My Coming Out Story

June 1st, 2022

My name is Gad, I’m 30 years old, from Tel Aviv, have been working at Ribbon for 4 1/2 years, and I am gay. My story is an unusual one and I’m sharing it as part of Pride month1 to showcase what the people in my community can go through. In some countries being gay is actually illegal, which leads to massive pain and suffering or, in the case of Iran, the highest number of gender reassignment surgeries in the world.

I grew up in an Orthodox home with a lot of rules and restrictions. My sexual preference is almost not legitimate in the orthodox group and my outing process was very hard, even impossible.

From a very young age I felt attracted to my own sex, but couldn’t fully understand these feelings. At 14 I was sent to study in a Yeshiva where I lived with boys my age and slowly started to understand that I was gay.

I was very afraid that someone would find out, so I pretended to be attracted to women. Every day I prayed to God to change my sexual preference; to turn me into a “normal” human being.

In the Yeshiva I fell in love with another student. I kept this secret to myself for months until I couldn’t hide it anymore. One night when we were the only two awake, I confessed my feelings for him.  He told me that those feelings were mutual, and we were a couple for a year and a half.

I left the Yeshiva at the age of 18 and was recruited into the army at 21 where I continued to keep my homosexuality to myself. I learned about a conversion treatment and thought this could turn me straight and end my suffering. Luckily, just one treatment’s cost was equivalent to a month’s salary, so I couldn’t afford it.

I was discharged from the army at the age of 24 and fell into a depression so deep that I wanted to end my life. I didn’t see how I could be gay and religious at the same time. In one of my darkest moments, I Googled “religious gay people” and found an email address. I wrote a short paragraph about myself and sent it. A few moments later, I got an answer with the promise that someone would reach out to me the next day.  A representative indeed contacted me the next day and told me that there was a group of religious and formerly religious gay people that met biweekly and invited me to join to the next meeting.

That meeting was the first time I disclosed I was gay, just like that!

My stomach dropped from excitement, and I was thrilled to see that I wasn’t the only one and that there were others like me, that it was possible to live as a gay man without any guilt.

After the meeting I went out with a couple of guys from the group to Tel Aviv port where we talked very openly, in ways I couldn’t have imagined before.  From that moment on, I started my journey of coming out to my closest friends, work friends and others.  But I still couldn’t tell my own family. I promised myself that I would tell my parents when I left their house.

In the meantime, my older brother’s kidney stopped functioning and we had to find him a donor. So I got tested and luckily was a match. We grew extremely close during that time, and I came out to him. He immediately told me that he loved me no matter, even if he didn’t agree with my ways.

A few months passed and I started to date another man. I brought him to my parents’ home, introducing him as just a friend, but my mother had her suspicions. She called my brother and told him that she would kill herself if I was gay. My brother told me, and although I wanted to tell them my secret, I had to bury it even deeper in my heart.

I moved in with my boyfriend and as time passed I made up my mind to tell my parents the truth. One day, I called my mom after work, made sure she was sitting down, and told her I was attracted to men. Her reaction surprised me: she invited us to come over for the weekend. We talked some more, and she told me that they had always suspected it, but convinced themselves that they were just imagining things.

A few hours later my dad came home and my mom told him about our conversation.  He was very angry and sent me a message telling me that being gay made me a sinner. We stopped talking for a while and I was afraid to return to their home.

A year and a half later my partner and I broke up, and my parents almost threw a party. They thought that the breakup meant I was now straight.

The first few months were extremely difficult between the pain of the breakup and my father’s numerous comments. I couldn’t stay quiet and reacted every time he said something. Luckily as time went on, his comments became much less frequent. While my father still can’t fully accept my sexual orientation, he has stopped commenting on it.

My parents and I have great relationship now even if we can’t see eye to eye on a lot of subjects, especially my sexual orientation, as they are orthodox. I am happy they love me as I am and that I have my own way of life.

I know that I’m not the only one in this situation and it’s very important to me to help raise awareness around this issue – I’m active on social media (@gaddafna) where I showcase the fact that I am both religious and gay, which makes me more approachable for others in a similar position looking for advice or just understanding. I also wrote an opinion piece in Israel’s most-read newspaper to make the message accessible to the general public.

Finally, a note about working at Ribbon – when I first interviewed 4+ years ago, I felt that being gay was a non-issue and that I was being accepted just the way I am. Everything I had been afraid of and worried about faded away and I felt comfortable and loved.

I hope that my journey and story can inspired others to simply be themselves and to never be afraid.  They are not alone!

[1] Pride celebrations take place throughout the year in different parts of the world but more and more countries are celebrating it in June.