Thursday, December 15, 2011

Orthodox Rabbis Homosexual Declaration... Part 2

This post is a follow up to a prior blog entry. See link below;

This is my opinion on the statement signed by right wing Rabbi's relating to Orthodoxy's position on homosexuality. Generally and then very specific...

There is never any distinction made in the statement between gay sex and the homosexual attraction. Vague references made to the "homosexual lifestyle" and "identity" and "inclinations", without actually discussing what the Torah considers wrong is misleading and extremely convenient. How can a Rabbi, representing Torah, sign a statement that pretends to be the ultimate position on a Torah subject which doesn't address what the Torah actually says? Can one make a statement about keeping Shabbos and not mention refraining from work? Can one talk about Kosher without pointing out the prohibition is to eat it? If you are going to state the absolute Torah position on homosexuality, you MUST make this distinction or else you are tainting the entire declaration.

Which leads me to my second point. As a result of the above, the statement is simply false. Saying things like "The Torah makes a clear statement that homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle or a genuine identity by severely prohibiting its conduct" is false and contradictory. Does the Torah make a clear statement or is it a derivative of the conducts prohibition? Which one is it? In other words, it never says anywhere in the Torah clearly that homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle, it simply states that a man should not have anal sex with a man (and barely says that). Also, is there anything the Torah forbids that isn't "severely forbidden"? What a conveniently manipulative verbal construct.

And I further quote " Particularly the Torah writes this in regards to homosexuality and other forbidden sexual liaisons" - Again convenient to pick homosexuality out as the model of "forbidden sexual liasons". What about straight up old fashioned adultery? Where is the statement about that? How insensitive to call a homosexual relationship a "liaison" as if a powerful intimate attraction between males needs to be "a secretive or adulterous sexual relationship" as Collins defines it. (More on the "abomination" factor in here). Not to beat a dead horse but again, no distinction made between the act and the "lifestyle".

I don't want to get sidetracked by pointing out that it's been clearly documented that reparative therapy has a ridiculously low success rate and that there is no clear evidence that the source of homosexual inclination  "are primarily innocent victims of childhood emotional wounds." and that there isn't a genetic component to it.

I want to focus on what I find to be the most challenging and ultimately most painful piece of this statement.

And I quote "The concept that G-d created a human being who is unable to find happiness in a loving relationship unless he violates a biblical prohibition is neither plausible nor acceptable... Impossible, life long, Torah prohibited situations with no achievable solutions are not (part and parcel of this world)". And most painful "Abandoning people to lifelong loneliness and despair by denying all hope of overcoming and healing their same-sex attraction is heartlessly cruel."

Do they even hear what they are saying? Is this a challenge? I can make a much simpler derivation than the forced ones that the Rabbi's pulled out above. They are saying that the Torah and Hashem are heartlessly cruel. How do I know this? Because I (and many people who I have spoke to through my blog) live a life of loneliness and many times despair and have no semblance of a hope of overcoming my (our) same-sex attraction. They call this "heartlessly cruel". They say it is "neither plausible nor acceptable".

Until I read this I said to myself that even though I am not at this point yet, I can hope to reconcile God and my homosexuality by seeing it as a life long challenge that I will struggle through (albeit a horrible and painful struggle). This declaration says that my goal is wrong. It says that the Torah couldn't prohibit something like this. It says that it couldn't be part of our world. It says that its heartlessly cruel.

Is this what I want to spend my entire life trying to connect to? 

Ultimately, I am fortunate not to buy into this crap. I don't believe the logical construct in those paragraphs. I believe someone can have lifelong struggles and God expects them to have it and get through life (I can't internalize it yet, but I believe it). There are people who's sexual organs simply don't work. There are people whose bodies are entirely paralyzed. Does that make God heartlessly cruel? What a horrible thing to say to someone struggling. Do they think that will make the homosexual want to change him or herself and connect to Hashem? Based on the flaws in their logic, it doesn't quite cause me to turn my back on Torah values and frumkeit; but a chillul Hashem it is. It has made me think about whether the Torah is cruel. It has devalued what it means to call someone a gadol hador. Until now I always maintained an innocent appreciation of daas Torah. It has taken that away from me. 

I am somewhat exhausted from writing about this so I will leave this for now. I continue to pray for Hashem to help me see and feel his love. I ask Hashem to please help my parents, friends, rabbis and "gedolim" to bring out their Godliness in beautiful, sensitive and loving ways so that I can have people on this world after whom I can model His apparent beauty.


  1. As a friend pointed out, would these Rabbis be okay with their daughter marrying someone who has had a behavioral change by going through reparative therapy? I think not.

    Humorous but great point.

  2. You wrote:

    “I don't want to get sidetracked by pointing out that it's been clearly documented that reparative therapy has a ridiculously low success rate and that there is no clear evidence that the source of homosexual inclination "are primarily innocent victims of childhood emotional wounds." and that there isn't a genetic component to it”

    From the writing on your blog it would seem that this rings true to your own experiences with your family growing up. You have written about a distant father, being more sensitive than the average guy and how you feel it is not genetic but environmental in your own life.

    Further this was made worse by a (non-reparative) therapist who called you names and other horrible things regarding your masculinity.

    In terms of the success rate for reparative therapy, it is no different then any other difficult therapeutic issue that one may have, from depression, alcoholism, or addictions. Any manifestation of a deeper unresolved trauma or painful developmental need that has not been fully addressed or healed will be difficult to overcome and may result in relapses until it is fully under control.

    Take overeating and weight issues. People who struggle with it are turning to food to quell unmet needs or in response to emotional stimuli. If one goes on a diet but has not dealt with the CAUSE of the process that associates emotional distress with eating, it won’t be long before they are overweight again.

    Same sex attraction is just another manifestation of an emotional need that has not been properly fulfilled. Learning how to recognize ones own issues and how to heal and change the pattern established from childhood is not easy or quick. For some it can take many, many years – just like other addiction or weight issues that people struggle with for many years.

    It’s very seductive to give up that struggle and to accept the false notion that there is actually no need to struggle and one can “accept” ones manifestation of an underlying issue as healthy and “unchangeable”. That removes an incredible weight of responsibility of continuing to have to work on it and allows one to emotionally indulge in the desired manifestation of the underlying issue.

    It takes bravery and fortitude to recognize the roots of ones same sex attraction. You seem to have done a remarkable job of recognizing it. This declaration seems to be saying, “Don’t give up!” There is hope and support for you in your continued struggle to overcome the difficulties of your childhood that manifest today as same sex attraction.

    Hashem does love you very much and believes in your ability to overcome this. So do many others who have gone through this struggle.

  3. Firstly, I want to commend you on the sensitive approach that you took in writing your comments. If the Rabbi's in question used half of your sensitivity the message would have gone a lot further.

    In response to your specific comments I certainly agree with you that my personal experiences have created who I am today. I am sure that is the case with many other homosexual men and woman.

    I don't just write for myself though as it doesn't negate the studies shown that go toward the failures of reparative therapy.

    To suggest that this is the only approach or else the result is that God and the Torah are cruel and merciless is a scary suggestion.

    As the RCA said in their statement, "On the subject of reparative therapy, it is our view that, as Rabbis, we can neither endorse nor reject any therapy or method that is intended to assist those who are struggling with same-sex attraction. We insist, however, that therapy of any type be performed only by licensed, trained practitioners. In addition, we maintain that no individual should be coerced to participate in a therapeutic course with which he or she is acutely uncomfortable."

    Changing someones sexuality through therapy, be it straight to gay or gay to straight is not as simple as "just another manifestation of an emotional need that has not been properly fulfilled". It is a lifetime of experiences, love, hate, abuse, neglect etc(with very likely a mix of some level of genetics playing a role) that needs to be worked through.

    It is so easy to push people that way when one has not walked in our shoes. Bravery and fortitude are mostly fairy tale words. It's not that simple.

  4. There are many problems with this declaration. Rabbi Kamenetsky first published these viewpoints in conjunction with Arthur Goldberg of Jonah. He has interacted with this reparative therapy group for years.

    Arthur Goldberg is best known as a major swindler and defrauder. He was disbarred and spent time in jail for fraud just before founding Jonah(see Wikpedia)
    He dropped his middle name Abba to try to disguise himself.

    His group relies mostly on evangelical Christian therapies and therapists. (This should be a problem in itself for an Orthodox Jew)
    There have been several allegations of sexual abuse by Jonah therapists. He is a signatory to this declaration.

    I am happy that about twenty people that wanted to live "heterosexual" frum lives are happy with their marriages and children.

    But any honest evaluation would find that anyone who started adulthood with same sex attraction and no opposite sex attraction will die the same. That is why Exodus president Chambers says that 99.9% of his "post gay" community still has SSA.
    I think that a better option is offered in Israel where frum lesbians match up with frum gay men to marry and have children. All of this is different than what almost all people trying to "change" their sexual attractions (and their parents) expect. This declaration says that just like people overcoming overeating disorders can lose weight so can people lose their attraction to the same sex. in other words you can be "cured" and go from gay to straight.

    Human sexuality is not comparable. There really is such a thing as sexual orientation. Even marrying and having sexual relations with someone of the opposite sex does not change that.
    Many people will disagree that this declaration is ethical just as many people disagreed when Rabbi Kamenetsky ruled that sexual abuse should not be first reported to the police, but instead to a rabbi. I have no doubt that in both cases these rulings and declarations had compelling halachic reasons, but they are still unethical, and in these cases other orthodox rabbis have come outotherwise.. Both will result in serious child abuse and child abuse is never ethical.