Finding a Mikveh When You’re Queer

“The first time I considered going to the mikveh was before my wedding. While this was a completely typical time to think about going to the mikveh, I was marrying a woman, not a man, and I identify as queer.” – Jessica Ozar, a freelance writer from Atlanta, blogs.

Jessica on her wedding day (Photo: Twitter)

I didn’t know if going to a mikveh would be right for me, or whether I would even be allowed to use it.

My partner and I studied at Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. While neither of us grew up incredibly religious, we decided separately that having a traditional Jewish home was important to us both. After we got engaged, we knew it would be useful to meet with a kallah (bride) teacher who could tell us about using the mikveh and the niddah (family purity laws) tradition that we had never heard about until coming to Israel. We were lucky to meet with a kallah teacher who had taught a religious lesbian couple before us, and we even had a chance to talk with the couple to discuss their experience with niddah and the mikveh, as a way to determine how it works for a non-heterosexual couple, and what might work for us.

Eight months later, we were living in Denver and about to get married. We decided to separate for the seven days prior to the wedding, during which point we each went to the mikveh. There was no open mikveh in Denver, like Mayyim Hayyim that is not affiliated with any one religious movement, allowing women and men of any age to dip in the waters for reasons that the mikveh has not been used traditionally, such as surviving cancer or following a gender transition. I knew I would have to go to the only mikveh in my area or to the Aish mikveh in south Denver. I was involved with Aish in Israel, a movement that seeks to bring Jews to a more traditional Judaism, and had my own perceptions of the community’s perspective on queer people. While I don’t have QUEER written on my forehead, I was concerned that someone may ask something about my fiancé, or somehow know automatically that I didn’t belong there.

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