Navigating the frum world as an LGBT parent

My daughter was about 7 years old when I got a phone call from her classmate’s mother. “You are not going to believe this. My son just came home and told me that he thought it was so cool that your daughter has two moms!” Another friend called and told me that her daughter had just said the same thing. Clearly, the children had been talking about their families in class.

Cool? Really?! It sounded like the kids thought of my partner like extra sprinkles — because to children, more is better. Another mom meant more mom-hugs, more kisses for boo-boos, more comfort when a mom wiped away their tears, and more love.

I was floored. To me, it meant so much more. I immediately realized that in their two households, no one had taught their children to hate. They let their children come to them with the wonder that children experience when discovering something new and different. For us, it was the beginning of navigating our relationships with parents of my daughter’s friends.

Truth be told, not every interaction was so positive. One family, the one that wanted our names off of the same line in the round-robin Purim basket, and thrown out of the shul for even thinking of putting our names on it, actually yanked their child out of little league baseball, simply because my daughter was on the team. These experiences were like night and day, but I realized that these were the best and worst of what we would deal with along the way. And so we forged ahead.

How were we going to tell our child what had transpired? Would we share the good and the bad? What age was too young to discuss all of this with her? What position would other parents take when learning that our daughter was in class with their children? Were we going to have the strength to hold up if someone harmed her or hurt us with their words or actions?

I had to do something. So I told her the good. I saved the bad for later in life and gave her tools to fight the bullying I knew would come. I am forever grateful it was short-lived. A child in her fifth-grade class had made fun of her because she had two moms. She came home and told me what she said to her yeshiva classmate; “How would you like it if someone made fun of you for being Jewish?” And another friend piped up, “Yeah, don’t be mean!” And that was that.

I am thankful to say that for the most part, things were better from then on with her classmates. Even the school administration made sure of that; because, after all, she was a Jewish little girl who only knew life in the frum world. We were so grateful and hopeful. As time went on, we even overheard her friends refer to us, when speaking to her, as “your parents.” There were more children out there in the frum world whose parents had not taught their kids to hate. They had taught them Ahavat Yisrael.

Then the time came for a Shabbos sleepover at our home. And the other child’s mother called. “What do I tell my daughter about you and your partner?” So I told her, “Tell your daughter what I tell mine. She has a mom and an extra.” Kind of like sprinkles. I reassured that mom that we would have her daughter and mine sleep downstairs in a guest space, as opposed to on the same floor as us. They were still young and sexuality was just not the thing to be discussed at their age. Tzniut (modesty) had to prevail — even if we were different. I did not want us to be the cause of questions at such an early age. I knew they would come at some point, but I just wanted those children to be older and better equipped to handle the answers.

When my ex-husband remarried, my daughter also questioned her reality. She knew she had two moms, but now she was getting a third. “Three moms and one dad. That doesn’t make any sense!” So I looked at her and said, “You know, that really stinks — having four parents that love you!” She smiled at me, and I knew she got it. Love would prevail.

And prevail it did. My daughter, who could not remember a time before my partner had come into our lives (she had been 4), always told everyone that she got her eyebrows from my partner. It was funny for a few years, but then I realized as she got older we would have to break it to her. “You know,” I said, “it doesn’t work that way.” She looked at me seriously and said, “I know Ima. But Hashem knew she would come into our lives and so he made my eyebrows like hers.” Funny thing is, she has my eyebrows exactly; but I knew from that moment on, we were all raising a child of faith.

About the Author
Shlomit is a career prosecutor -- one who believes in seeking justice for others. She holds a degree in Judaic Studies from Brooklyn College and a law degree from Hofstra (1998). She is a yeshiva high school graduate (Central/YUHSG,1988). Shlomit recently spoke on a panel at the RCA (Rabbinical Council of America) on the necessity for inclusion of the LGBT community in the Orthodox world and the impact that exclusion has caused to that community.
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