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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 21, 2013 Coming out, a young gay man finds self-acceptance First person By Isaac Lobel NEW YORK (JTA)--For my bar m]tzvah, my parents got me a laptop. For what I searched for on it, they got me a shrink. CyberSitter informed my computer-savvy parents that their son was searching gay porn. On the ride to my first theraw session, I stuck my head out the car window wanting to be anywhere else. We caracoled along northern New Jersey's winding streets to a shoddy home office. The rabbi turned doctor had me sit in his living room as he lectured on what was and was not natural. The dry scent ofge- filte fr filled the ungapatchka house, his decor as convoluted as his arguments. Where there should have been DSMs--Diag- nostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders--a row of Babylonian Talmuds sat col- lecting dust. Every Wednesday when I returned home, I had to wash myself of the sticky experience• For a month, I saw the shrinkweekly, lwonderedwhat qualified this lahky rabbinical school graduate to be offering such sessions, until it hit me: He went through it, too. PAGE 15A Isaac Lobel: 'After years of therapy, ! had finally found my voice.' One night, pitching his theory of gay as a phase for the umpteenth time, my shrink let slip that my condition was "not uncommon tb boys in our community." I sat on my excite- ment, but inside I was a loose spark plug. There were others? I hoped I wasn't as alone as I'd thought. In public, not a single feigeleh swished across the wooded streets of my Modern Orthodox Jewish corner of New Jersey• Thanks to shul, everybody knew everybody and her grandmother. A social circuit of Shabbat lunches kept us all abreast of each other's goings-on. Therewas noway of locating others like me, and I, like my parents,.kept my secret hidden. Without a laptop or role models, and suffering from JIG--Jewish Intermittent Guilt--my adolescence dark- ened beneath storm clouds of loneliness. During high school, my parents stopped asking how my days were. They feared me. My Modern Orthodox yeshiva high school was a blend of tradition- alism and selective modernity with an ambiguity that left me stuck in the closet door, neither of one world or the next. The 10-hour dual curricu- lum of Judaic and secular studies afforded me little time to socialize. Despite toilsome efforts to succeed, nothing I did overshadowed the lot life had given me. My gay "phase" grew longer. Like a forgotten houseplant, it was ugly. It was something I could not control. When I was 15, my parents svitched me to a second thera- pist, a tepid old man always in a three-piece suit who asked me to explain my sexuality as I saw it. As a minor, anything I said to him could be relayed to my parents. I learned to practice silence. The girls in high school called me mysterious. I found it odd how fond they were of my reserve• "What are you thinking about?" a few would ask in a cloud of giggles at breakfast or during a free period• "Everything and nothing," I would reply, pushing my nose further into my notes. By December of my junior year, I wasn't the only one who n6ticed my budding handsome- ness, reminiscent of my father's glory days. Soon I was invited to my first New Year's Eve party, an all-Jewish shindig. It was there that I met my first other gay. He had goofy ears and a crooked smile. He attended another local Jewish high school and told me that I gave off"vibes." We talked in generalities, and he hugged me goodbye when no one was looking. A few weeks later we were at the movies. As "There Will Be Blood" flashed onscreen, I had my first kiss. Soon I had my pick of col- leges and left that boy, my parents and my closet to start life anew at a Midwestern uni- versity. There, in the dappled light of academia, I quit my hermit-like ways. I joined a gay pride group, went to lectures on queer politics and made a group of like-minded friends. There were the others in m2€ community. Before I knew it, I was dating=a gentile, going to drag bars on the weekends and still calling my parents to fill them in on everything I'd studied that week. I never once mentioned my social life; I had caused them enough pain already. "And this Judith Butler, she's a nice Jewish girl?" my mother asked during a phone call. Ju- dith Butler was an author and queer theorist whose work I was studying. "Not really," I said. I came home that winter break in bleak December. Snow was falling. I was driving with my older brother when he asked me about my plans for New Year's. "You wouldn't like it," I told him. "Try me," he said. "I'm going to a gay club," I said, my voice cracking like a bar mitzvah boy's, "because I'm gay." "That makes sense," he re- sponded, matter of factly. "I'm goingtoastraight club because I'm straight. In case you were curious, too." Over the next few weeks I came out to all my friends, riding the euphoria of hav- ing someone in the family on my side. But when I faced my mother and father, my excite- ment came crashing down. How could I tell them that my sexuality was not a phase but a person desperately seeking acknowledgement? It took me seven years from my bar mitzvah to come out to my parents, this time not acci- dentally, vocalizing my identity to finally become a man. "I'm gay," I said in the um- mer of 2010, "and plan to be proud and public for a lifetime. If you don't like it, should I ever have a wedding, the two of you Negative Nancys won't be coming." "Now say it slowly with me," I said, holding my'mother's hand in her breezy home office. It took her two tries• "My son is gay," we said in shaky unison. It felt like a step in the right. direction, but for my Jewish mother it was a leap of faith. Comingoutwasnotaprivate journey. After years of therapy, I had finally found my voice; using it, I began to show my parents that they could love me without guilt. The path to self-acceptance begins and ends with the accepting of Others. Isaac Lobel, a student at New York's New School, is working on a collection of humorous essays. Curbing online hate proves a modern-day dilemma By Ron Kampeas don'tresonatewiththeyouthful Internet, a shield that Foxman when one searches for "Jew." WASHINGTON(JTA)--How do you confront hatred when it has no fixed address? Abraham Foxman, the Anti- Defamation League national director, attempts to pin down an answer to the question in his 'latest book, "Viral Hate•" ' Co-authored with privacy lawyer Christopher Wolf, the book chronicles the complica- tions of countering hate on the Internet. The takeaway? It's up to us. "Let's take back responsi- bility for our culture--both online and off., is the book's main conclusion. "Public involvement, concern, action, and, when necessary, outcry are key." Calling on the public to be alert and reactive to the dangers of bigotry is not new terrain for the ADL, which throughout its 100 -year history has coupled behind-the-scene suasions with public appeals to lobby leadership and engage with peers. Yet while many of the book's accounts of broad, spontane- ous action against Internet hate speech end in triumph, Foxman's reliance on more traditional ADL tactics in the digital age are less successful. Efforts to engage with the powers that run the Internet-- indeed, Foxman's attempt to discover who those powers even are--peter out in frustration. "We have been talking to the geniuses at Palo Alto," Foxman said in an interview. "We have said to them, 'thanks but no thanks. You developed a technology that has some wonderful things but also has unintended consequences.'" Such dead ends do hot mean the public is powerless, however. Foxman and Wolf cite the example of JuicyCampus, a gossip website brought to heel after direct appeals to the website went nowhere. As the authors tell it, the • website, established in 2007 David Karp Abraham Foxman, left, and Christopher Wolf, co-authors of 'Viral Hate.' as a clearinghouse for campus gossip, quickly devolved into speech replete with misogyny and race hatred. The site's founding pledge to ban "un- lawful, threatening, abusive, tortuous, defamatory, obscene, libelous or invasion of another Person's privacy" was honored mostly in the breach. Efforts to ban its usage by the student government and administrators at Pepperdine University in Southern Cali- fornia-one of seven schools initially targeted by the site-- kept rubbing up against First Amendment protections. Ultimately, what led to the site's demise was an inde- pendent campaign launched by a student at Pepperdine, a Christian school that does not allow alcohol on campus, urging boycotts of the site. The campaign went viral, advertis- ers abandoned the site and by February 2009 it folded. Foxman and Wolf conclude the anecdote by contrasting the success of the student initiative with the impotence of adminis- trators hobbled by the need to balance free speech with their desire to curb online hate. "Viral Hate," which comes out this m6nth, recommends an array of countermeasures. They include an emphasis in schools on educating kids on reliable sources, and parents encouraging their children to adopt responsible Internet practices. Consumers, according tothe book, should report hate speech to social media and Internet providers using tools made available for such protests. Providers should facilitate reporting, the book says, not- ing that Facebook's reporting device is obscure, requiring a mouse roilover and a click on an unnamed dropdown menu, while YouTube features an obvious flag beneath its videos. The ADL's role is less clear. In its centenary year, the or- ganization is grappling with the role it can play in an age when everyone is a publisher. The question was featured in a number of sessions at theADL's 100th anniversary conference in Washington in April. Kathleen Hall Jam'eson. a political communication ex- pert at the University of Penn- sylvania's Annenberg School of Communication, told JTA that20th century institutional arbiters like the ADL still had a role to play in the shifting landscape, noting their capac- ity to publicly shame peddlers of hate who might otherwise escape notice. But Daniel Sieradski, a Jew- ish activist and digital media strategist, said the ADL often relies on emotional pitches that online community. Instead, he said, the Jewish community should create an unaffiliated online clearinghouse, similar to the myth-busting Snopes web- site, thatwould gear itself to the fact-thirsty online community. "They would have to attack the bigotry fromaplace of using logic and fact instead of emo- tionally charged responses," said Sieradski, a former web- master at JTA. In the interviewl Foxman acknowledged the anomaly of an organization like the ADL, which has striven for the mantle of authoritativeness, delegating authority to, well, everybody. "The paradigms are chang- ing," he said multiple times. Among the changes is the sheer volume of hatred per- vading cyberspace. Another is the anonymity afforded by the likened to the masks thatwhite supremacists wore until the 1950s, when the ADL led the effort to pass laws banning their use. "It used to be if you wrote a letter to the editor, the newspaper would check your name," Foxman said. "Today on the Internet you don't have to provide identity•" Last year, the ADL estab- lished a working group on Internet hate comprised of technology executives, aca- demics and other like-minded groups. But the book casts its success in cautious terms• Foxman described a reluc- tance on the part of industry leaders to fully engage, not- ing efforts over the years to persuade Google to address alleged manipulations of its algorithms by Jew Watch, an antiSemitic site that pops up Google agreed to place a notification on the results page explaining itwas not endorsing theviews expressed on the site. Butthe company insists there is no manipulation taking place; if the site ranks high, it's in part because "Jew"--as opposed to Jewish or Jewish peopleis often used as a pejorative. "Our message to the scien- tists was, you can't say, look, these are unintended conse- quences," Foxman said. ',The providers need t0 take greater ownership. They don't want regulation." The fact that the providers lack the same permanence of the authoritative mediaofyore also poses a problem; an Inter- net giant today may disappear " by tomorrow. 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