cover image Gaytheist: Coming Out of My Orthodox Childhood

Gaytheist: Coming Out of My Orthodox Childhood

Lonnie Mann and Ryan Gatts. Street Noise, $23.99 trade paper (260p) ISBN 978-1-951491-27-7

Mann (Thoughts from Iceland) partners with co-artist Gatts for an emotionally fraught graphic memoir of coming out in his “insular, strictly regulated” Orthodox Jewish household in 1990s Long Island. Crushes on his classmates at his yeshiva prodded Mann to realize he’s gay. Despite the harsh homophobic teachings of his temple (where AIDS is characterized as a “divine punishment”), in the ninth grade he cautiously comes out to a rabbi, who offers quiet support and maintains his secret. He later tells his parents, who react less well, and who send him to a therapist. As he grows older and closer to peers (in and out of his religious community), he continues to wrestle with his identity and faith. He catches out his parents’ hypocrisy, as when his mother consults a psychic to confirm her belief that he will grow out of this phase (“You’ll believe what this witch says instead of your own son?”). Orthodox practices are neatly unpacked, though the narrative focus on Mann’s adolescent inner turmoil occasionally results in scenes that skim over family tensions and plot points. The art is gentle and naturalistic, with crisp lines and often gradient, color wash backgrounds that soften even the starkest moments. Younger adults navigating their own coming out within religious communities will find resonance. (Feb.)