I had just left Israel. My childhood home was in a small town near Haifa. Everyone around me seemed to have a perfect life, except me. My family life was unhealthy and fucked up. When I was eleven, my parents divorced, and I never saw my father again.
As a teenager, my skinny body made me feel insignificant. Unmanly, even, unlike my classmates who were big and strong. My sexual fantasies were about men, who cuddled me and held me in their muscled arms. I dreamed of being one of them, of being part of a brotherhood of men. In reality, I didn’t connect to anyone.
To make matters worse, I was too ashamed of my feelings to express them. I associated being gay with being weak and with living on the margins of society. In short, nothing to be proud of. I had no role models, I didn’t know anyone who was queer.
When my facial hair finally began to grow, I was filled with joy. For the first time in my life, I liked what I saw when I looked in the mirror. My beard hid my jaw and gave my face a square, serious look, something I associated with masculinity. With my beard, my confidence grew and soon enough, I started to rebel.
‘My sexual fantasies were about men, who cuddled me and held me in their muscled arms’
Upon entering the Israeli army, I was told to shave my head and my beard, because soldiers should look similar. I refused. After many fights, my commander finally gave in. I had won. Although I was known in the army for my outspokenness and my strength, I was still deep inside the closet.
After three years of service, I moved to Jerusalem to live on my own. I finally began to sleep with men. Here I had my first ever relationship and supported by a circle of gay men I felt I was not a freak anymore.
But Israel seemed too small, too claustrophobic, to leave the pain of the past behind. I wanted to see the world. I started to travel and eventually ended up in Berlin.’
‘They taught me that no matter how fucked up you are, you can belong to this chosen family’
Here, I am part of the Radical Faeries, a group of queer people seeking a sense of community that goes beyond mainstream gay culture. We organise support groups, talk about our feelings, and celebrate who we are. The Faeries taught me that no matter how fucked up you are, you can belong to this chosen family.
What it means to me to be a man changed drastically over the years. What I once considered ideal masculinity is something I resent today. Too often, masculinity is linked to toughness and suppressing your emotions. There is something toxic in acting either masculine or feminine, because we all are somewhere in the middle. When I walk around Berlin, I see so much gender fluidity and so much beauty.
Many people here taught me to love and to let go of the pain of the past. In this foreign city, so far away from home, I finally found a sense of belonging. Little by little, the bald patches in my beard have begun to disappear.’