Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jewish Gay Pride

There seems to be a lot of talk about choice in the frum gay world.

It's not a choice. I was born this way. I can't help it. Therfore I should be accepted for who I am.

I admit that I used to ascribe to this position, and halachically it makes a lot of sense. As gay Jews, we do not fulfill the mitzvah of reproducing. And for those of us who have chosen to not be celibate, we violate Rabbinic, if not Biblical sexual prohibitions. So in order for us to be considered upstanding Jews, we must disclaim our sexuality as beyond our control. For if we had the power to choose and we chose homosexuality, we would be considered heretics! Who would choose to violate these mitzvot?

On the other hand, offering the disclaimer of not having a choice is apologetic. "I'm sorry I'm gay, but I couldn't help it." The disclaimer puts homosexuality into a b'dieved (not ideal) category, with heterosexuality being the l'chatchila (ideal) in Judaism.

But this is not what I believe.

It's true that I cannot change my sexual orientation, but who says I want to? I'm happy being gay, and I don't need to disclaim anything to anyone. Hashem -- in His infinite wisdom -- created homosexual and heterosexual creations. Does Hashem view some of His creations as "ideal" and others as "second rate?" Chas V'Shalom! G-d forbid! Hashem created all people in His image. How could someone created in His image be a "b'dieved" creation?

From this perspective, gay pride takes on a fascinating new meaning. We should be proud of ourselves as gay Jews because that is who Hashem created us to be.

ברוך אתה ד' אלקינו מלך העולם משנה הבריות
Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who varies His creations


the mol said...

Being gay is a choice? Clearly not, as you have stated. I can't think of a person who would voluntarily be gay, and face the persecution and problems that you do.

Tampa Zephyr said...

I loved this post above all others, Justin. Thank you. This also makes me wish I were more well versed in Torah. :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this.

Another topic I'd love for other frum queer bloggers to consider writing abut is the whole issue of "pride". A lot of straight frum people are like "well, if you can't help it there's nothing I can do and i'll tolerate you, but don't push it in my face by having gay pride events or talking about being gay!" They think we shouldn't have any pride in who we are, we shoudl be grateful for the most minimal tolerance that we can get if we keep everything very very quiet. They don't realize that they "shove" their heterosexuality in everyone's faces every time they show up at shul or at their child's school with their wife or husband. Yet if we are seen on the street holding hands with someone, or if we dare to go to a gay pride event, we are flaming, flaunting homos who just can't keep our "business" in the bedroom. i'd love to see this addressed because it makes me really mad. The reason I occasionally go to what you could call "gay pride" events is not because I want to flaunt my "sinfulness" (of course I don't actually see myself as a sinner, but that's another story). It has to do with sociocultural stuff, homophobia, the need for others who understand me, the need to end invisibility, etc. This stuff drives me crazy - It comes up online every time a frum blogger writes a sympathetic post about Orthodoxy and homosexuality.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful and to the point! Toda raba, chaver!

Mordechai said...

Justin, I definitely agree that homosexuality is not a choice, as I agree with the fact that a frum gay Jew should most certainly not feel ashamed for being who he is, which you indicated with " משנה הבריות."

However, I have a problem when you frame the issue in terms of pride for a couple of reasons. First, Hashem created gay Jews differently for a purpose aside from reproduction. It doesn't make our purpose on Earth any less laudable or superior, just different. Second, we should never take pride for something that is innate because we didn't even do any work to earn. Pride comes froms making progress through accomplishments in one's life. It's why Judaism emphasizes "deed over creed." It's why free will is such a cornerstone of Judaism. With our free will, we can choose to partake in mitzvot, help others, work for the betterment of the Jewish community, as well as the world as a whole (i.e., be a "light unto nations"). Justin, you can take pride in the fact that the work you do inspires other frum gay Jews to reconcile with something that many in the frum community find irreconcilable, or that you entered the frum community AFTER coming to terms with your homosexuality. These are laudable achievements that many would not be able to do. But even when you have worked for it, you would still need to realize that not only did other people help you reach that level, but Hashem is the ultimate source of your strength.

I am not saying never to have pride in anything you do. That would create a consistent feeling of self-worthlessness. It's why you have to keep in mind that "for my sake was the world created." (Mishneh Sanhedrin 4:5) But even with all of that in mind, what ultimately needs to be realized, by all of us, is that we are doing what Hashem brought us here to do, and that is to be the best Jews that we can possibly be. By realizing that we are created in His image, and that part of our life purpose is to show that being frum and gay are not mutually exclusive, we will not fail in following His will.



Kobi said...

It's really nice that you believe that.

But closing your eyes and wishing it so does not change either the Torah or Halacha.

It is a mitzvah d'oraita to reproduce. It is a mitzvah the same as V'ahavta l're'acha kamocha is.

It is an issur D'oraita-a yehareg v'al ya'avor, in fact, the same as murder, to have anal sex.

It is an issur d'rabbanan to do anything else, on the level of all others, and like all others, the foundation of halacha and our faith.

I beleive, and I think this is borne out by the facts of existence, that man has absolute choice in all his actions, and while you did not choose to be gay, you did choose not to marry a woman, not to have sex with her, to mess around with other men. Even if it weren't a choice, which is absolutely is, it is still Torah. So which is it, do you believe in a God who would do this to you, or in a God who would lie to you?

I'm gay too, but we can't ignore the facts of Halacha, no matter how hard we try. So be it.

Anonymous said...

So, because my husband and I do not have children we are committing a sin?
So Justin, who has chosen not to make some poor woman's life miserable by marrying her when he is unable to love her fully as should be her right is also committing a sin?
In the news today there was an article about a couple who abused a young boy for a year, keeping him chained and starving him while raising two children of their own, thus fulfilling the commandment to procreate - you think this couple is fulfilling a mitzvah?
Just because a man has a penis and a woman a womb does not mean that they should bring children into this world or raise them.
To me the shonda is denying a fellow Jew his or her dignity and respect for trying to live a frum life.
I agree with Mordechai's post. Justin, you are a young man to be admired.

Rabbi Shai Specht Spiritual Guide said...

This is a GREAT blog Justin. Keep up the AMAZING work.

Anonymous said...

Only the true judge knows where each one of us fits on the Kinsey scale. I have always been more, almost exclusively, attracted to males, but I married to have children. My wife isn't miserable. Sometimes, I am. Does this make me a tsaddik gamur, not messing around with other men, simply masturbating from time to time? I don't think so. One size doesn't fit all. Some can marry, others, cannot. Those who do have their cake, not someone's c---. Is there life after C---? Certainly there is more to life than sex.

The antidote, dear Justin, is Torah tavlin. More keli yakar, less gay pride.

cheryl said...

this blog is very well written!

capecodkwassa said...

I hate it when people say being gay is a choice and stick to that belief even when I tell them I've known I was gay ever since I can remember.

I also like what you said about "who says I want to change?" That's very true. When I say I'm proud to be gay, I don't actually mean I'm proud that my sexual orientation is gay. I mean I'm proud that I didn't marry a woman and live a lie the way so many religious people do.

Chaim Gravitzer said...

I have one very simple question.

The Torah says that men can't have sex with men. How can you violate this commandment and still call yourself frum?

Anonymous said...

Fromm means pious; frum is a sociological construct.

If you wear khaki pants in a yeshiva minyan, can you still call yourself frum?

If you don't wear a hat or a black hat, can you still call yourself frum?

Calling yourself or others frum, judging them, isn't what life is all about.

Everyone sins, even tzaddikim. If a member of the Moetzes sins would we call them frum? They would.

Those whose inner circuitry responds to ssa are judged differently, but everyone is judged, even those who are keeping score about the supposed frumkeit of everyone else.

Victor said...

It's interesting to read this post among your others. You are, on one hand, calling for pride, essentially saying that you do not want to be told you are less than, because you are as Hashem created you. Yet, at the same time, that blessing that you have at the end of this post... how shall I put it? a blessing one says when one sees people who do not fall within "the norm": ugly (as opposed to extremely beautiful), deformed, "of strange appearance." I just find the use of this blessing strange in view of the rest of this post.

Anonymous said...

Hi i am moroccan and I find jewish men extremely hot and I would like to have a jewish boyfriend some day but you know I heard that jewish people in general are a little bit "racist" and I don't know If gay jews prefer to date jewish guys only.What do you think about interracial ralationships?

Hannah said...

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with your conclusion that we should celebrate ourselves for who we are and who we'd like to be (for the glory of Hashem), I disagree with the premise/argument 'I cannot change, therefore I should be accepted for who I am.' We cannot change, despite the insistence of some, but the premise for our dignity and equality, is not that we can't change, but that we are human and we are Jews; we are capable of as much Torah and mitzvot as any other Jew, we are not second rate.

As far as not reproducing: I would point out the Letter to a Homosexual Baal T'shuvah by Rabbi Aharon Feldman (A rosh yeshivah in Baltimore). The essence is that Israel is our children.( (scroll down)).

Glorify Hashem in everything. Peace.