photo of the day 9/28/2011. photo © Mark I Chester.
I am posting this photograph called "Bob/Yehuda" from the series Bad Boys on Parade in honor of the start of the jewish new year 5772 and Rosh Hashana this evening. While gay, lesbian and ltransgender jews are increasingly being more accepted, leatherjews remain unaccepted and challenged for being who we are. Leatherjews must still hide who we are in our congregations, stuck inside yet another closet.
Bob is good at compartmentalizing his life, as are many leathermen and leatherwomen, so that our personal lives remain hidden. But great damage is done when you have to hide who you really are in your heart of hearts. I refuse to leave my sexuality (and all of what makes me a sexual being) at the door when I enter a house of worship. If you believe in haShem, then he already knows everything about you, so hiding and pretending not to be who you really are, seems to me to be an insult, not a sign of respect.
I first showed this photograph as part of a slide show talk in NYC at a joint meeting of GMSMA and TES maybe a decade ago. When this photograph flashed on the screen, the audience literally gasped. I was stunned. I must admit that collective gasp sent shivers up my spine. This group knew how groundbreaking it was for a leatherjew to combine his sexuality and spirituality so openly in one and what better symbols of each than tefillin and leather clothes. One of the things I love about this photo is the sense of personal reflection. This was an intimate, deeply personal and deeply spiritual moment for Bob/Yehuda. May we all become more who we are in the coming year and do so knowing that it honors our spirituality when we integrate and become full human beings at each and every moment in our lives, without having to hide who we really are. Happy New Year!