A few months ago I had occasion to spend an evening in West Hollywood, California. It was a Friday after work, and given that city’s reputation for flamboyant Gayness (I have an LDS friend who calls the place Hollyweird, Californicate), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. As a worst case, I anticipated scenes of unspeakable depravity — a TGIF-style, alcohol-fueled Pride Parade Bacchanalia with rainbow-haired people French-kissing, buff, shirtless men wearing leather chaps and holding hands, dogs and cats living together — in short, a shocking confirmation of the very worst of our conservative LDS suspicions about The Lifestyle. And as we turned off La Cienega onto Beverly Boulevard, my very worst fears were realized.
Everywhere I looked, I saw roving packs of strangely dressed men. They were everywhere, you couldn’t miss them if you tried. They crowded the sidewalks, loitered on the corners, and strolled nonchalantly through the crosswalks wearing their outrageous get-ups and unusual hairstyles. There were literally hundreds of them, and men outnumbered women at least 20 to 1, there were simply very few females among them. Surely, this is good evidence of what happens when traditional roles are rejected and we don’t stress the importance of man/woman marriage.
As it turns out, what I was observing was as traditional as it is possible to be. The men were Hasidim, orthodox Jews on the way to synagogue on a Friday evening at sundown to begin their Shabbat observance. They wore long black coats, black hats, beards, and very long sideburns. The reason I saw so few females is because in strictly orthodox homes, the women are at home on Friday evening, lighting the candles and preparing a nice meal which the family will enjoy together when the men and boys return from synagogue. These people are culturally very much like LDS people — they have large families, with an average of 7 to 8 children per couple, they value family, education and hard work, and they take their scriptures seriously.
I have since been reliably informed that Jewish people and gay people live side-by-side peacefully and productively in other places as well, and this fact raises several questions. Given that gay people and Jewish people are the two most visible factions in West Hollywood, why haven’t we heard of acrimonious confrontations between them? Why aren’t gay men beating down the doors of the synagogue demanding that the Rabbi sanction their marriage? Why aren’t the Hasidim outraged that an openly gay man is allowed to teach in the local public school? And finally, why are people who take Leviticus seriously better at getting along with their neighbors who are homosexual than so many of the rest of us?