since we switched him and I am happy to say that when I tell people why we switched schools, the reactions have been all positive. Usually I get an “oh, that makes total sense” and it might follow with a brief conversation about how we and he are doing with everything. Occasionally, it will be obvious that the person isn’t exactly sure how to respond so they might say something like “oh ok. I hope it works out for him.” And that is FINE. I especially realize this after the latest conversation I had.
Upon telling this woman that our son came out last year she informed that she had heard someone his age in the community had come out but she didn’t realize it was him. She then went on to ask what we plan on doing about it? I don’t think she meant what are we doing to support him or to take care of his mental well being. It was obvious that she wanted to know how we were dealing with this from a religious viewpoint. I responded that we aren’t doing anything except being supportive of our son. I told her how proud we are of him that he felt comfortable enough to come out to us and that he is in such a good place. I don’t think this satisfied her because she then asked, “What will happen to him religiously in the future?” I responded that I don’t know, but we never know where our children will end up religiously regardless of whether they are gay or straight and that there are no guarantees that our children will ever be exactly like us OR exactly as we expected them to be either religiously or in any other aspect of their lives. She then asked me if there is any orthodox and Jewish support for him and I proudly told her that there is amazing support for him and his parents and I thought of the wonderful organizations like JQY, Eshel, and Keshet that we have been fortunate enough to become involved with over the past year and a half. She seemed happy to hear about this.
But then she asked me the zinger. She said, “so how do you reconcile this with the torah? Will your son live a celibate life?” For the record here is how I wish I responded to this woman. I have two dream scenarios. The first involves me putting on my snarky face and saying, “Tell me how your daughter (who is my son’s age-15 or 16) plans on conducting HER sex life?” I’m not sure I could have pulled that one off. But what I really wish I had said (and I think I would have felt comfortable saying it if I had been in the right state of mind and not so shocked) is, “Do you think that’s an appropriate question to ask me?”
Here’s how I did respond. I sputtered a bit and then told her that I don’t know what will happen with him but right now we are focused on our son’s well being, his happiness and his emotional and physical health. I reiterated how proud I am of my son and that even though we didn’t know this was how things would be with him, we love him and will continue to love him no matter what and that’s what is important to us. She went on to talk about some different parenting related issues (not about having gay kids) and I stood there and pretended that this woman didn’t just cross a completely inappropriate line with me.
Is it ever ok to ask about someone else’s child’s sex life? Adult or (like my son) minor children? No. Even if someone’s child has a teenage pregnancy, I can’t imagine that a discussion about what LED to the pregnancy would ever be thought of as appropriate to ask about. If someone were having fertility issues, I can’t imagine someone asking the mother of the couple having the issues, “do you think they’re having sex enough?” or anything like that. I recognize that not everyone is where I am when it comes to the LGBT issues and especially in the Orthodox community. But the way this conversation went is much more than me not getting a positive reaction from someone. It is blatantly offensive, not to mention immodest (and modesty is something that is generally a goal within Orthodoxy).
My hope is that this woman left the conversation more educated than she had been when she started and that maybe the next time she is in a situation like this one, she will approach it differently. If for some reason this woman happens upon this blog (doubtful but you never know), I mean her no ill will. I apologize for using her in my writing but this is something I have to share. Maybe someone else will read it and know how to react in a similar situation (whether that person is the person asking or answering these uncomfortable questions).
One last thing. When I told my husband what happened, his takeaway was completely different than mine. Here is what he said (I’m paraphrasing), “What this tells me is that you are comfortable putting yourself out there. You’re not ashamed of our son and you are willing to have these conversations even though there is a possibility they may be difficult. Maybe this will help this woman when she meets another mother of a gay child. Because you know you won’t be the last.” It was great to get this positive spin. Let’s hope this situation will help turn things around somehow in the future.