by Dr. Jeremy Novich (YCT Board Member) for The Times of Israel
As the psychologist at JQY, I know first hand the sadness, fear, and pain that queer youth from Orthodox backgrounds experience as they struggle to figure out their place in their communities and families. The dominant perspective for helping queer youth views the child as the one who needs support. While youth do, in fact, benefit from highly-specialized support that marry expertise of the Orthodox community with expertise in queerness, direct service to youth is not enough. Once a child comes out, the entire family is forced to face many of the same questions and challenges experienced by their queer child. Just as the child needs support in reducing shame and closetedness, and improving self-acceptance and how to self-advocate, so do families, especially parents. Only through working through their own issues with queerness can parents parent their queer child most effectively.
Ten years ago my mother and father attended the first-ever Eshel parent retreat for Orthodox parents of LGBTQ kids. On his way home from the event, my father described it as “transformative.” In the following weeks and months, my parents told me when they would attend local support groups for Orthodox parents of LGBTQ children. As a gay man who had benefited so much from having a community of other queer Orthodox Jews, I was thrilled, even relieved, that my parents had a community of other Orthodox parents.
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