I believe in being genuine. My belief was hard-won. During freshman year in Ann Arbor, I rushed sororities all over campus. My mother had belonged to a sorority and I thought I ought to do the same. I went to the various houses and talked to beautiful women about myself…or about the self I thought would get me invited to pledge.
Just one house, the least prestigious on campus, invited me back for a second round. Hey, I’m from Connecticut and pretty, I groused silently. Why didn’t they seek me as a sister?
It’s easy, since then, to see how fake I was being with them. Mostly, I concentrated on not seeming flirtatious to my interviewers and on appearing to be an impressive candidate. Being categorically rejected was a blow, and liberating at once: If I could not fit the mold of my mother, I would need to define further who I was.
Since age 11, I was self-aware of my attraction to girls and women, but ran from it till 21, since I had gone to a Modern Orthodox Jewish day school for eight years, where I had been taught systematically that I would need to marry a man.
During my junior year in Jerusalem at Hebrew University, at a far enough distance from home, I explored my sexual orientation and twentieth-century Israeli literature – in that order. In early-September of my last year at Michigan, I saw a flyer on campus for a lesbian rap group.
I wore a skirt with a tropical print to the first meeting, telling myself as I walked to the site that if I felt out of place or uncomfortable, I’d just leave. Instead, I felt at home for one of the first times in my life. It took four years, but ultimately, I found the right sorority to pledge.
Ever since that evening at the lesbian rap group in Ann Arbor more than 20 years ago, I have believed that being genuine connects me to the rest of humanity, including to my family, colleagues and friends, who love, respect and befriend the real me.