Why Straight People Go to Gay Synagogues
By Jay Michaelson
Published June 03, 2009, issue of June 12, 2009.
In the next few weeks, gay and lesbian synagogues and Jewish organizations will be marching in New York, San Francisco and other cities around the country as part of gay pride parades. But many of the people marching won’t be gay themselves: More and more “gay” or GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) synagogues have significant percentages of “straight allies” among their membership - in some cases, even majorities. Although there are no precise statistics quantifying this trend, it is unmistakable to anyone who visits one of these congregations, and, in an era of shrinking synagogue affiliation, prompts the question of why these institutions are growing among a population they do not even try to serve. Maybe all of us have something to learn here.
I’ve visited many of these communities in my job as a GLBT religious activist, and I’ve spoken to many of the straight-identified people who take active roles, including leadership roles, within them. My reflections on this trend are anecdotal, but I’ve seen at least three major factors in play, all of which have something useful to teach the wider community.