When people first join the secret Facebook group for LGBTQ people who live or have lived among the Hasidim, they tend to say things like, “I’ve never met anyone like me.”
Recently, “Mira” cut her hair short. It was cute, and boyish. The next morning, she was called to the office in her high school yeshiva and told, “We don’t tolerate such shenanigans.” Girls at their school are required to look properly feminine, and all of them are expected to marry.
“Sam” lives in a similar strict religious community. Growing up, he did everything he could to hide the fact that he was gay. He knew if he came out he’d be ostracized at school, and his parents would try to either marry him off, or cut him off from their lives.
Mira and Sam’s community is Hasidic — Jewish ultra-orthodox. There are neighborhoods of Hasidim all over the world, men in black suits and hats with long untrimmed beards, women in modest skirts and long sleeves with their hair covered.
I first met Mira and Sam in a secret Facebook group for LGBTQ people who live or have lived among the Hasidim. The group was formed by activist Chaim Levin after he read my book, Uncovered: How I Left Hasidic Life and Finally Came Home, about my years as a Hasidic woman and secret lesbian. When people first join this group, they tend to say things like, “I’ve never met anyone like me.” Here I found deeply religious people trying desperately to reconcile their sexuality with their faith visiting with openly gay people who fled the community years ago and never looked back. I’ve met bearded Hasidic rabbis who joined this under a girl’s name because they are transgender, and teens thrust out of their homes for being gay who don’t know how to live in the secular world. Some are happy. Some are despondent. Many show a striking lack of knowledge about their sexuality. For all of us, the group feels revolutionary. I feel certain it has saved lives.