I Didn’t Feel Safe Coming Out

As a teenager in the late 1970s and early 1980s in Los Angeles, I didn’t feel safe coming out as gay — even to my liberal Jewish family. Although strides were being made by the LGBT community, rampant homophobia kept me in the closet.

When I finally came out as a young adult, I was lucky to be embraced by the people I love. I also felt hopeful that the world would become more accepting of LGBT people and other vulnerable communities that face stigma, discrimination and violence. In many ways, the world has changed for the better, thanks to many courageous activists who risk their lives for others. But the road to full equality remains long — especially for LGBT people in the developing world.

My commitment to LGBT equality and human rights has only grown stronger through my involvement with American Jewish World Service. I love AJWS because it supports extraordinary activists like Paul*, an openly gay man I met in Uganda, who works with one of AJWS’s grantees to stop hatred against Uganda’s LGBT community.

Several hours after I met Paul, I was devastated to learn that he had been brutally attacked. Five strangers followed him home from work, forced their way into his home and violently assaulted him. They then took his ID and asked for the names and locations of Paul’s colleagues who support LGBT people.

Thankfully, Paul has recovered from this horrific incident and he is continuing to do the brave work of fighting for LGBT equality in his country.

I am grateful for activists like Paul who are standing up for what’s right, even in the face of great danger. And I know that AJWS is in it for the long haul to build a better future for everyone. As Jewish tradition teaches, “You are not required to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

During Pride Month, let’s work together to build a more just and equitable world for LGBT people everywhere.

Support LGBT Rights Around the World

Bill ResnickBill Resnick is a member of the Board of Trustees for AJWS.