It is 1990, and my younger son, David, is seven. He is standing at my dresser, digging through his favorite drawer of my jewelry box. He has extracted several ropes of fake pearls and a Venetian glass necklace that my mother gave me when I was a little girl. Looping them around his neck, he is peering at himself in the mirror. As I watch him, something goes off in my head. David often plays with my jewelry. So did his older brother, Jeffrey, when he was little. But certainly not past the age of, say, four. And never the way David is now doing, lovingly stroking the glass beads and holding them up to view. There had always been something different about David, things that I’d been picking up for the past few years. Like the fact that he didn' t hang out with packs of baseball-playing boys as his older brother did, but preferred the company of little girls. »He's so mature for his age«, my brother often remarked. Yes, he was. Adults adore David. So polite, so considerate, people told me. So different from other children. Different. When I potchked in my garden, David helped me. He'd dig holes for the plantings, carefully water the seedlings. Or he went ice skating with me when our family was on vacation in the Adirondacks. Holding hands, we glided on the bumpy surface of the frozen lake. When I fell, David helped me, and we hugged. It was the moment when David was seven, trying on my beads in front of the mirror, that I suddenly, absolutely knew that David was gay. I didn't share my epiphany with anyone. Part of me was still hoping I was wrong, that I had been misreading the many signals. As my son approached adolescence, I paid even more careful attention. He began to spend a lot of time in his room, alone, listening to music and reading books. Among his favorites were The Secret Garden and The Little Princess. Hardly the choice of other boys his age. One Saturday morning as my husband and I were making our bed, he asked me, would it bother you if one of our kids were gay? I shrugged carefully. »If one of them is gay«, Arthur continued, »it's not Jeff.« We sat down on the edge of the bed together and talked. It was not only I who had sensed since he was young that David was homosexual. »Are you ok with it?« I asked Arthur. Of course, he said. He only worried about what David might suffer in a world where homophobia is the last socially acceptable form of discrimination. My husband's words stirred my most primal parental fears. Gay teens, I had read, were a particular risk for suicide. And homicide. And AIDS. I stuffed my scary thoughts into a dark corner, and assured my husband that David would be fine. For the time being, we decided, we would keep our realization to

ourselves. The better to protect not only David from a hostile world, but ourselves as well. In the mean- time, I worried constantly. Once David came home from school and told me that a friend had taunted him with the words, »You're such a girl!« My heart hurt. Did David yet sense that he was gay? He certainly knew what homosexual meant. I had made a point of bringing up the subject occasionaly at home. I had told him, for example, that one of my best friends at college was a gay man. I consulted a psychologist. Yes, she said, kids who are gay know it when quite young. At least they know that they are different from their peers. How can I help him? I asked her. Wait until he tells you, she said. I sat on my hands and began to notice how casually people tossed off anti-gay slurs. One day, in a liquor store, I overhead a conversation between two men. One of them said »faggot«, upon which both broke out in guffaws. My throat tightened. I stood still for a moment. Then I walked over to them and stuck my face right into theirs. They turned to me, startled. Who, they were doubtless wondering, was this crazy woman? »Do you know what homophobia is?« I asked them. They continued to stare at me. »It means hating people because they are homosexual.

How do you know that there is not somebody in this store who is gay, whon can hear you sweping your garbage?« Neither man said a word. I turned my back to them and walked away. This crazy woman, I was thinking, is the mother of a gay son. And she's not just any mother. She's a Jewish mother. The women's movement made it okay for Jewish mothers to acknowledge their lesbian daughters. But up to now, we haven't heard much about their gay sons. And why? Is it because the subject is still verboten? Picture two yentas cluck-clucking in hushed tones over poor so-and-so's son. But offensive as it is, the crude Jewish-mother stereotype, the one Harvey Fierstein depicted so scathingly in this play Torch Song Trilogy (In der deutschen Fassung Das Kuckucksnest, Anm. d. S.), sometimes seems true. She's standing on the corner with you waiting for the school bus, or car-polling with you for Hebrew school. When her son finally gets the courage to tell her he is gay, she says to him, »How can you do this to me?«
»My dreams were crushed«, said one mother to me recently. She was describing what it was like for her when son came out to her at age 26. Her son is now 40. »I walked around with my head down, to this day, only her closer family and friends know«, she said. »And I'm sure that they are glad that it's my son who is gay, not theirs«, she said. How can you be so selfish? I wanted to scream at this mother, who still thinks that homosexuality is a shanda. It's not about you. It`s about your son. Yet for 16 years, this same Jewish other has been active in Parents, Families and Friends of Gays and Lesbians, or PFLAG, a national organization dedicated to supporting families and educating the public. Of her four children, she says, she is closest to her gay son. The new openness about homosexuality, she said, is a »wonderful thing.« Compare the reaction of the Jewish mother with the shocking figure cited by the Hetrick-Martin-Institute in New York, which studies and treats gay adolescents: 25 percent are thrown out of their homes. Thrown out.
In stark contrast, Jewish mothers are right out there, sporting red ribbon pins set in Magen Davids as they participate in the struggle for gay rights. Mothers like Jeanne Manford, who in 1972 marched with her son in New York's Gay Pride parade, carrying a poster with the words: PARENTS OF GAY UNITE IN SUPPORT OF OUR CHILDREN. Manford and a handful of other parents with gay children started a group, »Parents of Gays«, which eventually became PFLAG. Like many gay men of his generation, Manford's son died of AIDS in 1992. This issue proved that society's insistence that the gay community remain invisible was not only discriminatory but lethally dangerous. Agnes Herman, 79, speaks about the difference between then and know. Her son, Jeff, who like Morty Manford died of AIDS, came out to his parents in 1969, when he was 20. Like every one of the dozen or so mothers I spoke with, Herman had picked up signs of her son's homosexuality when he was still a child. (According to Cornell University's psychologist Savin-Williams, so do most mothers of gay sons). Agnes Herman is a social worker, her husband Irwin a rabbi. Back then, she said, both of them were scared to death of the subject. She was scared to tell her family, her friends. In those days, she said, there was nobody to talk to, only secrecy. But today, says Herman, families no longer have to bear »the terrible burden of a secret«. Today, Jewish women's organizations including Hadassah support causes such as AIDS research. Rita Kaplan knows all about the pain that comes from silence. Kaplan, 73, also lost her son Paul to AIDS. Her husband's cousin Alvin, she said, was also gay. Everybody knew, but nobody talked about it. In 1943, Alvin was discharged from the army for reasons never explained, but surely, said Kaplan, because he was  homosexual. Soon after, he committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Her husband's brother, she said, also had a gay son, Ronnie. Like his cousin, he died of AIDS. Kaplan said that neither her husband, Stanley, founder of the Kaplan testing empire, nor his brother, both of whose sons died of AIDS, ever talked about it. The Kaplan's family foundation actively supports AIDS research and other gay-related causes, both here in the USA and in Israel. »I'm the only one who talks in this family«, said Rita Kaplan. »But somebody has to talk. Right?«
Ninth grade. Hormones surge. This is an awful enough time for hetero teens, I tell myself. Ho much worse it must be for a gay kid. Especially one who hasn't yet told anybody. David isn't telling us much about his life outside of our home. Are other kids harassing him at school? Has he had any sexual contact yet, with either sex? Kissing, hugging? Or even oral sex, not an unlikely possibility for a 14-year-old? He has certainly had opportunities. For the past two years he has been attending a Reform Jewish sleepaway camp. My husband has several talks with him about safe sex, in which he mentions gay sex. AIDS is a nagging fear. Two days after David's fifteenth birthday. My husband Arthus goes to pick him up from a play rehearsal. It is late; both guys are tired and cranky. I am in be, half asleep. When they arrive home, I hear them arguing. David had to wait at school for a few minutes, and is giving his father hell. »Don't you pull that obnoxious teenager stuff on me«, Arthur shouts at him. »You mean obnoxious gay teenager.« As soon as the words slip out of David's mouth, he races up to his room, slamming the door. Arthur follows him up the stairs. He knocks on the door. Entering his son's room, he finds David lying on his bed, sobbing. He cradles David in his arms. »It's all right, it's all right«, Arthur says. David alternately sobs and talks excitedly. His relief at letting out his secret, Arthur tells me later, was palpable. I am asleep during this exchange, and only learn about it later when Arthur gets into bed with me. I wake up an immediately sense his agitation. »What's wrong?« I murmur. »David told me that he is gay«, my husband says. His voice quavers a little. For a few minutes I allow myself to feel sorrow. I am thinking that my son will sleeping with men, experience persecution, and never have children. But with my sadness comes gratitude to David for trusting us. What more potent subject for a teenager to talk about with his parents than is sexual feelings? I clutch at Arthurs hand. »Thank God«, I whispered. »Thank God he told us. Now go to sleep.« It is very late. Arthur turns over on his side. But now I am alert. I lay awake for a while and try to banish from my mind the story about Matthew Shepard, murdered five months earlier in Wyoming. A few weeks later, when Jeff returned home for spring break and David came out to his brother, the four of us agreed that David should not come out at high school. Even though two years had already passed since Ellen De Generes' doppelganger sit-com character had told her viewers that she was a lesbian, despite all the hype about what a brave new world it is for homosexuals, it's not yet safe. Especially for a gay teenager. Jeff told us that the homophobia he'd himself witnessed at the high school was ubiquitous and ugly. When two gay guys who decided to come out walked hand-in-hand down the halls, people had shoved them, spat at them, called them names. It is especially hard for gay boys, for whom the parameters of »normal« behavior are stricter than for girls. Nobody looks askance when girls hug, or have sleepovers. »If a young girl falls in love with her best friend, so what?» said Rich Savin-Williams. For the girls, he said, it's OK to have what psychologists call »passionate friendships«. But with

boys, it's a different story. »Boys are more self-conscious being physical with each other than are girls«, says Eric Marcus. »There' less room for them to be themselves.» I kept my worries to myself, but sug- gested to David that he talk to a therapist. He agreed, and I found a gay male social worker, a family therapist. Four months after David came out to us, he left for camp, eagerly looking forward to seeing his many friends there. A few weeks after we received a letter. In it he

announced that he had told one of his friends that he was gay. The friend was straight. »Because she is like my closest friend, and she's sic with all that stuff.« My son wrote. »And now«, he continued »all my good friends know I'm gay, and obviously don't care.« He had also mad a few gay and lesbian friends. »They are totally open to the camp, which is great«, he wrote. The Reform movement also provides David with a haven. He is in close touch with his camp friends. He goes to a Reform Jewish youth group convention in Los Angeles which features a workshop for gay and lesbian teens. He has signed up for it, he tells me, because it is a good place to meet somebody. I feel happy for him. He is also active in our synagogue youth group, where he meets a boy struggling with his sexuality. David and Jason begin attending the coffeehouse together. Jason's parents, also synagogue members, are having a lot of difficulty accepting his homosexuality. Like many of the teens at the coffeehouse, Jason goes there without his parents' knowledge. Jason's sister recently called him »faggot«. Jason swore back at his sister. His mother reproached him. »She wasn't cursing at you, Jason«, his mother said. »She was cursing at the idea of you.« I fear Jason is in for a hard time. But it will still be better for him than it was for gay Jewish sons born ten years earlier. Kids are coming out at a younger and younger age, »because they feel much safer«, said Martin R. Goldfriend, a professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, who recently launched a network for psychologists with gay family members. Still, I worry. As a Jewish mother, I'm keeping a close watch, even as my son David and I begin our search for the right college. I want all the usual good things, including a sizable Jewish presence. And one more thing: an active and visible community of gay and lesbian students, so that David can come into his own. I hope that he'll date. And that he'll find somebody Jewish!
Quelle: Lilith