Third generation gay: Imri Kalmann, co-chair of The Aguda who turned to politics, shared his family story ahead of the elections for left-wing party Meretz. His father came out of the closet when Imri was 9, followed by his grandfather. “My mom is probably the only woman in the world whose father, husband and son are gay,” he says.
Until the age of nine, the life of Imri Kalmann (31) was quite regular. Mother, father, two sisters… an average Kfar Saba family. But then his father, Dov Kalmann, a travel consultant, left home and announced that he loved men. Shortly after, his grandfather, David, his mother’s father, came out as well. “My father took me and my older sister, Timna, who was ten at the time, and told us that Daddy’s good friend was actually his partner,” recalls Imri. “Timna started to cry. She thought that if he did not like girls, then he probably did not like her. I was mainly afraid of shame. This is an age when it’s not nice to hear ‘your father is a homo.'”
Not to mention Grandpa
“My grandfather lived in the Netherlands, and his coming out was surprising, but not influential. He now lives with his partner and Grandma lives in the house next to them, and they have dinners together. This is a really unique story.”
All this came out of the blue for you?
“First of all our parents got divorced and we didn’t understand why. It wasn’t so bad, because divorce was not uncommon, but the news that my father was gay was a shock to me. He was very much loved by my friends. I wanted to continue being cool and acceptable among my friends, and I kept it a secret. I felt that I couldn’t bring friends home after that.”
Though he kept it as a secret, Imri said that the fact that his dad moved in with the boyfriend to an apartment near by, combined with Kfar Saba being a small town, the rumor spread fast. “One day, a girl I knew asked me about it, and as soon as she asked, I understood that everyone knew,” Imri says. “I was in the clouds. It was such a relief. She released me from this burden, from the stress. I was 16, and in a way my own sexual identity stuck because of that. This secret had stopped me.”
When did you understand that you too are gay?
“When I was released from the secret. I was very confused, I didn’t know whether I liked women or men, I didn’t deal with my sexual identity at all, it was closed in the closet. I didn’t even masturbate because I was afraid of what it would say about me. I didn’t have a problem being attracted to men, but I had a problem with the word homo, it’s a terrible word, a curse. Who wants to be part of such a brand?”
How did your mother react to your coming out?
“Discreetly. She is a slightly more introverted person. In a short period of time, she faced some difficult challenges and it was not easy for her with any of them. In addition to being divorced and with her father and ex-husband coming out – she also lost a daughter. My parents adopted Noya, a girl who was born with a severe heart deficiency and was abandoned in the hospital. They treated her with love and devotion. For me she was a real sister, but at the age of five she died during heart surgery, so my coming out was yet another difficulty my mom faced. My mother is perhaps the only woman in the world whose father, husband and son are gay. ”
How did you tell your dad?
“He simply asked me, and that helped me to tell him. [My high school boyfriend and I] were in the car, there was a song playing on the radio that was our song, “Bo” by Ivri Lider from the movie ‘Yossi and Jagger’. So I called my dad and played the song to him, and my dad asked, ‘Are you just friends?’ and I replied, ‘We’re a couple.'”
Can you understand why he has been in the closet for so many years?
“Of course. He didn’t want to accept it in himself.To be gay was dark, a bad thing. There was no hope for life in those days. It was terrible loneliness, no relationship, no family, no children. For those who wanted a family, being gay was not even an option. Only in recent years has the change occurred. Gay people can get married and have kids, and one of the contributors to this revolution was my father.”