“What can I say?” my mother would shrug, on the occasions that I would let down my guard and empathize with the fact that my life choices had made hers more complicated: “What can I say? I have a foot in two worlds. I love them both.”

Sometimes these ruminations would conclude with a query to the Almighty: “I don’t know why Hashem (God) has asked this of me, and sometimes I ask Him, ‘Why?’ But, this is my reality. I have a foot in two worlds.”

The two worlds to which my mother referred were not demarcated by the 3,000 odd miles from the house she shared with my stepfather in Gateshead, England, and my home with her three grandchildren in small-town Massachusetts. The far wider gulf was the one between her world of stringent Torah observance and values, and my world, secular or frei (free) of these rituals and regulations.

In crossing the chasm for each visit to our home, she emerged from the plane a striking figure in her long, dark skirts, buttoned-up shirts and a wig or kerchief covering her hair, even in the sweltering heat of summer. Her kosher cookware and dishes rose from their boxes in our basement and, for the next few weeks, replaced our “treif” items, her aromatic cooking bringing in the neighbors, who loved her. Her Hebrew and religious texts sat astride our secular volumes. Two worlds, two very different lives and one diminutive woman stepping back and forth, in apparent disregard for the inviolable lines.

The crossing was far from seamless. At times we tussled, hurling recriminations at each other: I was accused of rejecting her world; she was accused of imposing hers on mine. It is only with age and maturity that I have come to appreciate how rare an act of love it was for her to cross this divide as wholeheartedly as she did, not only making peace with my secular existence, but expressing support for first one, then another of our family who came out as LGBTQ+.

The world to which she returned at the end of each visit made no bones in its rejection of Jews who dared to love someone of the same sex, or try to live authentically as the gender they knew themselves to be. My mother, however, had managed to boil down the circumstances in which she found herself to these essentials: God gave her these two worlds, and therefore she must find a way to live in both.

My own world-straddling endeavors began nearly a decade ago, though at the time, I was unaware of occupying a liminal space. Realizing the lack of secure rights afforded to the LGBTQ+ community and the horrific discrimination to which they were subjected, I began my work as an advocate, writing and speaking in support of important equality legislation, walking the halls of our State House, even appearing occasionally on television. My focus soon wed to the national movement for LGBTQ+ rights, and I began to devote my time and efforts at larger, national civil rights organizations, linking hands with many of this country’s well-known activists.

Read the rest of my reflection at FaceJewishHate.org.