A reader of Jewish magazine Heritage recently attended the wedding of two young women in Orlando. A Jewish wedding, officiated by a local rabbi.
Twenty-five years ago I was walking with a friend on the lower west side of Manhattan, nearly in the shadows of the World Trade Center towers. He was about my age and, as you figured out by my choice of pronouns, a guy. A male friend—one of my best friends, in fact. As we walked something suddenly clanked against the curb beside us. It was a half-full beer can, and a car full of youngish punks from New Jersey (their car had Jersey plates), yelled out, “Go home, faggots!”
We were taken aback in so many ways. Not only were we not gay, we were not anti-gay, and the slur surprised us. At first we laughed at their mistake, and then we talked about it more seriously. What idiots, we said. What jerks. They got everything wrong in three words. And here in New York City, the capital of metropolitan sophistication, the great global trendsetter, the melting pot of America! Who would have known that, 25 years later, I’d be attending my first gay wedding in Orlando, Florida.
But let’s take a step back. Ten years ago there were virtually no gay characters on TV. Now a TV show isn’t cool unless it has a gay character. Five years ago the states of Washington, Oregon and New Hampshire took the first steps toward allowing same sex marriages. Today, in the midst of the uproar over Indiana’s new law that allows businesses to make decisions on the basis of their religious beliefs, opening the door to discrimination against the LGBT communities, among others, 37 states have made same sex marriages legal.
The astounding social change, much of which occurred within the last five years, has made acceptance of the gay community much more the norm than ever before. That’s not to say there aren’t still prejudices, biases and hatreds that cause great pain and unforgivable suffering, or barriers that continue to be broken—in business (see Tim Cook), in sports (see Jason Richardson and Michael Sam), in life. Amazing as it sounds, in my circle of Jewish friends more than half have a gay or bisexual child.