Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Adrienne, can you start off by telling us about the religious environment that you came from?
My community was modern orthodox-Sephardi. You don't see many Sephard kids going of the derech, because the majority of us are really, really modern. I think OTD is a mainly Ashkenaz phenomenon.
Whats was something you encountered growing up that made you question your upbringing?
My mom got very sick, she has multiple illnesses, despite all this, she became more religious, she got more friends who were absurdly religious. I lost faith, thinking why should I worship one who keeps such bad stuff happening? Also, I was never accepted to a yeshiva high school due to my ADHD and mental illness. What the hell ever happened to us helping each other?
Was the impetus for your transition primarily intellectual, emotional, social, cultural, or some other factor?
Definitely emotional. I was tired of having stuff shoved down my throat. I called this "Because I said so Judaism".
How old were you at this time?
When I was a kid, I did not know what OTD was, but some form always looked good to me. I would say 14.
If there was a period, or moment, for you, when it all suddenly fell apart, how did it feel when you realized that it all wasn't true?
It did not exactly fall apart, it just gradually happened. I felt like I had been lied to, and the community togetherness was false. I found that if your family did not have the right last name or a ton of cash, you were nothing. This is especially true in the Sephardic community - The Peoples Republic of Midwood.
Can you highlight one of the very first ways you crossed the halachic line and how you felt about it?
I started sneaking around as a 9th grader, I would go for non kosher food in far, far away neighborhoods. At first I felt like I was weak, but I stopped caring.
Did you ever admit this to anyone? How long was it that you lived this double life?
No I didn't. For a long time, I did not tell my family but I finally came out to my family about being Reform 3 weeks ago. My mom took it well, but she says she can't accept it, but she loves me anyway.
Do you currently have any connection to Jewish identity, religion, or culture?
I chose to go Reform. Ever notice that the Frum community claims Reform folks are not even Jewish? I met people who are far less hypocritical here. I would say I am more spiritual now that I left. It feels good. I, being bisexual, my husband and I joined the gay synagogue...what an open, warm service.
Is there anything from your religious past that you miss in your life now?
Being open with my family.
Are there any behaviors or perspectives from your past religious life that are still dominant in your life now?
Loyalty and charity. I truly give, and not to crazy people who bug you at your door. We don't have those here. I give a few dollars to worthy causes, I volunteer when I do not have the cash. Not to see my name in lights, like so many people in the old community did.
How do you currently view the religious community you came from?
With both fondness and hostility. There were many good parts on the surface, but way too much ugly underneath.
Do you still believe in some form of God or in some version of Judaism?
Yes, I like to think there is someone. God, Allah, goddess, whatever you call them, there may be several "someones". I don't know. As I said, I am Reform, but I like to throw in some Wicca and some Buddhism and see what sticks. Perhaps I am "universally religious".
What are some of the drawbacks of your decision to leave? Do you regret it at all?
Not being closer to my family; having to lie. But I don't regret it. Who regrets freedom?
Are there any particular struggles or challenges that you find especially difficult in the transition?
I still feel a little evil when I "break" a law.
What are some things that helped you get through those difficult times?
My husband. I love him so much. I did marry him early on to get away from them though. My mom had us under her thumb. My older siblings still live there in some odd limbo.
Can you name something significant which you are currently doing in your life, or that you've experienced, which would have been difficult, if not impossible, in your former life?
I could never have been a frum Drag King.
You're a Drag King now? Can you tell me a little bit about what that's like? How did you get into that?
Yes I am. It is fun to be someone else for a while, so much fun to be onstage. I have a ton of LGBTQ friends, I saw one show and I was hooked.
What surprised you most about the world outside ultra-orthodoxy?
That they were not a bunch of anti-Semites or sex-possessed heathens.
What is one misconception or stereotype about ex-frum people that you'd like to correct?
Trust me, we are not all about the sex/drugs/rock n roll/cheeseburgers, even though those sure are tasty. We are not addicts, we are not weak.
How does your life now compare to when you were frum?
When I was frum, everything that looked like fun was "Not For Us". Now I do all sorts of "Not For Us" things - march in the Pride parade, see burlesque, roller derby, enjoy as many holidays as possible.
Can you give an example of something that has completely changed in your way of thinking since you left?
That it is not a sin or a sickness to live an alternate lifestyle.
What's the best thing about not being frum?
If you could change one thing about the community you left, what would it be?
Hypocrisy. We only do good if it makes us look good.
Lastly, do you think there's anything that the frum world could have done to keep you "on the derech"?
I seriously do not know. Maybe there needs to be some sort of Rumspringa like the Amish have. The vast majority of Amish who do that tend to return. Taste the freedom, but know you can return.
Thank you very much Adrienne.
Photo credit: flickr user Emuishere Peliculas
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