Coming out of the Russian Closet

There are gays who are ashamed of being gay and behave like ‘manly men’ to hide their orientation, but Miki Zaidel, an instructor in Hoshen, was ashamed of his origins in the Soviet Union. His New Year’s resolution is to break down this closet too, and be completely proud of who he is. Which closet would YOU like to come out of this year?

998050_589171024452814_1709725554_nDuring one of the recent activities I did for Hoshen, one of the students raised his hand and said, “I have a question that is not related, but I have to ask” … I told him I’d answer gladly, and I was asked “How come you don’t sound Russian?”

Without thinking twice, I answered that just like there are gay men who are ashamed of it and deliberately act “macho” to hide it, or at least distinguish themselves from the ‘loud feminine gays,’ so do I often feel like acting as a “sabra Israeli” with all accompanying mannerisms because … I am ashamed of my origins in the Soviet Union “.

This answer does not come from a vacuum but out of engagement on this issue recently, among others, as part of therapy. I wonder a lot about why it is so easy for me to publicly identify with all sorts of sexual identities, and have come out of the closet a few times already, each time with a different sexual identity, but still it’s so hard for me to accept myself as a Russian.

And a closet is a closet (in my case it’s probably not a sealed one, and people “know this about me” but it does not help to reduce the shame) – all closets are similar. A gay refers to his partner on the phone as a female so that his fellow military members will not understand. I answer to my aunt in Hebrew when I’m around other people. Like a closeted gay who sees someone on the street and pretends he doesn’t know him, so do I pretend not to understand Russian when an old Russian lady asks for directions on the street. Just like a closeted gay doesn’t go out to gay bars, so do I avoid Russian restaurants or admit that I love Russian cuisine, or even (God forbid!) cook Russian food in my small apartment.

So my resolution for the New Year is to break open this closet. I believe it will not be easy; all my experience to date suggests that I’m not good at coping with this particular closet. Hope to have the strength to change my reality, until the next Novy God.