Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Jewish Rainbow Connection


Golf Widow

Quin is under the weather. I am filling in.

My chosen topic touches upon a subject near and dear to both of our hearts.

Gay Boys.

Actually, the idea for this topic was given to me by Quin's and my (and many other people's) gay boyfriend, Peter. (a note from Quin...he's MY GLTDP)

He wanted to know how (since I used to be Jewish-American before I reached the age of Having Pretty Much Gotten Over Any Organized Religion Whatsoever) being Jewish and female affected my feelings toward (and interactions with) homosexual men.

I decided to see what other Jewish women had to say about it, so we wouldn't be dealing with just one point of view.

My cousin's internet is currently frigged up, because she is heterosexual and married to a gentile boy who doesn't know anything about computers but insists on mucking about with the connections anyway. So I have not had a reply from her on this, as yet.

(I do, however, feel her pain. I've got one of those at home myself, and I still cannot fathom how "If you don't know what to do, leave it alone" doesn't get through their respective skulls.)

My mother's response is, I think, indicative of the generational gap. It gave me a lot of insight in terms of "Lowered, how things do change."

She said, and I quote:
  1. As a young Jewish girl, I didn't know what gay was.
  2. When I first found out -- sort of -- the gay men I had met were not friendly or good people. They were very political and seemed to hate most girls. (And hell, we were all "girls." No women were in power in that place.)
  3. It took me a while to sort it all out.
Having said that, at this stage in my life I am friendly with several men who just happen to be gay. In many cases it seems a shame that such nice guys don't want to produce more nice guys, but I didn't live through their troubles either.
It's a new world now. Television, our most common medium in the US, has invited shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and the new I've Got a Secret (both now, sadly, defunct) into our collective consciousness. Ellen DeGeneres has one of the most popular talk shows on daytime television. This was, obviously, not the case when my mother was young. The gay people she had encountered were obviously in a lot of emotional pain and terribly restricted in their freedom to express their lifestyles and personalities.

It's sad for them, really. My mother is a lot of fun.

And she raised me to respect everyone, regardless of their skin color, religious beliefs, or sexual preferences, until such time as they proved (as individuals, never as groups) that they were no longer worthy of my respect. After that, all bets tend to be off with me. My mother is still of the "give them the benefit of the doubt" school, but it is what it is.

Anyway, my first truly gay boy friend was not out of the closet, but we did bond terrifically well. That said, he was, himself, Irish Catholic, and he bonded equally well with most of my female friends at the same time, who were mostly Catholic or Protestant. He just liked being around girls. We didn't judge him. Neither religion nor home-tradition played any part in our individual or group friendships where he was involved.

This was also true of my first out-of-the-closet gay boy friend. His best friend was my friend Anna, who was Roman Catholic. But I was the one he chose to try to make out with, just to prove to his mother once and for all that he really, honestly, had given girls a fair shot and he just plain wasn't feeling it.

This probably had a lot more to do with the fact that Anna was also full-blooded Italian and had more facial hair than he did (whereas I look reasonably girly) than it did with Judaism.

Anyway, he was very cute (picture William Baldwin, but with brown eyes), and the experiment was a lot of fun. I also got a nice ego boost from the fact that he said, "You're a really good kisser. It's too bad you're not a guy."

Then he went back and told his mother, "Nope, I've checked. Definitely gay," and we continued merrily on with our friendship until he moved out of state. We keep in touch sporadically by email, but my wardrobe has, indeed, suffered without his guidance.

I was originally going to draw the conclusion that it wouldn't have mattered what my religion was -- my upbringing had been such that I could, and did, enjoy the company of a nice guy, sexual preferences aside. Gay boys tended to be a lot more in tune with me because I think they understood the pain of being different and were more careful of others' feelings than were regular old "accepted for whom they were" boys.

But I think, ultimately, I can sum up the whole experience by example rather than by explanation:

When I'm asked to compare Prince Gomolvilas to other men I've known, I'm hard pressed to do so, but when people ask me what sort of person he's like, the first person who comes to mind is my late Aunt Lillian.


When Prince says of Pork Chop, "There he is. There's my baby," I can totally picture Aunt Lillian saying the same thing. The only difference is that she would never have named a cat after any food that wasn't kosher.

Our Neville Fact:

Neville still hasn't figured out that Victoria Beckham and Posh Spice are not two different people. Margaret thinks that Victoria Beckham and Posh Spice Beckham are sisters. Their daughter is often tempted to introduce them to the music of The New York Dolls, David Johansen, and Buster Poindexter, just to really mess about with their heads.


Michael Manning said...

The Lovely & Talented GW!: I admire your sense of humor. I have friends who are Gay and Lesbian who live elsewhere in the U.S. One guy is such a comedian. He was on a Pan Am tour bus with us in Washington in 2005 and even the lady bus driver was cracking up. I'm easily amused of course, and was half-way in the aisle from giggling to death. Victoria/Posh: Wouldn't we all love to have her bank account these days, eh?

Nice to see you GW!

Harriet V said...

That seems to fit in with another admonition we've heard: "It's more important to make a friend than to try to find a lover."

Solomon Broad said...

Things slowly started getting better after Stonewall. Thank goodness. :D

Quin Browne said...

so, what? lillian's cat was called gefilte fish?

Peter Varvel said...

Dear my Quin, feel better soon (you and Prince must be on the same cycle)

Golfwiddah, THANK YOU!
Key Phrase, for me, about your mom: "The gay people she had encountered were obviously in a lot of emotional pain and terribly restricted in their freedom to express their lifestyles and personalities."
A major portion of the fun in the Jewish girl-gay boy friendship IS having that freedom, now, to be so blatanly expressive.
I try to remember not to take that for granted.
And in answer to my original query to you, I think you nailed it with "they understood the pain of being different and were more careful of others' feelings."

And: You get asked to compare Prince to other men?!

. . . !

golfwidow said...

Q - Lillian didn't have a cat in the time I knew her (she lived in a lovely apartment in Brooklyn), but if she had had one, I'm guessing it would probably have been named Schmear (as in either chopped liver or cream cheese). That's the kind of person she was.

Harriet V said...

Pets in that family were either named "Ketzl" (if it was a cat) or Tootsie. Tradition!

Quin Browne said...

(chorus) TRADITION!!

sorry, it begged to be said.

Prince Gomolvilas said...

I cannot be compared! I am a unique gay entity unto myself! Don't even try! (Aunt Lillian notwithstanding.)