When Common Decency Isn’t So Common

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Recently, I had a dinner date with a friend of mine at Eden Wok. This friend is one of the kindest people I know, and he is also one of the most intelligent. He’s a person who would take a bullet for a stranger without a second thought, and I would trust him with my life. He also happens to be a gay boy who wears make-up. We were at Eden Wok because both of us were avoiding Super Bowl parties like the plague, and we planned on having a calm dinner and catching up. As we were sitting there, countless Stern girls shuffled in, each of them staring at my friend, many giving him harsh and hate-filled glances as they walked by. Others stood in front of the Eden Wok window, staring at him as if he were an alien species from Area 51—a specimen who was theirs to examine. There were some who mocked him. They spent the entirety of our dinner pointing and laughing at my friend, mercilessly taunting him for his gayness and his makeup. Whenever he’d pass their table, they’d snicker. And, when both of us had had enough of the blatant scorn and disdain, we left our meals unfinished and hurried out of the restaurant, a space which was becoming uncomfortable for the both of us. As we left, they laughed insolently in his face.

I am a staunch ally of the LGBTQ+ community. While I am straight, the struggles experienced by the LGBTQ+ community are heart wrenching, and everyone, regardless of sexuality, religion, race, and gender should protect and stand with those belonging to this loving and formidable group of people. Being a straight woman, it is sometimes difficult for me to understand the LGBTQ+ struggle. It is as if I am a movie-goer observing the trials, torment, and victories of my gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, and intersex friends. I have never experienced the stares, the bullying, the violence, and the fear that comes along with being a part of this community. I have never been forced to come out of the closet, to announce to the world, that I, Molly Meisels, am not who everyone thinks I am. I have not had to worry that I may be disowned by my family, abandoned by my friends, and shunned by my community, all due to my sexuality. Even though I have not undergone this painful process, I still feel that is my responsibility, as a human being and a member of Yeshiva University to stand up for, and next to, all those who need my support.

However, not everyone sees the LGBTQ+ ordeal quite like I do. There are those, especially in YU, who are vehemently opposed to the LGBTQ+ community. And, I do understand that. YU is an Orthodox institution, founded on the basis of traditional values, and LGBTQ+ values aren’t traditional. I respect the opinions of those who choose not to associate themselves with the LGBTQ+ community and those who choose not to ally with them. I have countless opinions on why we, as Orthodox Jews, should embrace and accept those belonging to this community, however this article isn’t about politics, and it isn’t about religion: it’s about common decency.

At dinner, I kept apologizing for these girls’ actions. I kept telling this boy, who is still in high school, and whom I see as my little brother, that not all Stern women are like that, that not all of them are inconsiderate and callous. He shrugged it off, saying that he was accustomed to the bullying, and it didn’t trouble him. But it does matter. It matters more than words can describe. It matters, because I dorm with these women, I go to class with these women, and I spend much of my free time with these women. And they have the audacity to openly mock another human being because of the choices he chooses to make and the lifestyle that he has struggled to maintain.

The women who mocked him don’t have to agree with the LGBTQ+ community, and they can be vehemently opposed to the choices he makes. I don’t always agree with the choices others make, but I do respect that those are their decisions to make. I do not find it necessary to judge others for what they are not, and critique them for what they are.

These women, these Jewish, and supposedly honorable women, who attend Yeshiva University, a college that supposedly occupies moral and religious high ground, really disappointed me. I am not okay with the lack of common decency that I observed: a decency that should accompany each of us from birth, and should remain with us until we die. I hope whoever degraded my friend is reading this, because I want you to know—you should be ashamed of yourselves. That boy that you spent your dinner mocking would probably die for you, and instead of treating him with the respect he deserves, you treated him as an inferior. Let that sink in.