gay event 298.88 aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Ten years after finding out her son is gay, former US immigrant Judy Enteen says her only regret is that, despite her early suspicions, she did not confront him about it when he was much younger.
"The suicide rate among gay people is much higher than in any other group," explained Enteen, 65, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post Wednesday, one day ahead of the Jerusalem Open House's controversial gay pride parade planned for Thursday in Jerusalem. "For people to come out and say they are gay is a major issue."
While the classic image of gay rights supporters are that they are young, Bohemian types, Enteen said that she and her husband, Norman, are among a sizable group of more mature proponents of gay rights in Israel's capital, a city known for a large haredi community. She added that they all plan to march Thursday along with the younger generation to show their support.
"People tell us that we don't need an event in Jerusalem, that we could join the march in Tel Aviv, but in Jerusalem it's more an issue of equal rights," added Enteen, who moved to Israel 29 years ago from Miami. "I strongly believe that this is an issue of human rights and the right for a person to exist as who he/she is. Being gay is not a choice; seven-10 percent of all societies are gay."
"The parade is an opportunity for people to get together and show their support and love for one another," agreed Norman Enteen, 66. "It is also an expression of the kind of society that I want to live in, where the individual's freedom of speech and expression is allowed."
In the past 10 years, the Enteens, whose son Noah grew up in Jerusalem but currently lives in San Francisco, have been extremely active in showing their support for the gay and lesbian community both here and in the US.
"We feel very strongly about this, especially in Jerusalem," said Enteen. "Sometimes when we march, people come up to us and tell us that their own parents have disowned them because of their lifestyleâ€¦ I have heard some awful stuff, but we don't feel like that way and they are always very appreciative of that acceptance."
The Enteens' initial acceptance of their son's lifestyle was compounded by their involvement in the Jerusalem Open House's support group for parents and friends of lesbians and gays.
Dutch-born Chana Arnon, who founded the group 10 years ago, told the Post that close to 100 family members have sought the center's advice and support since it began.
"For most people the initial news that the child they have lived with all these years has a different sexual orientation is very often a real shock," said Arnon, 68. "When my own son - who is now 43 - told us 20 years ago that he was gay, I was completely surprised. As a parent, it is just not something you expect to hear."
Arnon said that a big problem facing the Jerusalem gay and lesbian community was the challenge in reaching the people who need help.
"Parents in the haredi or Arab communities have a very hard time accepting that a child is gay and seeking help," she said. "But this is a natural phenomenon and happens across the board in every community."
As for Thursday's March for Pride and Tolerance, Arnon said that exactly because of the lack of acceptance by many segments of Jerusalem's population, the event was vital in showing everyone "there are gays in Jerusalem."
"We have a lot of haredi youth connected to the center," she said. "Being gay is a very strong feeling and is not just something that they can't get over. The fact that no one accepts them causes suicide and from that point alone it is important to have a parade and show them they are not alone."