Joseph Comes Out

So many people hide their true identities. We must work for a day when everyone can say, "I am Joseph, your brother."

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For good or ill, it seems that it is part of the destiny of the Jewish people to relive Joseph's struggle between identification and assimilation. However, Jews are not the only people who understand what it means to be Joseph in Egypt.

In our society, gay people face this dilemma regularly. My friend Linda, who is a lesbian, and I were renting a car on vacation in Hawaii. The clerk asked her, "Are you married?" She answered, "Uh, no," but a look of guilt and confusion crossed her face. I had officiated at her wedding several years before. "Uh, I mean yes," she said. The clerk asked for her husband's name. She replied, "I don't have a husband, I'm married to a woman," to which the clerk replied, "Really, is that legal where you live?" Suddenly she was forced to explain her entire life story to the rental car agent.

In ways mundane and profound, many of us know what it is to be Joseph. Sometimes, even our most deliberate donning of dread locks, wedding rings, saris, rainbow earrings, chadors, political buttons, and fist-sized Stars of David may well go unrecognized. Ultimately, in many ways, we decide when to stay hidden in order to have safety or control--or because it's too big a hassle--and when to reveal ourselves in order to have genuine relationships and integrity.

There is no easy right or wrong here. Though clearly Joseph's moment for genuine identity had arrived, the years of hiding were also part of God's plan. The most each of us can do is work for a larger society in which every person has the opportunity to say, "I am Joseph, your brother."

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