How do I tell others? Will I have grandchildren?
Alison Walsh is a member of the support group, Parents of Jewish Gays and Lesbians
HAVING A Jewish child come out can be a bewildering time for parents. Alison Walsh says the orthodox community should be providing more support for families.
She and her husband joined the group in 2007 when their 15-year-old son came out. Members meet in each other’s homes to hear and share their experiences in a confidential setting.
“People often have questions: How do I tell others? What does the future look like?” she said.
“The thing that is hardest is asking ‘will I have grandchildren?’ It’s also quite hard, particularly if you are involved in the synagogue and have friends there. Can I tell anyone in the synagogue? In a sense, parents have to ‘out’ themselves.”
The group started in London, but now has a Leeds and Manchester branch. They provide a helpline for parents and children looking for advice.
Mrs Walsh said she found the group by searching online, but says it needs much more publicity within the community. “When a child tells their par- ents it invariably comes as a complete shock. In almost all cases they do not expect it,” said Mrs Walsh.
“The parents want to talk to someone and don’t know who they can talk to. I am hoping that the United Synagogue and general synagogues will start to publicise the group more. It needs to be recognised.”
Mrs Walsh said some orthodox shuls are scared of publicly showing support for the group. “If you talk to the orthodox they will say you are normalising it, but these children exist and they are normal and they could give a lot to Jewish communities,” she said.
M r s Wa l s h believes the community could also do more to include gay children, adding: “For heterosexual Jews we go to great lengths to get our children to meet Jewish partners.”
“A gay child knows they are gay at much the same age as child knows they are heterosexual. There is much that could be done for Jewish gay children to meet others.”
“We have to out ourselves. If you talk to the orthodox, they say you are normalising it”
As told to Naomi Firsht