It felt as if I was let­ting my­par­ents­down

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS -

Lara Atkin, 30, is a PHD stu­dent and teacher in English lit­er­a­ture at Queen Mary Univer­sity of Lon­don

AT 18 I had a nice Jewish boyfriend, but some­thing wasn’t quite right. I didn’t re­ally un­der­stand and my first thought was, “what’s wrong with me?” But as time went on, I re­alised this was who I am.

When I came out I started by telling my friends dur­ing my sec­ond year at Ox­ford. I was start­ing to meet gay and les­bian people so it en­cour­aged me to be open. It sort of trick­led out and grad­u­ally reached a point where I was happy to tell any­one.

It took me a lot longer to tell my friends from home. I went to a Jewish school so I thought of them as be­ing a bit more so­cially con­ser­va­tive. But on the whole they were sym­pa­thetic. Telling my fam­ily was harder be­cause I felt there were ex­pec­ta­tions for me to get mar­ried and live the fam­ily ideal. I felt like I was let­ting them down. I told my mum a few years be­fore telling my dad as she has quite a lib­eral out­look. She was more re­laxed than I ex­pected. She would talk to her Jewish friends about it and then come back to me say­ing: “You know, so and so’s daugh­ter is gay.” It was quite sweet.

I took longer to tell my fa­ther be­cause he grew up in the ‘50s and held quite con­ser­va­tive views. I thought he would find it dif­fi­cult to ac­com­mo­date the idea into his world view. He gets very un­com­fort­able when I talk about girl­friends.

Some­times there are a few com­ments, like when I in­vited a se­ri­ous girl­friend to Fri­day night din­ner. She was a charm­ing girl and my par­ents said, “We think she’s re­ally great, it’s just a shame you brought her home, and not your brother.”

And I still get the oc­ca­sional: “Our friends have a nice son, are you sure you don’t want to meet him?”

It’s eas­ier to come out to­day. It’s eas­ier to ac­cess sup­port. The gay mar­riage dis­cus­sion brought LGBT is­sues into pub­lic dis­course.

There is more open­ness in LGBT Jewish com­mu­ni­ties now. I stay in­volved through groups like Young Jewish Les­bians, part of the Jewish Gay & Les­bian Group, and I vol­un­teer at the Rain­bow Jews project. I would be more in­volved with my shul — North Western Re­form — if it had a LGBT space.

As told to Naomi Fir­sht

PHOTO: KESHET

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