Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Burning Fire and a River of Tears

The following article was recently posted in a Yeshiva University newspaper: http://www.yucommentator.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticle&ustory_id=3e858e60-b231-466d-a887-f2e001da6cb2

It details the struggle of a closeted frum student. He views homosexuality as his test in life and compares it to the tests of keeping Shabbat and learning Torah. In other words, just as we must fight our Evil Inclination that encourages us to break Shabbat and not learn Torah, so too must we fight our Evil Inclination for homosexuality. Accordingly, the author takes solace in the distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual behavior, as the Torah only prohibits the latter.

I take issue with this ideological approach to homosexuality. From an Orthodox perspective, breaking Shabbat and shunning Torah study are inherently evil behaviors. It therefore makes sense to attribute these sins to the influence of the Evil Inclination, an evil impulse taking over body and mind.

Yet no one identifies as a Shabbos Desecrator or as a Torah Learning Nullifier. These sins do not define one's sense of self. However, individuals with an exclusively same sex attraction do identify as gay. Homosexuality is a large part of their identity, as it determines their romantic and sexual attractions. To view the thought -- the fantasy -- of a deep emotional and physical bond between two men as a manifestation of the "Evil" Inclination is to view oneself as inherently evil. Thus, in the course of "winning" the battle against the Evil Inclination for homosexuality, one's sense of self worth becomes a casuality of war.

I would like to thank the author of this article. By framing homosexuality in the context of the Evil Inclination, he enabled me to realize that leading a celibate life is a recipe not only for loneliness and isolation, but also for depression and G-d forbid suicide (as the author alludes to in his article).

What do I do with the two verses in Leviticus? I still don't know, but it's becoming increasingly less important to me. The Torah tells us to בחור בחיים, to choose life. In order to do so, we must accept ourselves -- our whole selves -- for who we truly are.