The Jewish Lesbian

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Rated PG-13

Shelby Curran is a first-time Jewrotica writer. Shelby is an 18-year-old lesbian residing in South Florida. As an aspiring writer, she reflects on her life and self-discovery in her work. Merging two important pieces of herself, the Jewish and LGBTQ communities, Curran shares her experiences as a teen femme Jewish lesbian. Follow for insight on how to “live out loud” in a kosher world. She has been featured in many prestigious columns including Keshet’s blog on My Jewish Learning and is a current freelance writer for Steve Rothaus (Pulitzer winner and well-known journalist) of the Miami Herald’s Gay South Florida.

I’m just your average challah-eating, women-loving, mezuzah-kissing, pride-parade-attending eighteen year old girl. Hebrew day-school student by day, LGBT activist by night. And sometimes, if I’m lucky, I can pencil in a Jewish youth group meeting and a blog post about my experiences as a feminine lesbian in just one day, thanks to my Lilly Pulitzer agenda.

I grew up attending a Jewish elementary school, learning how to say “may I use the bathroom?” (And then some, I promise!) in Hebrew classes starting in kindergarten. I was “average.” I was “ordinary.” And I probably should have seen the signs when in fourth grade, I found myself collecting Britney Spears posters instead of Aaron Carter ones. Especially when I thought my male classmate had cooties until… well, I kind of still think that they do. During my freshman year of high school, I finally put the pieces together. Um, yes- I’m as gay as they come.

Fortunately, I’ve come quite a long way since my playground days. After years of struggling to understand the “Jewish” and “lesbian” components of myself, something clicked, but it wasn’t that easy. Bouncing from pride parades to Friday night services— two completely different worlds— I always felt different. Religious communities, in a fair amount of cases, are not known to be accepting places for many LGBT people, so it may seem pretty unusual that Judaism is so important to me.

A student in a religious high school where the majority of the teachers have strict views on religious observance, I’ve faced criticism, sat in on classroom lessons that address homosexuality in a negative light, and was even told that my effort to establish a Diversity and Identity Club was “inappropriate.” The turning point in my story was realizing that with small communities that might not understand me comes a whole other army of supporters, including a badass student body and many friends that support every part of my identity and me. An era of acceptance is emerging.
And like, let’s be real here, was I seriously going to give up a free Birthright trip to Israel, the excuse to drink wine on Friday nights, and all of the other perks that come with being Jewish, just because some people think that my G-d disapproves of who I am? As if.

So, what the hell is my point? My life aspiration? My reason for writing? My favorite character on the L Word? (Okay, maybe not that. But we all know it’s not Jenny.) About a year ago, I embarked on a journey that is only just beginning to change my life. I patented my own website, titled shelbycurran.com (I’m really original, right?) because I wanted to send colleges a portfolio of my work. I never planned to go public. I thought that only my mother and admission committees would lay eyes on it, and certainly never anticipated any level of feedback or following.

Since then, life has been an interesting series of pleasant surprises. I’ve received fan mail (ranging from “you’re inspiring” to hilarious booty calls), gained hundreds of blog readers, was published countless times (and in the Miami Herald!), spoken to audiences as large as 2,500 people, taken a selfie with the CEO of Change.org, improved my gay-dar a significant amount (um, we all totally called Ellen Page), and jumpstarted my overall “life mission” of serving as a writer and LGBT speaker/activist for religious inclusion. It may not seem like a big deal, but I never thought that as a senior in high school I would be writing more than a handful of college essays or doing something else other than performing in my school musical.

So, if you ever find a rainbow-colored hamsah necklace, hit me up. I’ll wear that shit.

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