Israeli Teens Share Their Coming-Out Stories

When I was growing up in Canada, I always looked up to Israeli teenagers. I was fortunate to spend my high school summers in Israel and participate in programs together with Israeli teens, which served to intensify my admiration for them. I thought they were strong, bold and courageous for both getting drafted to the army and living in a country without American jeans and sneakers and where movies came out only months after their American debut.

Although I am now over twice the age of a regular Israeli soldier, and Israel today is not lacking in the way of materialistic culture, I still admire Israeli teens. Far more than many North American youth, they seem to have the courage of their convictions. None so much as the gay and lesbian Israeli teens who visited San Francisco’s Jewish community last week as part of the Out in Israel LBGT Culture Festival sponsored by the Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest and the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation together and other local organizations.

I met with four ambassadors of Israel Gay Youth, or IGY, who spoke at San Francisco’s Bureau of Jewish Education. They told their personal stories, discussed what it was like to come out in Israeli society, and shared how they were affected by the lethal shooting attack on the gay youth club in Tel Aviv last August. As a member of a generation in which almost no gay person came out until they were in college or beyond, I was amazed at the confidence and self-assurance with which these Israeli teens handle their sexual identity and negotiate any obstacles that stand in their way because of it. Here are their stories:

I always liked how Israelis are unapologetic and talk dugri, telling it like it is. When I was a teen, I liked this characteristic of my Israeli peers because I thought it was cool. Now a mother of teenagers myself, and someone who cares deeply about the future of Israel and the quality of life there, I know that the ability of LGBT teens to freely come out, speak their minds and participate actively in Israeli civil society, is more than just cool. It is essential for maintaining Israel’s democratic identity.

Renee Ghert-Zand, a veteran Jewish educator, blogs at “Truth, Praise and Help.”

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