“During my year in Israel, I hated myself.”
The words hung in the air, sharp as knives. She saw them before her, printed black on white, strung together on a silver shred of barbed wire. “Why?” she questioned softly, tentatively, tucking her legs up underneath her.
“Because I’m gay.”
The words shocked her. They ripped through her body, confusing her; it was almost as though she had not heard correctly. It was totally impossible. He was involved in so many committees, had so many friends; he had dated her friends, for God’s sake! And he wanted to become a Rabbi! How could he be gay? And how could she, Lisa, know someone who was gay? “Oh, Jason,” she mustered, her eyes clouding over in confusion and pain.
“And I hated myself for it. I hated myself like you wouldn’t believe, Lisa. I literally wanted to rip it out of me, kill it. See, there’s a certain eroticism you feel at any naked body, but when I look at a woman, it’s just- I don’t want that. That’s not what I want. But a man- a man gets me excited. I want men.” His voice was thick with hatred and disgust. “And I didn’t want to want them. But you have no idea the images that swam through my mind, the things I thought, and here I was, in high school- because yes, it started before Israel, but it was when I was finally away from home that I could really think it through-and there were guys that I had crushes on. I mean, I tried to wipe that off as no big deal and no big thing; I had one friend and I finally told him and he broke my heart.”
The words were said in a rush, as though he was struggling to get them off his chest. “I just told him I was gay and he was my roommate and he was completely freaked out. I had thought we were best friends; our friendship would withstand anything. I was wrong.”
“But Jason,” Lisa whispered, her voice very low, “are you absolutely…sure?”
“Sure?” He laughed. “You have no idea. I went to JONAH and those therapists who are supposed to turn you straight. I wanted to be straight, Lisa; I wanted to be! And I would do all those things, even put rubber bands on my wrists that I would flick every time I thought of a guy that way, to try to remind myself. I wanted to control my mind. And I even watched porn, of girls, to try to get myself excited. And obviously I dated girls and I just- I just don’t like them like that. I can’t get aroused for them, because of them. And can you imagine what that would be like, marrying a woman and wanting to love her and just not being able to get it up for her? Only able to do it if I think about men?” He shook his head; his expression was filled with self-loathing.
“What are you going to do?” she asked. Confusion whipped through her, feelings that she was unsure of; she didn’t know what to say or what to do, how to help. What could she do? The law existed apart from them both and the law was greater than them both. The law took precedence over them and their lives; God had stated that a man could not lie with a man as he did with a woman. And yet, and yet- this was Jason she was speaking to, her Jason, the man she loved like a brother.
Chana is sensitive and intelligent. And yet she's part of the source of Jason's suffering. All the Orthodox are.
Here was my response:
My heart goes out to people like Jason. And I feel anger for those who support the religion that does this to them. I mean, I understand. I know they mean no harm. (At least some of them don't, anyway. I mean "Jason" himself believes.)
But it's so unnecessary. There's nothing wrong with being gay. You know that intuitively, Chana. Jason knows it too, I hope.
Thousands of gay people form happy gay relationships and families and it's just not that big a deal.
I've known a few Jewish-but-not-Orthodox gay men who simply realize that they're gay sometime in their childhood or teens and then it's just not that big a deal. Their families support them unconditionally, they are completely open about their orientation, and they find nice guys to settle down with.
No drama, no tears, no anguished struggle, no hating friends, no rabbis who try to "help" with ridiculous "cures," no shunning from parents or community. Just normal. Just like you and me when we find somebody we like. People are just happy.
That's how it can be. That's how it should be. God didn't write the Torah, people did. You gasp, that's kefirah, but it's the clear and obvious truth to anybody who didn't grow up Orthodox or otherwise fundamentalist.
"18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination... For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people."
Those are not the words of the creator of the universe. Those are the words of some guy living in ancient Israel, or perhaps they are borrowed from someone living earlier than that. They weren't written by God, and everybody outside the Orthodox (and other fundamentalist) circles knows it. The non-fundamentalist scholars know it and the laypeople know it.
All you Orthodox people who think you don't have to read about the Documentary Hypothesis or even seriously think about whether what you believe is actually true because you're happy with your religion -- you share some blame for these tragedies that go on every day in America and throughout the world.
If you've honestly investigated the truth and continue to believe that Orthodox Judaism is correct, okay, you've got to stand up for what you believe in. I get that. But if you're one of the majority who just loves being Orthodox or is too scared to look, you bear responsibility.
Don't just shake your heads at the tough position people like Jason are in. You're part of the problem. Do your research, honestly, and if you find out what the rest of the intellectual world already knows, have the courage to say so.
A Gay, Closeted YU Student Speaks Out (Anonymously)
Who Wrote the Bible?
Great Example of Intellectual Honesty
How Orthodoxy Causes Good Men To Do Evil