|Posted on January 10, 2016 at 1:35 PM|
A Happy Ending to my Daughter’s Situational Lesbianism
by Hope (Posted Nov 2011)
For two long years I dreamed about being able to write this letter. My story is that of a mother who fought with the proverbial "nails and teeth" to "rescue" her now 40 year old daughter from the tentacles of what I believe was a woman looking to take advantage of the tragedy my daughter had suffered.
Since her days in High school, my daughter Leeron was what you'd call a very attractive and popular teenager. Girls wanted to be her friends, boys wanted to date her. She was popular and well accepted by her peers. Leeron is not only beautiful but also smart; she was always an overachiever in school. Not once during her growing up years however, did I get any indication or suspicion that she might have same sex sexual inclinations.
When she met and married Shai in 2001, we all shared their happiness. Leeron and Shai built a beautiful family in a few short years; G-d blessed them with four beautiful children. But then something terrible happened, Shai was diagnosed with colon cancer and all their dreams and hopes for a beautiful future came crushing down. He passed away in 2008. That was one of those instances in which people try to make sense of something very painful and ask themselves, why? Why did this tragedy happen to such a nice, complete, and happy family?
The following two years were very challenging for the young family. Shai fought for his life like a lion. For Leeron and the children, watching him getting consumed by the cancer day by day was like living a nightmare. Leeron was now the only bread winner in the family. In her desperation, she clung to her family and her work friends for moral support. She was devastated by life's circumstances and sought comfort and support wherever she could find it.
Maureen was a colleague at the company where Leeron worked. It was only a few months later (after Shai's death) that I noticed something new going on in my daughter's life. At first I thought she was dating a male colleague but soon enough the shocking reality revealed itself in its full colors. Her "friend" was a WOMAN. Once I got over the initial shock, I decided to approach my daughter, questioning her reasoning over her decision to experience a same sex emotional and sexual relationship.
Leeron never came clear about the facts. She did not care to explain nor to reason with her own mother. She felt that she had gone through so much pain and suffering, that nobody had the right to dictate her how to live her life. I could only assume certain things, based upon the advice and reading materials provided to me by JONAH. And, I was determined to discover what caused this loving and devoted wife and mother of 4 children to enter into a lesbian relationship and to also do whatever I could to help her overcome this relationship.
Deep down, she was dealing with a sense of emotional neediness, having spent so much emotion on Shai's care over the last two years. She felt empty and lost without him. Along came a new-found friend who preyed upon my bewildered, frightened and angry daughter; they shared a mutual confidence level while exploring their deepest feelings. At the same time, however, I believe Maureen, the new friend, used the confidences shared by my daughter as a way to meet her own emotional needs for attachment to a woman while simultaneously providing Leeron with what appeared to be empathetic and unconditional love for the pain she was suffering. In this process, Maureen subtly encouraged my daughter to find love, acceptance and satisfaction in her lesbian lifestyle. I also believe she encouraged my daughter to distance herself from others like me who would or could have voiced an opinion about this new life she was embarking upon. With Maureen's encouragement, she had consciously alienated herself from our entire family. Leeron did not want to be confronted about what she was doing nor to be criticized. And, she would not communicate with me about her deep wounds. Bottom line, I believe that Maureen deliberately encouraged Leeron to be emotionally dependent upon her.
One of the things the therapist Janelle Hallman said (on the JONAH web site) really resonated with me: “When another woman comes along that triggers a sense of familiarity or presents herself to be a strong and competent woman, the lesbian literally wants to lose herself in this woman, hoping to find rest, receive the care and nurture she craves and to finally appropriate, albeit vicariously, an identity.” I saw Leeron feeling totally reliant on this other woman, both for safety and in order to continue to function. This is distinguished from an emotionally healthy relationship where two people know who they are and recognize themselves as individuals. This “emotional dependency” is characteristic of lesbian relationships and often is the consequence of a woman's deep fear of or inability to sustain intimacy.
Another relevant factor became evident from a different article I saw on the JONAH web site. Therapist Diane Eller-Boyko (who is also an ex-lesbian) wrote, “In falling in love with another woman, [Leeron] is really seeking to connect with herself…. A woman is [often] drawn to other women because she seeks heart and soul connection." Or, in Leeron's case, I believe my daughter was trying to replenish a heart and soul connection that was depleted or was no longer visible to her through the years of Shai’s illness. In this process, such women often reject their own femininity and effectively end up seeking it through another. “In seeking to unite with [another] women, she is trying to unite with herself, and this type of union will not, ultimately, heal the psyche. With another woman, she will have only the illusion of wholeness. The shadow, representing those real developmental needs that were never met, will continue to haunt her.”
During this time, I was still worried about the mental health of my 4 young grandchildren after they lost their beloved father, but now I had to also deal with their stories about what was going on at home. One time I witnessed a bitter argument between 2 of the siblings about whether Maureen was a "boy" or a "girl". My life became hell on earth. Not only was I still grieving for my beloved son-in-law but now I had to worry about the psychological implications of my daughter’s actions upon my grandchildren.
These kind of situations teach a human being that we are stronger than we think we are. To me this situation felt like "the end of the world" but I still survived. I took comfort in praying, sometimes softly and sometimes desperately. I'll never forget that time when I felt so desolated that I needed to be alone and away from the concerned eyes of my own husband. I locked myself in the bathroom and got on my knees in prayer... Some of you might say that it is not the end of the world, but for me it was. As a religious person, I truly believe that the SSA condition should be fought because it is inconsistent with G-d’s commandments for us. Many rabbis have commented how everyone is capable of transforming and that psychological counseling can be immensely beneficial to someone dealing with this condition. (The most recent pronouncement to this effect is from the noted Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky in Hakirah: the Flatbush Journal of Jewish Law and Thought, Vol. 12, Fall, 2011.)
I truly believe that G-d heard my prayers and took pity on my misery. Something miraculous happened! About a year ago, Leeron met David and the rest is history. David is a wonderful man who cares enough about Leeron to be willing to help her raise her 4 children. I am unaware whether Leeron had the courage to tell David about her experience with lesbianism. (I believe my daughter knows, deep inside, that her relationship with Maureen was wrong.) I hope she informs David about her past activity as I fear he may find out through a third party or from the children, and finding out that way could destroy the trust and love that has been built up between them. Without a doubt, however, I am extremely happy with her relationship with David . My prayers have been answered. Moreover, David is helping her shed her grief, anger, and loneliness. He is assisting her in tearing down the walls of distrust she had built after the loss of her husband.
As a religious person, I recognize how part of our hunger for G-d, that we as humans seek, is to truly experience our inner-most selves, our souls if you will. Lesbianism can provide a false sense of connected souls but only authentic man-woman relationships provide a sense of completion as well as a connection of souls that truly represents a gift provided to us by G-d.
I got my life back. My grandchildren are happy again. No one can substitute for a real father, but a loving stepfather is the next best thing. And, my daughter appears to be in a relatively good space. Her lesbian affair is behind her and she appears very happy with David. She is still somewhat detached from her family, most likely because of the guilt and shame she may still be feeling. I continue to pray that she will engage in counseling to understand where she came from and where she is going and in the process to totally reconnect with all who truly love her.
Why am I telling my story? Because I am convinced that among same sex couples, there are those who got there because of their own difficult life circumstances. I have seen in my community that some lesbians take satisfaction and pride in "converting" otherwise completely "normal" women into lesbians. What a better way to obtain this than to prey on a distressed woman who is going through a tragedy in her life. I believe that my daughter was so vulnerable that any kind of "gentle" attention attracted her to the attention giver. Thank G-d, Leeron was able to see the light, and walk away from lesbianism.
And one more thing, during this whole ordeal, JONAH, was a real source of help and guidance to me. I wish to thank Arthur Goldberg and Elaine Berk from the bottom of my heart for their guidance and compassion and also wish to have them share with their readers this one story with a happy ending!
|Posted on January 7, 2016 at 4:30 PM|
ORTHODOX RESPONSE TO SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb
Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union (Posted June 2008)
It is high time for a statement asserting and explaining the traditional Jewish position on homosexuality. Various Jewish groups have left the impression with the public at large that Judaism is supportive of homosexual behavior to the extent of endorsing same sex marriage. Thus it is imperative for the Orthodox world to make our position clear once more.
The position of traditional Judaism on homosexual behavior is clear and unambiguous, terse and absolute. Homosexual behavior between males or between females is absolutely forbidden by Jewish law, beginning with the biblical imperative, alluded to numerous times in the Talmud and codified in the Shulchan Aruch.
The position of Judaism on marriage is equally clear. Judaism recognizes marriage as a fundamental human institution, and affirms marriage only between a man and woman.
Judaism recognizes the central role of the two-parent, mother-father led family as the vital institution in shaping the entire human race. Within the Jewish people, the two-parent marriage is a model not only for human relations but for relations with the Divine. The Almighty Himself is seen as being a third partner to the father-mother configuration, and the central role of the family, unless circumstances make it impossible, is to conceive and raise children, thereby perpetuating the human race and for Jews, ensuring the continuity of the Jewish people.
I contest the description of Jewish values that has been foisted upon the public by numerous spokesmen of various factions of Judaism, most recently, and extremely, in the David Ellenson essay on these pages ( Same Sex Marriage, In The Jewish Tradition, March 12). To argue that same-sex marriage is consistent with the traditions of Judaism is intellectually dishonest at best and blasphemous at worst.
Nevertheless, while the sources irrevocably forbid homosexual relationships and overt homosexual behavior, there are other issues that are more nuanced and must be clarified. One has to do with the attitude toward homosexual individuals prescribed by Jewish tradition. Here it is critical to adopt the distinction, already implicit in numerous rabbinical texts, between the sin and the sinner; that is, between the person and his or her behavior. Given the nature of our times, it is impossible to formally condemn people who violate Jewish norms. Orthodox Jews and Orthodox synagogues display various degrees of tolerance and acceptance to individuals who are violators of the halachic aspects of the Sabbath, or individuals who flagrantly violate the kashrut laws. The tolerance rightly shown to these individuals by no means condones their behavior, but accepts them as people who may be misled or uninformed. While tolerance for individuals who manifest homosexual tendencies is certainly a Jewish value, and consistent with some of the core values to which Rabbi Ellenson refers, there is a great difference between tolerance for an individual and recognition of a movement which wishes to turn something clearly wrong by Jewish standards into something not only tolerated but normative.
Observant Jews must have an attitude of empathy and understanding for individuals who say, I have these urges, I can t help them. But we cannot accept those who would say, I have these urges, they are God-given and therefore it is a mitzvah to follow them.
Another complex issue that needs to be addressed is the degree to which this clear Jewish position should be translated into public policy in a pluralistic democratic society. Here, people of good will can debate the merits of whether any religion can urge its values upon the greater society. Here we can disagree, although I personally believe that all religions have the responsibility of educating the public to core values that we believe have universal, as well as particular, religious import. In this connection we ought to consider a Talmudic passage (Chullin 92a) that says that the nations of the world, however sinful, corrupt or perverse, still have the merit of at least three behaviors, one of which is they do not write a ketubah for males.
We can also debate the wisdom of a constitutional amendment defining marriage. It can be argued that any tampering with the U.S. Constitution, a document that arguably has done more for the Jewish people than any other secular document in historical memory, is a risky proposition. However, whatever your position on the constitutional amendment, the inclusion of same-sex relationships in the definition of marriage is something that any Jew of conscience should oppose.
I, and other Orthodox leaders did not foster this debate; it has been brought upon us. We are taught that certain aspects of human behavior, even very normal and natural functions, are best treated with modesty and privacy. However, the extreme statements and declarations that have been made, and lately in the very name of Judaism, simply cannot be allowed to pass without protest. We cannot be silent upon occasions where Judaism is fraudulently depicted as condoning something that its Torah clearly and irreversibly condemns.
|Posted on January 7, 2016 at 4:05 PM|
How I Told My Fiancée about my SSA
Written by Michael
(Posted October 2014)
I just had the most amazing experience of my life. It was worth telling my fiancée about my SSA just for the experience itself.
The girl who I am dating (her name is xxxx) is a truly amazing woman! I took her to Central Park and we went to the Lobe Boathouse. We went rafting for an hour and it was so beautiful. Great place for a date. (highly recommended). Then I took out the towels and kosher food I brought with us. I made a beautiful picnic and we ate lunch there. Then, I went for the "dive."
I started by telling her how beautiful I thought she was and about all the amazing things I have seen in her since I met her. I told her that I trust her completely and that I am only sharing this information because I love her so much. I felt it important and wanted her to see the *REAL* me, and thus understand the true source for my growth.
I started by telling her a summary of all that I had shared with her already. Then I went on to tell her about the sexual abuse that I went through at ages 7-10. As I was explaining this, she started to tear, and I asked her what the tears were about. She responded "that must have been so hard for you". We spoke about the abuse for 20 minutes and I reassured her that I am no longer bothered by it because I have done my work around that. She responded with awe.
Finally, I told her what all my issues resulted in. I said that I had developed attraction to other males and that at one point I was totally lost in how to deal with these feelings. I went to my rabbi, and he referred me to a JONAH referral therapist. I have been working on my "issues" for the past 2 and half years. I told her about all my struggles and she listened intently. After I had finished, she responded with the following " it must have been so hard for you to tell me that. Thank you so much for being honest and opening up to me. The fact the you are being so open with me and trusting me with your struggles makes me more attracted to you than I have ever been before. I am so impressed that you can be so emotionally open with me". She then went on to ask me questions about my therapy. She asked me to repeat the main core issues underlying SSA and to explain how it applied to my life. She had already met my family twice and gotten to know their personalities a bit. After I had told her everything, she told me "now it all makes sense".
She totally "got me" guys. I was totally amazed at her sincerity and understanding. She kept emphasizing how happy she was that I was honest with her, and that it would have been a big slap in her face if she found out after marriage some other way. She now knows my struggles and is willing to stand by my side.
I also spoke to her about my social work degree and the field of interest I am planning on working in (SSA and Sexual abuse). She responded "of course! this is something you went through, and it would be a shame if you didn't utilize your unique gifts, understanding, and knowledge to help those who are struggling". My fiancée and I have a meeting with Enrique, my therapist from JONAH next week. she is excited to meet the man who i have learned so much from about myself for the past year. (And of course to meet my mentor Arthur at the same time).
Basically, to follow up,I told her to take her time on things, And I encouraged her to meet my Rabbi as well. She told me that she has no concerns and because she trusts me fully, she does not need to speak with anyone else. She told me that her trust in me before I told her was 100%,but now it's 150%. She saw my "GOLD" guys! Its amazing what authenticity feels like!
I can finally be *ME.* I don't have to live with a double-bind. I feel alive. I am only 24 years old; yet, I feel like I have come to place of well being such as a healthy 80 year old man feels. Thank you to all of you who took the time to pray for me. I'm sure everyone created a stir up in Heaven for me. You guys rock!
Postscript: Before their marriage, Michael and his bride to be went to Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky for a blessing where they fully disclosed the issues with which he was dealing. Rabbi Kamenetsky was delighted to provide such a blessing for a happy and healthy marriage.
This email was written to others in JONAH during 2011. The writer is now happily married, has a healthy child, and is helping others heal as a licensed mental health professional.
|Posted on January 7, 2016 at 3:55 PM|
HOMOSEXUALITY AND JUDAISM
Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society, Volume XI - 1986
Homosexuality, once a word whispered only with revulsion or derision, is now out in the open for all to see and hear. In fact, homosexuality and its attendant issues have become big news.
Whether it is the rapidly spreading, and ever-more frightening AIDS epidemic, or the increase in sympathetic "gay" characters in the theater and in literature, or the widening legal battles over the status of homosexuals, one cannot go very far in contemporary society with out confronting this once extremely closet-bound topic.
Traditional Judaism, too, has been forced to confront the issue as "gay" individuals and "synagogues" have appeared on the Jewish landscape, often appealing for support from the liberal segments of the Jewish community.
Certainly, an authentic Jewish response must begin with the biblical prohibition against homosexuality. The Bible unequivocally states that a homosexual act between two consenting adult males is a capital crime(1). Therefore, homosexuality is an activity that no traditional Jew can engage in, endorse, accept, or approve of (recent televised statements to the contrary notwithstanding)(2).
Despite this initial biblical negative, there is much to discuss regarding our attitude to the homosexual, the issue of the homosexual's place in the community, the question of approach and the treatment of the homosexual, and the problem of the homosexual's rights and acceptance in society. In addition, we must consider why the Bible and Jewish thought reject homosexuality keeping in mind as we do that female homosexuality, though forbidden, is not nearly as serious a crime as is its male counterpart(3).
Drawing the Right Picture
Our analysis of Judaism's approach to homosexuality begins with the question, "What is Judaism's view of the Jewish homosexual?" It is this author's contention that the only appropriate answer to this question is "there is no such individual(4)."
To explain this rather radical statement, one must go back to the structure that halacha places upon Jewish society. In this structure there are certain legal personalities who constitute the dramatis personae of the Jewish community. A Cohen is such a personality, as is a Levi. A woman is such a personality, as is a slave or a king. Other "characters" populate the Jewish landscape. The mamzer and the Cohen Gadol, the Katan and the gadol, the cheresh and the shoteh each has his place in the scheme of things(5). Lacking from this list is the homosexual. So much is he missing from the cast of characters of Jewish society that one is hard put to find a halachic term used specifically for him(6).
If one were, in fact, to apply a halachic category to this individual, it would be the general category of mumar l'teiavon (one whose desires put him in opposition to Torah law), specifically mumar l'mishkav zachor (one who because of his repeated involvement in homosexual activity is in opposition to Torah law). Such a category exists in halachic literature(7), is clearly defined, and places the homosexual on a equal footing with other mumarim who violate other laws.
It seems clear from this that halacha never viewed the homosexual as a member of a unique category or as different from the non-homosexual. He has no greater or lesser rights or obligations. He deserves no special treatment or concessions nor any special vilification. In fact, the term "homosexual" is an essentially inappropriate description for him. We should, rather, refer to this individual as a person engaged in homosexual activity. "Homosexual" is therefore not a noun that identifies and categorizes the individual but an adjective that describes his activity.
This approach has great intuitive appeal. It is hard to imagine Jewish thought accepting the premise the sexual desires and activities provide grounds by which to define an individual's place in the community. In addition, there are vast and important ramifications that emerge from this picture of the individual as a person involved in homosexual activity and not as a homosexual.
The first effect of this changed conceptualization is to alter and improve the individual's perception of himself. If one is labeled and defined by the term "homosexual", he is consequently different than the heterosexual. As such, he will struggle for minority status and for his rights as a member of that minority. He is, and should be, portrayed as a unique character type in movies, theater, and on television, and he should command an appropriate number of participants in any institution that constitutes itself along racial, ethnic, and religious lines. He agitates for gay pride and gay power, and if he is Jewish, he creates gay synagogues and other gay institutions.
On the other hand, If "homosexual" is a term that is limited to the description of an activity, then the individual practicing this activity remains an undifferentiated member of society, and if Jewish he is part of Jewish society. He need not feel excluded from the community. In the same way that the adulterer, the practitioner of pre-marital sex, the mechallel Shabbat(8) or the speaker of lashon harah all enter the synagogue and feel at home while individually dealing with whatever guilt they carry as a result of their sinful activities, so, too, the individual involved in homosexual activity can and should enter the synagogue and feel himself to be part of the community. He is still a human being and a Jew. He is most assuredly not part of a separate homosexual society or sub-society. (See below for a discussion of the Gentile homosexual.) Obviously, the adulterer, mechallel Shabbat, et al are duty-bound to change their ways - to do teshuva - and the mumar l'mishkav zachor has the same obligation(9).
The second implication of this approach concerns the community's dealings with the individual involved in homosexual activity. If the practitioner of homosexuality is considered a full fledged Jew (albeit a mummar), the community should welcome him as such. This is particularly true in our post-holocaust era, wherein our heightened awareness of the value of each Jewish soul has motivated many communities to make kiruv rechokim (attempts to bring non-observant Jews into the fold of Torah-observance) a hallmark of their activities. This Kiruv work should not and cannot be limited only to violators of halacha in ritual matters. Deviance from halachic norms in sexual matters is as much an area for concern, outreach, and proper education as anything else. Particularly in an area that is as difficult to control as sexual desire(10), the support of the community for one who might want to bring his lifestyle in line with halacha may be crucial to success.
At this point something should be said about the term "toeivah(11)" as used by the Torah in connection with homosexuality. Some may feel that its appearance in this context precludes treating the practitioner of homosexuality in the same way that one would treat an individual who is guilty of a different sin. The problem with this suggestion is that to be consistent we would require similarly negative treatment of the persons who eats non-Kosher food(12) the idolator(13), the unethical business man(14) and the individual who remarries a woman who, since her divorce from him, has entered and left (by death or divorce) another marriage to another man(15). All of these individuals are guilty of committing a toeivah, according to the respective verses that prohibit the particular activity. If we are going to ostracize the individual who commits homosexual acts, then we must ostracize these individuals as well. Since we do not take this approach in the other cases, we should not do so in dealing with the individual involved in homosexual activity.
How then to understand the toeivah designation? In an article in the Encyclopedia Judaica Yearbook, Dr Norman Lamm(16) defines toeivah in aesthetic terms. These actions are repulsive in and of themselves; no rationale or explanation is necessary. Rather, the divine aspect within the human being is automatically and instinctively repelled by these activities. The fact that any number of individuals are possessed of a deadened spiritual sensitivity that allows them to accept or even participate in the acts in question, does not mean that the spiritually sensitive individual allows his revulsion to be diminished nor does he apologize for that revulsion.
Further, it is important to note that the wording of the act in question indicates that this revulsion is directed only at the act and not at its perpetrator. The perpetrator is not to be ostracized. One who commits a toeivah is halachically and societally no different than one who commits a transgression of a non-toeivah law of equal severity.
Although it may be true that a leopard cannot change its sports, Judaism holds that a human being can change or control his activities(17). While we certainly recognize that many individuals have personality factors that would tend to promote certain sinful activities, our expectation is that these individuals will control these tendencies. We no more would accept the act of murder as legitimate because the perpetrator is prone to violence, then we should accept the act of homosexuality as inevitable because of the existence of biological, genetic, or environmental factors that may contribute to an individual's preference for homosexual acts. A rational individual can control himself, and no amount of apologetics, explanations, or rationalizations can change this fundamental fact. Simply put, the individual engaged in homosexual activity is wrong in what he is doing and is held responsible for having done it.
It is on this issue that the approach presented here parts company most completely with Dr.Lamm's view. Whereas Dr. Lamm(18) sees the homosexual as an anuss (an individual forced into heredity and/or environment into activity that the Bible forbids) this author sees him as mumar. Whereas Dr. Lamm effectively removes culpability from him (anuss rachma patrie(19)), this author insists that creating a sense of culpability is an integral part of the approach that Judaism should take in confronting the individual involved in homosexual activity. This sense of culpability may be just the push necessary for the individual to begin the teshuva process.
The view presented here seems more in keeping with biblical(20), talmudic(21) and other halachic sources(22). The consistent position taken by these sources is that the homosexual is ultimately subject to punishment for his actions. The halachic system fully expects that an individual properly warned, witnessed, and brought to trial for this act be killed. There is no indication anywhere in the literature that such individuals have a prima facie defense as anussim.
Dr. Lamm(23) supports his approach by arguing that present public policy and social reality preclude punishment of all offenders. We must, therefore, maintain our condemnation of the act while refraining from dealing punitively with the offender. In his view, this can best be done by treating the offender as an anuss.
However, there is nothing in his argument that prevents our labeling the individual as a mumar. We do not punish Sabbath violators, or those who eat treif. Environment/heredity is not enough to label the individual involved in homosexual activity an anuss. Rather label him a mumar, indicating that he is responsible for his actions.
Further, a stance such as Dr. Lamm's seems to carry with it the possibility of pushing the individual presently questioning his own sexual orientation over the wrong edge.
After all, if biology/upbringing is the cause, and the participant is only the victim of irresistible forces, he has a handy excuse and less of a reason not to succumb to his desires.
Labeling one a mumar does not necessarily mean that the community should respond with public condemnation and rejection or the individual. In an era which lacks a Sanhedrin and adequate Jewish communal structures we have long tolerated, worked with, and even welcomed and accepted violators of many halachot within our community. It is necessary, therefore, to couple our tolerance of the individual with disapproval of the activity. This must then be combined with an expectation and hope that the individual will change his behavior. Calling him a mumar, if handled correctly, strengthens the chances for change.
The subject of change brings us to our next point. Jewish thought would argue that homosexually oriented individuals can change their sexual orientation and can ultimately develop an interest in and derive pleasure from heterosexual activity. This conclusion is an obvious consequence of our discussion thus far. If a homosexual act is punishable, and if we expect he individual who has homosexual desires to avoid giving in to them, what then is the life situation of such and individual? There seem to be two possibilities. One: such and individual cannot change his feelings. If this is the case he is a prisoner trapped in a body which, while commanded to marry an procreate, has an emotional structures that finds such a concept at best unfulfilling and at worst a living purgatory. Two: change - and a normal, happy, fulfilled life marriage and heterosexual union are possible.
We are told by the Talmud(24) that G-d does not play tricks on His creations. Particularly as the area of sexuality is an area of such deeply personal implications to any individual, it is difficult imagine G-d creating a situation wherein those who feel themselves to possess a homosexual orientation cannot change and are consequently locked in a living prison with no exit and no key. Therefore, some method or methods must exist to successfully change the sexual orientation of motivated individuals. It's heartening to note that a recent study (25),indicates a 70% success rate among such individuals. It is unfortunate that the mass media and most mental health professionals publicly portray the goal "acceptance of one's orientation" as the optimum, while downplaying or denying the possibility of change. Our task must be to publicize the possibility of change, and the relevant statistics that now become statistics of hope. We also should encourage the mental health community to develop new and even more effective methods to alter the sexual orientation of those striving to live Torah-true lifestyle.
Perhaps one further support for the idea that homosexual orientation is at least preventable, if not totally changeable, is the anomalous fact that one community in which the percentage of homosexual preference is significantly lower than in the general population is the Orthodox Jewish community(26).
It is almost as if halacha rejects the notion of an individual called a homosexual, rejects the necessity of the homosexual act for any individual, rejects the idea of an irrevocable homosexual orientation, and then creates a society in which these ideals can, apparently quite successfully, be lived.
Judaism rejects the suggestions that homosexuality is either a form of mental illness or an "acceptable alternate lifestyle." Judaism's positions would be a third and as yet unconsidered option. Homosexuality is an activity entered into volitionally by individuals, who may be psychologically healthy, which is maladaptive and inappropriate. Depending on one's theory, it may indicate arrested development, poor family structure, early trauma, frustration of the purpose of creation, disruption of the basic family structure, unnatural behavior, etc.
But whatever the case it constitutes activity that will diminish an individual's capacity to fulfill, in his own life, G-d's expressed plan for creation. As such, this individual cannot achieve his full potential as a human being(27). Therefore, our task is to treat and redirect this individual to more appropriate and fulfilling activity.
One question not addressed directly in the previous section is, "Why does Judaism not recognize the existence of a homosexual sub-group within the Jewish community?"
Of course, one might answer that as the act of homosexuality is forbidden, Judaism would no more grant official status to those who practice it than it would grant such status to murderers, thieves, or adulterers. This answer may, in fact, be sufficient and perhaps we should simply turn to the next section and the discussion of the rationale for Judaism's negative approach to the entire issue of homosexuality.
However, there may be another more profound and far-reaching answer to this question. The Sifra states(28)
"I did not say this except for those laws inscribed for them [the Gentiles] their fathers' father. What did they [the Gentiles, as opposed to the Jews] do? Men would marry men, and women would marry women".
This seems to indicate a difference between homosexuality when it makes its appearance in the Jewish community. For the Gentile, homosexuality is a reality that is part of his heritage. For a Jew, homosexuality is a foreign incursion.
Additional support for this division along national lines can be adduced from the prohibition against female homosexuality. This prohibition, though not explicitly stated in the Bible, is derived from the same verse, Leviticus 18:2, that elicits the comment of the Sifra quoted above. The verse reads: "After the doings of the land Egypt wherein you lived you shall not do, and after the doings of the land of Canaan where I am bringing you, you shall not do, nor shall you walk in the statutes." This source provides a further indication that homosexuality is viewed as a foreign element in Jewish society. It may well be that this factor contributes to halacha's unwillingness to recognize a homosexual subgroup within Jewish society.
Statistics show significantly reduced levels of homosexual men in Orthodox Jewish circles as compared to all other segments of society. Further indication of this anomaly is provided by the dearth of questions relating to homosexuality and individuals involved in homosexual activity in halachic and responsa literature(29).
One obvious question remains. Does halacha recognize a homosexual individual who cannot change, and therefore a homosexual sub-community in the Gentile world?
The answer to this question seems unclear. On the one hand the Sifra quoted above indicates a belief that at least some Gentile homosexuals develop their sexual orientation because of a traditional cultural heritage. This would tend to support the idea the halacha acknowledges the possibility of a homosexual subgroup in Gentile society.
On the other hand, none of the stories from the Bible, such as the sin of Ham, the men of Sodom, or the Potiphar's true purpose in purchasing Joseph as his slave, portray any of the individuals as totally homosexual. All are either married (in the normal fashion) or are said to father children in the course of their lives. This would seem to indicate that pure homosexuality was considered an aberration even if found in Gentile circles.
Further, halacha prescribes the death penalty for homosexual acts committed between Gentile men(30). Our tendency would therefore be to deny that halacha recognizes a homosexual community among Gentiles. If we, in fact, did recognize such a community would we not be advocating genocide towards it? Such a position is obviously troubling.
Condemnation of Homosexuality - Why?
In discussions of the Jewish view of homosexuality, the question "Why does Judaism condemn a pleasurable, victimless act that tales place between two consenting adults?" often takes center stage. Although explanations are not lacking in the literature a truly consistent approach should also shed some light on why female homosexuality, though forbidden, is far less heinous a crime than male homosexuality(31).
In fact, a number of suggested answers suffer from a failure to adequately explain this last point.
One such approach centers around the primacy of family and children in our system of values. The practice of male homosexuality obviously frustrates the implementation of these values(32). But so does the practice of female homosexuality. Yet the two are not treated with equal severity.
A second approach argues that homosexuality is somehow unnatural. Our bodies are constructed to act in certain ways, and the practice of male homosexuality prevents these ways(33). Once again, female homosexuality seems to be every bit as unnatural as the male variety, yet we do not react to it in the same way.
Often, those who advocate these two approaches resort to the "hashchatat zera" (destruction of seed) argument(34). Since male homosexuality involves hashchatat zera and female homosexuality does not, the prohibition as violated by the man is more stringent.
There are two problems with the treatment of the male participant. Hashchatat xera in other contexts does not entail the death penalty(35).
However, males involved in homosexual activity (as opposed to females) are subject to capital punishment. Hashchatat zera, therefore, does not appear to be a significant enough factor to explain this severe reaction of the part of Torah law.
Second, the biblical prohibition concerns the homosexual act and not hashchatat zera. In Jewish law, homosexual activity, if consummated, is a capital crime even if there is not hotzaat zera, yet male physical contact, even if it results in hotzaata zera, is not punishable in this way unless actual sexual consummation occurs(36). For these reasons, the approaches cited seem unable to serve as complete explanations for the Torah view of this issue.
However, one variation of the "unnatural"theme seems to fare better in dealing with our question. This position takes its definition of natural, not from physiology and nature as studied in the laboratory, but from nature as defined in the Torah. The Torah says:
"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and cleave to his wife and they shall be as one flesh(37)".
The Torah has, in the verse, defined "natural" as man and women united in heterosexual union. Any person engaged in homosexual activity acts against G-d's natural order of things, and is therefore culpable. However, women involved in homosexuality are less in violation of the "natural" then men as it says: "He shall cleave…..and they shall be as one flesh", can be accomplished by males in homosexual union but not by females. This explanation seems to deal neatly with the various facets of the problem(38).
One other approach to the question of why Judaism has such antipathy to homosexuality deserves mention(39). This approach expands on the argument "And he shall cleave and they shall be as one flesh...", reintroduces the centality of the family in Judaism to the discussion of homosexuality, and treats the halachic differences between male and female homosexuality in a rather interesting way. This explanation argues that homosexuality, when it did occur at all in the Jewish community, usually occurred in a bisexual context and not as an exclusively homosexual orientation on the part of the individual. Individuals raised in the Jewish community usually possessed a strong sense of family as part of their tradition and heritage. This, coupled with the desire to find personal continuity into the next generation and with communal pressure to marry, would naturally lead almost everyone to establish a marriage relationship. Unfortunately, some individuals might seek additional companionship elsewhere. This outside companionship could possibly be homosexual in nature. Such an outside relationship might then be devastating to the special intimacy between husband and wife and to the family, the fundamental building block and most important religious institution in Jewish society
Many rabbinic discussions allude to homosexuality in a strongly negative tone(40). The Talmud(41) discusses the meaning of the term "toeivah" as used the context of homosexuality. Says Bar Kapparah, "toeivah" means "to'eh ata ba", "your have strayed from her." This phrase is explained by Tosafot as meaning:
"That they leave their wives to follow homosexuality."
This statement seems to embody the essence of the proposed explanation.
Whether because of different emotional needs on the part of women, their status in society, or because of the physiological impossibility of "He shall cleave ...and they shall be as one flesh", on the part of women, male homosexuality is considered a far more serious danger in this context and is, therefore, treated with greater severity.
Our discussion to this point leads to the following conclusions:
Homosexuality is an activity, not a state of being. Put another way, "homosexual" is an adjective, not a noun.
Homosexual activity is wrong.
Homosexuality may be a foreign incursion into Judaism.
The perpetrator of homosexual activity is held responsible for the activity.
We expect individuals involved in such activity to make every attempt to stop the activity and to alter their sexual orientation.
No greater halachic stigma attaches to the practitioner of homosexuality than the Sabbath violator or the violator of many other divine commandments.
In light of these conclusions the traditional Jewish community should agree on the following goals:
The primary goal should be to create an environment that is most conducive to motivating the practitioner of homosexuality to want to change his orientation.
In the absence of this motivation or during a period when initial attempts to change are unsuccessful, our task is to keep this individual within the Torah community. We must create a situation which offers a positive alternative to the "gay synagogue" and to the even worse choice of complete abandonment and assimilation.
It would seem that these goals can best be realized by implementing the following agenda:
All unnecessary negative stigma must be removed from the individual involved in homosexual activity. Such an individual must be encouraged to see himself as someone with a problem that he is responsible to overcome, and not as a person who has been defined by his sexual orientation.
At the same time that the individual is told of his responsibility to change, he must also be told, with great compassion, that we recognize the difficulty of his task and that we are willing to help in any way possible.
This is similar, in general terms, to the way in which we treat others such as the alcoholic.
Specific programs of outreach to those participating in homosexual activities should be implemented so that those best able to respond to the questions of these individuals will have a chance to work with them. Contemporary Jewish organizations do Kiruv (outreach) work with individuals who violate many commandments. We must do the same with those whose failures are sexual areas. This is particularly true because of the all-pervasive nature of sexual desire and because of the constant encounter with sexual imagery that pervades our society.
Mental health professionals must be encouraged to develop new and better therapeutic techniques to alter sexual orientation. Methods that are even partly successful must be highlighted and publicized to offer hope to those who would want to change.
The issue of homosexuality is an extremely sensitive, difficult, and emotional one. It is a topic that creates a sense of discomfort and even revulsion not only in those who may have been personally involved in such activity, but also in many who have never had any personal contact with it at all. Stereotyping and personal doubts about one's sexuality tend to maintain and reinforce these reactions and the AIDS scare has given them new impetus. Our response as Torah-true Jews must be to reject these prejudical and counter-productive reactions. On the other hand, we cannot equivocate in our opposition to homosexual activity. This is particularly true in light of the media's continuing portrayal of homosexuals as positive role models and the increasing acceptance of the homosexual as a minority group with "legitimate" civil rights.
The program described above entails walking a difficult tightrope between condemnation of an act and acceptance of the perpetrator as a Jew worth saving. We cannot close our eyes and pretend that a problem of this magnitude will go away. It is our task to present a legitimate Jewish response, balancing our opposition to homosexual activity with our concern for the human beings involved.
1. Levitacus 18:22 and 20:13
2. On WNBC TV's "Donahue" show during a discussion of the controversial Harvey Milk High School for homosexual students, June 12, 1985
3. See below for sources.
4. Spero, M.H., in (a) "Homosexuality: Clinical and Ethical Challenges", Judaism and Psychology Halalchic Perspectives, Yeshiva University, New York,1980 and (b) "Further Examinations of the Halalchic Status of Homosexuality". Proceedings of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, vol. 7, 1983, disagrees with this position and claims that a homosexual personality, as defined by desires, orientation and lifestyle does exist, and that this state is intrinsically prohibited. In addition to the philosophical problems discussed in the article that arise from this position, there is an even more serious problem, with his approach. The sources that Spero uses to support his position, Torah Temimah to Genesis 2;24, San Hedrin 58a, "T.J. 'Kiddushin" 1;1, all deal with Gentiles. Although anything forbidden to Gentiles is forbidden to Jews, the prohibition against existing in a homosexual state cannot apply to Jews if the state does not exist for Jews. At best Spero has supported the idea of a homosexual subgroup in Gentile society. See below for discussion.
5. The Mishnayot in the third chapter of at Tractate Horiyot and the Mishnayot in the eighth chapter of Yevamot. The categories of individuals mentioned here are Cohen-priest, Levi, mamzer-product of an adulterous or incestuous marriage, Cohen Gadol-high priest, katan-child, gadol-adult, cheresh-deaf-mute, shoteh-mental incompetent. This list is by no means complete.
6. Roveia (c.f. Sanhedren 9b) refers to only one aspect of the homosexual act and is also used for other sexual acts, e.g. bestiality (Levitacus 18:23 and Mishna Sanhedrin, 1;4), and intercourse between animals (Levitacus 19;19 and T.j. Avodah Zorah 40a) A. Even-Shoshan, HaMilon Hehadash, s.v. Ravah, sees this first meaning as the primary and original meaning of the term. Interestingly R. Ishmael (Sanhedren 54b) requires a different verse ( Deut. 23;18) to warn the "female" participants in the homosexual act than the verse (Levitacus 18;22) which warns the "male" participant. As a result if an individual plays both roles at one time he is punishable for two sins. R. Akiva disagrees and allows an alternate reading of the verse in Levitacus to serve as warning for the "female" participant, and consequently holds that an individual who plays both roles at once is punishable only once. It seems that R. Ishmael, certainly, and R.Akiva, probably, saw the two types of activity as being different. This strikes another blow against "Roveia" being a term for a homosexual and another blow against one who would want to suggest that the rabbis did recognize a homosexual personality. If there are two types of actions involved and two different verses or readings needed to cover them, there can not be a homosexual in Jewish law. If there were such an individual one verse should be sufficient. Other possible terms such as Shochev Im Zecharim or Shochev Mishkivei Isha are awkward and do not appear in colloquial usage. The modern transliteration of homosexual into Hebrew only proves the point that no term exists.
7. See Avodah Zorah 26b, Hulin 5a, Horiyot 11a, Rambam Yad, Hilchot Teshuva 3:9 and Kesef Mishnah ad. Loc, Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 2, and Choshen Mishpat, 266:2. Some might argue that homosexuals who are exclusively homosexual are actually Mumarim L'hachis (following Rashi A.Z., ad. loc., sv. L'Teiavon). Although some militant homosexuals may come close to this definition, the emotional conflicts and extenuating circumstances involved make it difficult to describe most, if any, homosexuals as having actively chosen to reject permissible sexual relations for forbidden ones in the same way that Rasi describes the Mumar L'hachis' behavior regarding non-kosher meat. Even if one could define some or all homosexually oriented individuals as Mumarim L'hachis the comment of the Chazon Ish quoted in the next footnote would allow us to treat such an individual in the same way that we would treat a Mumar L'Teiavon i.e. like any other Jew (see kesef Mishneh loc. cit.).
8. It is well known that if one violates the Sabbath in public there is a serious stigma attached (see Hulin 3a-6b and Eruvin 69a.). However, the equating of the Sabbath desecrator and the Idolator is rarely applied in anymore then a pedagogic sense in contemporary halachic literature ( aee R. Moshe Feinstein, Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chaim, 1, No. 23 and especially 1, No. 33). In addition to R. Feinstein's lenient stance on Mechallelel Shabbat, The Chazon Ish Yoreh Deah 2;16, says that the stringent treatment of transgressors described in the Talmud does not apply today, as such treatment will cause greater abandonment of Judaism. Since our task is to improve the situation and not to make it worse, the only approach to take with sinners is "to bring them back with ropes of love." This statement form the Chazon Ish could serve as the central message of this article.
9. Rambam, Sefer Hamitzvot Positive Commandment, No. 73.
10. "There is no guardian against unchastity" (Ketubot 13b and Hulin 11b), or the even more dramatic, "even the most pious of the piuos is not appointed guardian over unchastity" (T) Ketubot 1;8). See also Rambam, Issurei Biah, 2:19, that inappropriate sexual behavior will occur from time to time, in all communities because of man's extreme desire for sexual matters.
11. Levitacus 18:22 and 20:13
13. Deut.7:25-26 and 27:15
14. Deut. 25:16. Parenthetically, it would be interesting to see the stigma presently attached to homosexuality placed on anyone guilty of unethical business practices-at least for a brief time.
15. Deut 24;4.
16. Judaism and the Modern Attitude to Homosexuality, "Encycopaedia Judaica Year book 1974, Keter, Jerusalem, 1974, p. 198.
17. The concept of Teshuva makes no sense without this premise.
18. Ibid pg. 202. See also Matt, H.J., "Sin, Crime, Sickness or Alternative Lifestyle? A Jewish Approach to Homosexuality", Judaism, vol. 27 No. 1 Winter 1978, and Bleich, J.D., Judaism and Healing, Halalchic Perspectives, Ktav , New York, 1981. Bleich comes closest to the view presented in this article on the homosexual as anuss (forced). However, "mummar" (sinner) as opposed to "anuss" is the term to be used in the discussion of homosexuality. Introducing "oness" (compulsion) in a discussion of homosexuality is as appropriate as introducing it to a discussion of murder. There are murderers who are anussim (psychopathological murderers), but a discussion of these individuals is not a discussion of murder or the Jewish attitude to that crime. Yet we continue to speak of anussim (psychopathological homosexuals), who may make up only a small portion of those involved in that activity, in regard to Judaism's general view on the subject.
19. Bava Kama 28b, Avodah Zarah 54a. Nedarim 27a. Spero, op. cit, (b) also reject the anuss position on these and other grounds.
20. Levitacus 20:13
21. e.g. Sanhedrin 9b and 54a
22. Rambam, Yad, Hilchot Issurei Biah 1;14
23. Ibid pp.203-204
24. "ain hakodosh boruch hu bo bitranina aim bitraninav" Avodah Zorah 3a
25. Schwartz, M.F. And Masters, W.H., "The Masters and Johnson Treatment Program for Dissatisfied Homosexual Men". American Journal of Psychiatry 141:2, February,1984, pp. 173-181. This study shows a remarkable success rate. After 1 year the success rate was 79.1% and after 5 years it was 71%.
26. "...except that the (frequency of the) homosexual among Orthodox Jewish groups appears to be phenomenally low", Kinsey, A.C., Pomeroy, W.B., Mari, C.E., Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, W.B., Saunders, Phila., 1948, p. 4. See also Rosenhelm, E. "Sexual Attitudes and Regulations in Jusaism". Money, J. and Musaph, H., ed., Handbook of Sexology, Excerpta Medica Amsterdam, 1977, p.1321-22
27. See Spero, op.cit., (a), p. 157.
28. To Levitacus 18;2.
29. Encyclopaedia Judaica s.v. Homosexuality; Lamm, op.cit.,197;Epstein J.M. Sex Laws and Customs in Judaism, Ktav, New York, 1948, pp. 64-65, 135. See Sefer HaChinuch No. 209 who describes a homosexual prostitute and then says that such an individual is known to us from the Arabs (Eretz Ha'Yishmaelim). The Chinuch is quoting from Ramban To Deut. 28;18 with one change. Rambam doesn't mention the Arabs, but he does say the institution was known from the Egyptians. Both these scholars were obviously unfamiliar with homosexual prostitution-and therefore with institutionalized or extensive homosexuality within the Jewish community. Further comp are Rambam, Yad, Hilchot Issurei Biah 22;2 with 22;5 and (the Gentiles)
30. Sanhedrin 58a Rambam Yad , Hilchot Melachim 9;5.
31. Yevamot 76a, Shabbat 65a. Female homosexuality is punished by "Halot Mardut" which is a rabbinic and not a biblical punishment, Yad, Issurei Biah21;8, On the other hand male homosexuality is a capital crime as has been indicated. For a more complete discussion of female homosexuality see Spero, op. cit., (b).
32. Sefer HaChinuch No. 209.
33. Torah Temimah to Levitacus 18;22, No.70.
34. Sefer HaChinuch, loc. cit.
35. Niddah 13a, Rambam, Yad, Hilchot Issurei Biah 21;18, Shulchan Aruch, E.H. 23;1-2. There is no question of the seriousness of this sin, but is not a capital crime to be tried in a human court of law as is homosexuality. See also Feldman, D.M., Birth Control and Jewish law, New York University, 1968, chs. 6 and 8, and the debate between him and M. Tendler in Tradition, Vol. 9, No.'s 1-2 and 4. Even if we accept the view that Er and Onan (Genesis 38) died for the sin of haschatat zera, their punishment came at G-d's hands and not in a court of law.
36. Sanhedrin 55a, Rambam, Yad, Hilchot Issurei Biah 1:10, and 1:14, Suclchan Aruch, Even Ha'Ezer, 20;2.
37. Genesis. 2:24.
38. This approach is suggested by the Beraita, Sanhedrin 58a, which derives prohibitions for various immoral sexual activities for Gentiles from this verse
39. This approach was suggested to me by Mr. Mat Hoffman, national director of "The Flame"; Jewish College Student's Organization. It is also suggested, in brief terms, by Dr. Lamm, op.cit., pp.197-198.
40. Genesis Rab., 26;59 (commenting on Genesis 6;2)
41. Nedarim 51a
|Posted on January 6, 2016 at 1:35 PM|
Why Many Homosexuals Hate Ex-Gays: Thoughts From A JONAH Member
Michael Shaw (Posted 2006)
Why Many Homosexuals Hate Ex-Gays: Thoughts From A JONAH Member
I recently came across a posting on message board on a politically-oriented Web site entitled "Why Do So Many Homosexuals Hate Ex-Gays?." The question made me stop and think.
I wouldn't say that all homosexuals hate ex-gays but I would say that homosexual rights activists don't care about the individual journeys and lives of people with homosexual feelings, they care about their political cause and nothing else.
How can it possibly be wrong for a young man who experiences homosexual feelings to seek ways to cope with and even overcome these feelings and learn to expand his range of sexual expression to include members of the opposite sex? How can it be wrong to offer such a young man help?
Here is my story: When I was college my best friend Alan defined himself as gay. I had certain sexual fantasies and feelings about men but wasn't so sure. Alan became politically active in the gay organizations on and off campus (with the support of liberal professors), dated men and believed that he was gay and that was it. Unfortunately, Alan was just in time to catch the AIDS virus before anyone knew what it was. Needless to say, he does not walk in any more gay rights marches.
At that age, you are very open and close in your friendships. I knew him like I have known few other friends in my life.
When I read his obituary, it shored up my resolve to take another path. I never acted on my homosexual feelings with another person and sought to know myself as honestly as I could. Now, I can't say life has been easy or perfect; I am who I am. But I have experienced incredible changes in my sexual fantasy life and arousal patterns. My homosexual attractions are a miniscule percentage of what they once were. I have experienced genuine sexual arousal from physical contact with a woman. These are not changes in behavior, these are changes in my core way of thinking, a reflection of a gradual process of attaining emotional maturity.
If political activist gays would tell the truth they would say it takes a lot of hurt to make a boy a homosexual. They would also say that the human mind can accomplish anything and that, whatever mistakes we make, change is always possible. These are subtle concepts and may never get play in the mass media.
But it is the truth.
|Posted on January 6, 2016 at 10:35 AM|
Why Neither Homosexuality nor Heterosexuality Exist in Judaism
Rabbi Joel Beasley teaches Bible, Talmud, and Philosophy, and develops creative learning programs in a variety of educational institutions near his home in Alon Shvut, Israel. This article first appeared in the Jewish Spectator, Winter 1998.
"God does not play tricks on His creations". - Talmud, Avoda Zara 3a
"I'm not a bad girl; I'm just drawn that way." - Jessica Rabbit, Who Shot Roger Rabbit? (1988).
Canadian columnist Barbara Amiel recently identified a product of Western culture she called the "azza," a person who prefaces comments with the words, "as a." "Azza left-handed pro-life Scottish-nationalist Elvis-imitator," for example, "I might find your remarks offensive." The azza preface grants critical immunity. Honest intellectual discussion is hard to come by with this ultra-sensitive, utilitarian character.
Amiel's words resonate in an era in which Jewish tradition is derided as bigoted and homophobic. Is there any relevance in this environment for the Torah view that the homosexual act is an "abomination" (Leviticus 18:22)? How can Judaism with its unambiguous position speak to this generation? As far as the Jewish religion goes, there are no homosexuals in the world, nor have there ever been. There are no heterosexuals either. Both terms are pejorative. They imply that the essence of existence lies somehow within the crass and the carnal. Human beings are reduced to their most primal function, as if the point of life was to contemplate the smorgasbord of sexual possibilities in the world.
From the Jewish perspective, identifying existentially as a homosexual or a heterosexual is as irrelevant as identifying as a ptyalizer (a person whose saliva flows excessively).The words may describe predilections or behavior, but they hardly capture the essence of the person. The Torah labels people not by their primal urges, but by their obligations to God. The Cohen, Levi, and Yisrael each play a different role within the apparatus of Divine worship. The adult keeps mitzvot, while the youth is exempt. The indentured servant, the non-Jewish citizen, and the free person all enjoy different monetary obligations. In dividing these responsibilities, God apparently did not care about human preferences, sexual or otherwise. He did not ask the Jewish people whether or not they would like to follow His Torah. According to the Midrash, He held the mountain over the entire nation and said, "take it." No azza interest group declined because of special needs. It was an offer no one could refuse.
In the pre-azza world, Jews tended to appreciate their Creator more, not only for bringing them out of bondage, but for enabling them to breathe. The Torah gave them the opportunity to express their gratitude. Before JFK, God told His people not to ask what He can do for them, but what they can do for Him. If any one label applies accurately to the Jew, it is Eved Hashem, servant of God. This may represent the main point of conflict between the ideology of the azza world and the Torah. The azza is concerned with rights. The Torah rarely discusses rights. It is more focused on responsibilities. Within its structured framework, people can maximize their own distinct talents and interests. Their ultimate task is to become partners with God in the world's creation -- literally by creating their unique selves in His image.
As part of this act of self-creation, people must see their personal qualities as constantly evolving. Branding themselves with labels stymies their potential for growth and destroys their partnership with God. Labels rarely describe people as they are. They more frequently become self-fulfilling prophecies. A child who is labeled "slow" from an early age feels defeated. Trying to rise above the low expectations seems futile.
Teshuvah, the assumption that any human quality can be changed if necessary to serve the Creator, allows individuals to maximize their potential beyond their wildest expectations. A child once assumed to have been slow can develop into a top scholar with the appropriate determination. Every destructive impulse can be directed towards appropriate holy activity.
The current consensus amongst Behavioral Psychologists supports the Torah's optimism with regards to change. With the right positive and negative reinforcement, people can adjust to any number of previously unimaginable realities. Behavioral conditioning usually works more efficiently at earlier ages, but all people can adjust to new situations if they are motivated.
According to sexual behaviorists like Masters and Johnson, babies are born neither heterosexual nor homosexual in any categorical sense (Human Sexuality, 1995, fifth edition). They are sexually malleable, and can remain in flux throughout their lifetimes. Whether sexuality is determined by biology or by the environment -- or both -- is a question that defies clear empirical proof. Regardless of the nature-nurture conundrum, sexual attraction is almost always influenced to some degree by external stimuli. Human preferences are complex and quirky. If chocolate ice cream tastes sensational today, it may taste less so tomorrow. People are inclined naturally towards aesthetic variation. That does not mean they should be free to act on their impulses. The Torah understands that unrestrained pursuit of personal pleasure takes a terrible toll on society, and creates havoc for the stability of the family.
What if people feel genuinely attracted to their own gender? This does not make them homosexual, even if they experience homosexual feelings. These feelings may or may not go away in time, but the Torah still expects that people adapt themselves as best they can to male-female marriage. There have always been people in the world who at least at one point in their lives are attracted to their own gender, to little children, to family members, to ever-changing sexual whims. God does not permit people to act out their fantasy lives if these conflict with His vision of holiness.
The Torah does not accept the concept of monogamous homosexual relationships because self-fulfillment is not part of its agenda. If human sexuality is influenced by environment, someone with homosexual ideation can potentially lead a fulfilled marital life. But even if their innermost desires remained unfulfilled, it does not matter. It may never become clear why some people do not feel predisposed to marrying someone of the opposite sex. The obligation remains.
Marriage is meant to teach people how to rise above their own selfish needs in order to give to a partner who is both psychologically and physiologically different. Same-gender marriages might have been too easy. As one essayist put it, male couples would have been able to sit around and watch ballgames all day; female couples would have been able to sit down and really talk about one another's feelings. But marriage is meant to challenge each of the partners. John Grey's bestsellers on the subject (Menare from Mars, Women are from Venus, et al.) have touched a raw nerve precisely because members of both sexes are aware of the difficulty in bridging the chasm between them.
Jews have always appreciated the gap between the sexes. The Torah sanctified it. The Jews were the first people in world history to make divorce difficult by forcing the man to pay a hefty sum before separating permanently from his wife. When the inevitable conflicts arose, neither spouse could run away so quickly. They had to stay together and work things out the hard way, often becoming finer individuals in the process. Divorce was a possibility, but only as a last resort after all other options had been explored. The constructive tension in marriage helped them grow.
Male-female marriage is a much more stable societal norm than monogamous same-sex relationships. Dennis Prager argues that men in particular need women as a civilizing force in order to tame their potentially unruly libidos ("Judaism, Homosexuality, and Civilization," Ultimate Issues ,April-June 1990). Societies that tolerated homosexual behavior in history were characterized almost without exception by the oppression and subjugation of women, by the elevation of male sexual gratification as a mainstream pastime, and by a lack of any persevering family life. Men by their nature are not as willing to commit to long-term relationships. Prager argues that "while it is possible for male homosexuals to live lives of fidelity comparable to those of heterosexual males, it is usually not the case." According to one study, the typical lesbian has fewer than ten lovers in the course of her active sexual life, the typical male homosexual has over five hundred (Bell and Weinberg, Homosexualities, Alfred Kinsey Institute for Sex Research, 1978).
God's idea of holiness is not always discernible to the human mind. These explanations may not fully account for the Torah's overall prohibition. They do refute the popular claim that the Torah would have sanctioned monogamous homosexual relationships if it had known about them. The prohibition was meant to be unambiguous and eternal. This is one reason the Torah is so spare with its words, "And do not lie with the male in the way you lie with a woman -- it is an abomination" (Leviticus 18:22). Try as they may, modern voices fail to twist these words beyond their unavoidably clear meaning.
God is not cruel. He does not ask people to do anything beyond their capacity. He does at times ask them to harness their desires. To some degree, all mitzvot go against the natural human grain. Without the social or ethical restraints that usually bind them, most people would steal, live promiscuously, lie, cheat, and occasionally murder, sometimes out of sheer convenience. The greatest struggle in life, according to the Torah, is to discipline base instincts in pursuit of moral excellence. People are bursting with inchoate spirituality. The truly righteous learn how to control their physical drives while striving to realize their loftiest convictions.
Many people diminish their potential by embracing labels. The self-proclaimed homosexual who engages in homosexual acts is not necessarily considered evil from a Torah perspective. The act is evil. The prohibition may be absolute, but Jews still have a priority of showing one another compassion, especially when doing the right thing becomes a struggle. There is no contradiction when those who condemn homosexual behavior reach out lovingly to self-identified "homosexuals." It means that they are able to see the Divine image in all people.
In a world that hypocritically accepts homosexuality in public and abhors it in private, the compassionate Jewish approach is unique. But for Judaism to be on the cutting edge is nothing new. The Midrash explains why our founder was called Avraham ha'ivri. While the rest of the world stood on one side(iver) of the river, Avraham bravely stood on the other. Jews are defined from the beginning of their history by their ability to stand firm in their beliefs despite the prevailing trends in the world. The Jewish views of monotheism, a limited monarchy, and freedom have rarely been endorsed by the historical powers of the world. Most of these powers themselves have died out, while the Jews and their Torah are as vibrant as ever. When homosexuality was exalted in Greek, Mayan, Chinese, Scandinavian cultures -- in fact almost every society in world history (see David E. Greenberg, The Construction of Homosexuality, 1988) -- the Jews stood resolutely by their ideal of male-female marriage.
People diminish themselves by insisting on azza-like labels. Strangely enough, in the modern world, identity often becomes enmeshed with career: "I am a secretary," "a lawyer," "a clerk," "an artist." These self-definitions are sadly accurate for those who accomplish little beyond their all-consuming careers. Others identify with their astrological signs, their lives assuming a kooky arbitrary dimension that seems beyond the individual's control. And some identify with their carnal preferences, as homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, or otherwise sexually challenged. Sex indeed often dominates their lives. If their days and nights are not filled with pursuits of physical pleasure, their minute-to-minute fantasy life tends to be all-engrossing.
The Torah offers a finer alternative. Within God's scheme, career, cosmos, and sexuality are all part of life's intricate fabric. Judaism is not ascetic. The individual is supposed to appreciate the richness of God's physical creation. The key is to accept the Torah's parameters. Through discipline and a pursuit of holiness, the Torah teaches how to appreciate the spiritual gifts in the universe and thereby live the fullest kind of existence.
|Posted on January 6, 2016 at 10:20 AM|
Affection Between Men
Torah Study Program: Hazon - Our Universal Vision
I would like to discuss the issue of affection between men. But before I discuss the issue in a broad sense, I will attempt to respond to the question that was raised whether, according to halacha (Torah law), two men can engage in erotic hugging, kissing, and touching, as long as they do not have intercourse.
There is a general Torah prohibition against engaging in any erotic touching with someone whom one is forbidden to sleep with, and this prohibition also includes erotic touching of a homosexual nature. The source for this prohibition is found in Leviticus 18:6 which states: "Any man shall not approach his close relative to uncover nakedness; I am Hashem." The Oral Torah interprets the phrase "shall not approach" to refer to any erotic touching which can lead one to have any form of intercourse which is forbidden by the Torah. This prohibition is discussed by Maimonides in his Sefer HaMitzvos (Prohibition 353), and it is also discussed in the Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzva 188). The Sefer HaChinuch states that this prohibition applies to both men and women.
There is a major halachic difference, however, between the Torah's prohibitions against forbidden forms of intercourse, and the Torah's prohibition against erotic touching: Unlike the prohibitions against intercourse, the prohibition against erotic touching does not bring "kares" (the soul being cut off) or the dealth penalty. Even if one violated one of the Torah's prohibitions against intercourse, there is the life-giving option of "teshuva" - repentance and renewal which cause us to return to the path of our Creator.
There is no question that Torah-committed individuals who are unable to get married, whether they have a heterosexual orientation or a homosexual orientation, were given a difficult life-challenge. In some respects, the person with the homosexual orientation has the greater challenge, for reasons already mentioned in previous correspondence. The reason why the Creator gives certain individuals unusual life-challenges is a topic for another discussion. It may be helpful, however, for all people to remember, regardless of their sexual orientation, that there can be warm, physical expressions of affection and love which are not erotic. There are many men, including "gay" men, who sometimes engage in non-erotic hugging and touching with other men. In fact, traditional Jewish culture is much more open to displays of physical affection between men than Anglo-Saxon culture. For example, in Israel, especially among the Sephardim, one sees men hugging or kissing each other at joyous occasions or when greeting each other after a period of separation. And in Israeli yeshivos, when a young man gets engaged, it is customary for his fellow students to not only wish him "mazel tov," but to also give him a hug or a kiss on the cheek. And let us not forget that in Torah-observant communities, men dance with men and women dance with women. These "mitzva" dances create a warm sense of unity among the participants, and they are emotionally and spiritually uplifting.
Last, but not least, men can experience with their male friends the deep pleasure of "emotional" affection and intimacy. To experience this form of intimacy, however, they need to be in touch with their feelings and to be capable of expressing these feelings in words. Many men find this to be a difficult process, especially those who grew up in an Anglo-Saxon culture. In fact, some married men have difficulty developing this type of intimacy with their wives.
I have known some single men and women who had a deep need for emotional intimacy, but they didn't know how to achieve this, so they ran after sexual experiences which they hoped would meet this need. They ended up feeling unsatisfied, for they did not receive the emotional love they were looking for.
The Mishna in Pirkei Avos (5:19) teaches that all love which depends on a physical or external cause will pass away when the cause is no longer there, but a love which is not dependent on a physical or external cause will last forever. And the Mishna cites the friendship between David and Jonathan as an example of a love which lasts forever. It is recorded in the Book of Samuel 1 that "Jonathan's soul became attached to David's soul" (18:1). As the Malbim and other commentators explain, the good and the holy within Jonathan's soul was drawn to the good and the holy within David's soul, and vice versa. These spiritual qualities last forever; thus, a love based on these spiritual qualities also lasts forever.
Our sages often refer to Hashem as "Rachmana" - an Aramaic word which means "the Loving One." May Rachmana bless all of us with a love that lasts forever.
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen
The author is the director of the E-mail Torah study program "Hazon - Our Universal Vision":
|Posted on January 6, 2016 at 9:00 AM|
An Epiphany About My SSA: The Relationship Between My Acting Out and My Need For a Best Friend.
Written By: Nathan
(Posted Jan 2011)
First, let me introduce myself: My name is Nathan, I am married with 3 children. In my life, I have constantly “needed” or at least sought out a best friend. One good friend. That's all I needed, that's all I wanted. Of course, after a while, my need became obsessive. During the time I actually had such a friendship, my same-sex attraction (SSA) was virtually nil. When I didn’t have these intimate connections, I was more prone to acting out with other men.
I always focused on and looked for this best friend rather than choosing a larger circle of men with whom to have relationship. My effort was to have a few deep friendships that provided an emotional connection. Ultimately such friendships did not last. This then left me feeling emotionally drained and craving to replenish this feeling of closeness I lost. I would then look elsewhere to fill the void and start all over again. For several years, I have been trying to figure out why I had this repetitive need to find this one best friend.
When I first joined JONAH (www.jonahweb.org) several years ago, I kept telling myself that I didn't seem to fit the mold of those with SSA. I chose to not engage in therapy. After all, the classic risk factors or causes didn’t seem to apply to me. The story I told myself was that I never had issues with my peers; and, that I was close with my father, even though emotionally he wasn't demonstrative. Deep down, I told myself that I “knew” how he felt about me: I believed that he loved me and was proud of me.
So the only issue that seemed to fit the risk factors or causes concerning my early childhood was sexual involvement with an older male that I never accepted as (and to a large degree still don't) characterize as sexual abuse. I was a willing and eager participant in the activity and I never felt bad about it. (Please don't try to convince me that it was “abuse” –even though I was young-- because at this point it would be counter productive.)
This past weekend I attended a Call of the Shofar mens experiential weekend in Israel (www.calloftheshofar.org). While working on some of my issues there, I developed a theory about why I constantly looked for a best friend. While working on my issues, I was able to get in touch with my feelings and realized that although I had a close relationship with my father, a major part of that relationship was him teaching me and my siblings how to do work around the house that involved fixing things. I wasn't very good at it, and when I would mess up my father would yell at me. Eventually he stopped trying to teach me how to do the "men’s work" and I was in turn relegated to cleaning up after my siblings and preparing lunch. What came to me during the weekend work was a recognition of the deep pain of this childhood experience and such understanding brought about some major clarity: My SSA was caused by my father giving up on me, relegating me to “woman’s work,” and not teaching and mentoring me with the patience and understanding that I felt I needed.
I realize now that I felt like a failure because my father gave up on trying to teach me how to do the "men's work" around the house. This in turn has led to a lifetime of low self-confidence. As my self-confidence waned in childhood, I developed a sexual relationship with an older boy. Like I said earlier, I never considered the situation abusive. However, what came to me during the weekend processes was the interconnection between the early sexual activity and my perceptions about my father’s put down. I began to realize that my sexual activity was my psyche’s way of compensating for this perceived inadequacy. I attempted to satisfy another man, to make him happy and proud of me. Indeed, whenever I felt down, I would seek out a man to please so I could feel that I WAS A SOMEBODY. In some cases, I sexualized it; in other cases, I simply sought out a best friend. Either way, I engaged in what some psychologists call a “repetition compulsion"—a continual recreating of a past traumatic event. In other words, continue to attempt in the here and now to recreate the traumatic failure of my father relegating me to “woman’s work” by seeking out masculine approval in the hope of a better outcome.
Of course it didn't work because I quickly went back to being me with all of my insecurities and perceived inadequacies. I also recognized during the weekend that whenever I had this best friend (non-sexual) or sexualized relationship, I was substituting that person as an idealized version for the attention, affection, and approval (three A’s) that I was seeking and needed from my father. These needs, call them core needs or developmental needs, went unmet. And, my unfilled yearning for fulfillment of these needs, coupled with my detachment from my sense of masculinity through these childhood incidents with my father, expressed itself as unhealthy attachments to another male—whether it be sexualized or simply by clinging to someone as a best friend.
This led me to a further epiphany. When I have an emotional relationship with this one friend that I so desperately need, I am using him as a father figure. I realized that I became obsessive in my need to be in touch with him, to know what is going on with him, and having him know about me. I needed to please him and required his affirmation and love. I currently have such a friend, but I find that if something changes, like I don't speak to him as often as I did, or I don't think he gave me the affirmation I was seeking, I begin to panic that I did something wrong and fear that he isn't going to be there for me anymore. So while I know that this type of relationship isn't healthy, at least I have come to an understanding of where it all stems from.
Regardless of the symptom I utilize to decrease my anxiety and father wounds, and whether I work to continually reduce my acting out and simultaneously make efforts to reduce my compulsion to find a best friend, I understand it can take time. However, the major step is the first one I have taken---which is to understand the common story behind my SSA and my obsessive compulsion to always find a best friend. This insight represents a huge awakening! I then need to accept this pattern for what it is: a pattern I built up a long time ago which enabled me to move forward in my life. The insight also allows me to see this pattern for what it is not: the thinking that I was born this way as many elements of society continually preach or a belief that my SSA is so ingrained that it can never be overcome. Baruch Hashem [Blessed be G-d], I understand the impact all this has had upon my life and what I need to do to continually diminish these symptoms until they are practically gone. Rather than continually recreate the traumatic failure of the non-acceptance of my masculinity by my father, I now realize I have the ability to develop healing relationships which offer me the chance to do in adulthood what I could not do as a child, that is, to acknowledge and grieve the loss I felt from my father's actions while stopping my attempts to “import” happiness and fulfillment from another human being.
I still have major work to do, but I am on my way.
|Posted on January 6, 2016 at 8:40 AM|
The ongoing story of ex-gay Larry Houston, a Harvard-employed cook in Annenberg Hall, who was criticized by students late last year for speaking openly about his conversion, is just one more example of the intolerance faced by former homosexuals and lesbians all across this country. Robert Spitzer's Columbia University study of former homosexuals and lesbians has shown that same-sex attractions can be overcome. Ex-gay organizations such as National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, Regeneration Books, Evergreen, International Healing Foundation, One by One and Exodus have also helped demonstrate that homosexuality is neither genetic nor irreversible.
Each year thousands of men and women with same-sex attractions make the personal decision to leave homosexuality by means of reparative therapy, ex-gay ministry or group counseling. Their choice is one only they can make. However, there are others who refuse to respect that choice, and endeavor to attack the ex-gay community. Consequently, ex-gays are subject to an increasingly hostile environment where they are reviled or attacked as perpetrators of hate and discrimination simply because they dare to exist.
For example, ex-gay David Ott of Madison, Wisconsin, was charged with a hate crime because he insisted that homosexuals could change their sexual orientation as he had done. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors termed the activities of ex-gay ministries as "acts of discrimination." The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educational Network distributed the booklet "Just the Facts" to many of the public school districts in America accusing ex-gay participation in public schools as "harassment." The Human Rights Campaign demanded that a contributor reconsider her sizeable donation to a children's school merely because it had indirect ties to an ex-gay ministry.
Tim Wilkins was fired from his job as supervisor at the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer newspaper for daring to "come out" as a former homosexual. Lesbian Jackie Goldberg of the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution condemning an ex-gay conference held in that city as "perpetuating fear and intolerance."
Facing homosexual pressure campaigns that mischaracterized ex-gay speech as promoting discrimination, Detroit's three major television networks rejected ads featuring ex-gay men. Prominent ex-gay author Richard Cohen was accused of discriminating against homosexuals when he released his new book Coming Out Straight. And now Larry Houston. The list is endless because every day brings new hostile acts against the ex-gay community. In this climate of intolerance against ex-gays due to their very existence, support for the ex-gay community is interpreted as bigotry and discrimination against homosexuals.
The harassment of ex-gays by gays themselves is a sad end to the long struggle for tolerance by the gay community. That ex-gays and their supporters are now oppressed by the same people who until recently were victimized themselves, demonstrates how far the gay rights movement has come. Indeed, a new chapter in the movement has begun-the right of homosexuals and lesbians to leave that lifestyle should they so choose.
We need to face the real issue of sexual orientation-intolerance of ex-gays. Would Harvard students allow ex-gays to apply outright for funding under the Undergraduate Council's Anti-Homophobia project? To give sexual orientation protection to one group while excluding another is the worst form of discrimination. Please remember that former homosexuals and lesbians are also worthy of respect and a voice in the public policy forum. Ex-gays are not the hate mongers you deem us to be.
Regina Griggs is national director of the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, based in Alexandria, Va.
|Posted on January 6, 2016 at 8:35 AM|
A Long, Hard Road: How Reparative Therapy Saved My Life
Written By: Daniel Meir Horowitz 
(Posted May 2012)
There has been much ado in the Jewish media about the idea of Orthodoxy and homosexuality. I have decided to share my personal story for the purpose of letting others know that, despite what so many people claim to “know,” there are options and there is a way out of Same Sex Attraction (SSA).
I was raised in a modern-Orthodox, frum family. I clearly remember in 8th grade being among other boys discussing which girls in our class they had crushes on. At the time I had absolutely no attraction to women and, to avoid embarrassment, I blatantly lied and said that I did indeed have a crush on a certain female classmate. But inside I was tormented: “When will I feel these feelings like the other guys?” I asked myself. I kept hoping that someday I would just wake up and be “normal.” Unfortunately, that time never came. By 10th grade I had already come to the conclusion that something was wrong, and also admitted to myself that I was instead attracted to other boys in my class. I recall praying and crying to G-d to “take it away” and heal me. One summer I spent every day saying the entire book of Tehillim (Psalms) in the hope that I could earn enough merit to make my homosexuality go away. But it didn’t.
After graduation, I dutifully spent a year in an Israeli yeshiva. Being in a dormitory situation was a complete nightmare. I felt trapped in a prison that I could not escape, tempted by things that I could never act upon, dangled in front of me constantly. By the end of that year I was almost non-functional, and finally mustered up the courage to discuss my situation with the Rosh Yeshiva. I was sure that I would be summarily cast away and shamed, but felt I didn’t have a choice since I was suffering so much. I needed to talk to someone. Instead, I received compassion, advice, and a recommendation to see a local psychologist.
When I returned home at the end of the year, I began immediately seeing a religious psychologist to try to work through these issues while I stayed in yeshiva. Over the next seven years I cycled on and off seeing a total of three different psychologists and one psychiatrist, spending at least twenty thousand dollars. These were highly recommended professionals, some of whom are rather well known. They all assured me that they could help me with my SSA. Yet after all of my time and money, I accomplished absolutely nothing. I still was embroiled in attraction to other men, and felt no attraction to women. All of my friends were getting married and having children, while I just spun my wheels.
During those years I became depressed and hated my life. I often contemplated suicide. Multiple times while driving home from the therapist’s office, frustrated at our lack of progress, I would think: “Just turn the wheel a little to the left and slam into the divider on the freeway. No one will know it wasn’t just an accident.” I would have to consciously switch to the right lane so I could be sure I wouldn’t give in to the temptation. Part of me truly wanted to die, though, and I regularly wished that a car would hit me when I was crossing the street.
In utter desperation I began searching the Internet for possible alternative treatments. I was willing to try almost anything if I thought it would work. I discovered a weekend retreat for men struggling with SSA. After consulting with one of my rabbeim and my therapist, I signed up for the next available open slot, bought my plane tickets to Utah and set out. The retreat changed my life. I met other men who had struggled with SSA and had moved through it. I was taught about reparative therapy and that there was hope. Soon after that weekend I started seeing a licensed reparative therapist regularly, and within a year began to slowly see signs of progress. I don’t remember exactly when, perhaps 18-24 months into the therapy, but I was reading a magazine and an attractive woman in an ad caught my attention. I found myself staring at the photograph. Then it struck me: I was actually interested in looking at the woman! I felt such exhilaration at the experience. I had instinctually done what I never would have done before. Something had changed.
Anyone who says that working through homosexual desires and feelings is an easy, quick process is lying. It is a long, hard road with many challenges, pitfalls, and setbacks. But it is possible. I wish I could say there is a “cure” for SSA, but I believe there is no such thing. SSA is something I will struggle with for the rest of my life. But now, I am in control of it. It no longer tortures me. When I am diligent and follow the game-plan provided by those who understand reparative therapy, it fades to the faintest whisper in the background and therefore no longer controls me. And I am attracted to women, when I never was before.
Why was I so tortured? Why did it hurt so much? What drove me to become suicidal? Being a frum person with SSA felt like being trapped in a prison with no escape. If I have homosexual desires, urges to do what the Torah blatantly forbids, I have only three options:
A) To give in to those desires, and violate the Torah. Many have taken that path, often eventually abandoning all Torah observance. I truly believed, and believe, that G-d gave us the Torah, and so giving in to my desires was not an acceptable course of action for me.
B) To “white-knuckle,” to try to resist these temptations with sheer willpower and live a “normal” life despite them. This was an unbelievably depressing prospect. It meant getting married with no real desire for a woman. It meant having desires that could never be fulfilled. It meant being trapped in the closet all alone, suffering. (To say nothing of how wrong doing so would be to the woman I would have married.)
There were those who would tried to offer me a variant of this option: Accept myself as a homosexual and identify as gay, and stay single, all the while refraining from violating the Torah. While on the one hand, it sounded brave, I knew it to be a fallacy and an empty dream. Firstly, I would still have to suffer a lifetime of unfulfilled yearnings. The reality is, however, that despite firm initial convictions, every single person that I know who tried this, eventually succumbed and ended up violating the Torah. This always devolved back into option A.
C) To try and change the desires, or at least mitigate them until they become a mere nuisance. This seemed to be the only viable approach to me. And I tried for many years, floundering along through therapy, even taking extra jobs to pay for it. I remember thinking at one point: “What more can G-d possibly want from me? I’m doing everything I can!!” Yet, I persevered and eventually found a treatment that helped.
The reparative therapy approach is what led me to where I am.
There are those who will wish to silence me, and protest the publication of my story. They will describe reparative therapy as a sham. I can only say that I wish someone had told me about it earlier. There are no guarantees for any treatment of any illness. But I would rather have tried mightily and failed, than to have had someone stifle me by censoring those who would have given me options and hope.
Of course, no one should ever be forced into therapy if they don’t want it. And no one can experience any change unless they want to. No matter how supportive and well-meaning family and friends are, changing sexual orientation or growing out of SSA will not occur if the person does not wish to do it for himself and find the proper therapeutic approach that works for him. For those who choose to work through their SSA, there are several alternative paths for them to take. And, by doing so, they can lead truly fulfilled lives.
Even if after spending time (and money) with one therapist is found not to be helpful, that does not in any way mean that another won’t be helpful. If, G-d forbid, someone was diagnosed with cancer and a certain treatment wasn’t working, he wouldn’t give up. He would seek out another doctor with a different method, or try alternative medicines or modalities. I spent almost ten years trying different therapy methods, and eventually one worked for me. So if one doesn’t work for you, who knows? Some other treatment might.
I want to shout to all those plagued by SSA who wish they were not: Don’t give up. Please. Despite what you read and hear in our secular culture about the false idea that change is impossible, a ray of light might be just around the corner. Keep looking and know that the help you seek is out there. You only need to find it.
 This is a pseudonym. Certain other identifying details have been changed as well. I truly wish that I felt safe enough to use my actual name and identify myself. However, as someone still searching for his soul mate, I am keenly aware of how careful I must be to explain these details about me at the right time and in the proper context.