Gaytheist: Coming Out of My Orthodox Childhood

Street Noise. Feb. 2024. 260p. ISBN 9781951491277. pap. $23.99. MEMOIR
Mann’s (Thoughts from Iceland) youth was fraught with two struggles: satisfy his strict Orthodox Jewish parents by observing manifold rituals, and—realizing that he was gay—camouflage his increasing attraction to boys. Approaching puberty, he feared showing arousal in the sex-segregated ritual baths. These intertwined dilemmas led him to question his family’s faith and notice inconsistencies. Why were modern Jewish women sequestered in a hidden area of the temple and barred from participating, whereas ancient Israel’s women could bring sacrifices to the temple alongside the men? What about conflicting rabbinical theories about homosexuality? Lonnie’s parents affirm their love when he comes out to them, yet his father doesn’t quite believe him while his mother trusts her psychic’s assessment over her son’s. Finally finding acceptance in gamer and arts groups, he meets other gay kids. Ultimately, he leaves Judaism completely to find fellowship and an honest life in a chosen family. The simple, curvy blue/sepia art from Mann and his animator spouse Gatts conveys the helplessness of a young person facing thorny contradictions he doesn’t understand.
VERDICT Excellent for readers seeking to understand challenges facing devout LGBTQIA+ people and for religious queer individuals themselves.
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