Thursday, October 21, 2010


Something on my mind almost daily is why I am gay. Was I born that way? Did I develop that way naturally? Did outside influences play a role in my development into a gay person. I ask this not because it plagues me a hurts me. I just think about it generically, because I know regardless of the answer that I am gay, for whatever reason. I do ask this from a religious perspective.

Why would God create someone who was gay if he commands us not to be gay? That makes little sense, and every Rabbi and Torah scholar today agrees- it makes no sense, but yet, it's true. Did He want us to go through so much hardship and pain trying to figure out our lives? I do think He played a role in my development as a gay person and I do think He loves me today, regardless of what laws in the Torah I do or do not uphold. Something that hits me in this religion is at every Bris , curcumcision "party" eight days after a baby boy is born, and many times over the course of a Jewish child's lifetime the congregation and community constantly say the phrase "L'Torah, Chupah Umaasim Tovim" , Bible study, a wedding (canopy), and good deeds.

My life, and the life of every Orthodox Jewish child, and even non-Orthodox, revolves around getting married. It's built in to our lives from the first ritual- a baby naming or circumcision- and repeated throughout. If God created me as gay, how could He also create a religion that revolves around marriage in the traditional sense of man and woman? I don't get a Chupah , a wedding canopy and I'm learning to be okay with that, even though it hurts. But the constant need to mention it in to my every day life, culture and existence, makes it hurt so much more.


  1. That traditional salutation at a brit never really bothered me--probably because I knew that if I wanted to get married, I could--as some closeted gays do [the wisdom of such a choice is not the topic now]. However, I have felt much more compassion for infertile couples at britot, where I realize that their inability to have a child is not self-imposed. However, your post does remind us how other categories of people--i.e., gays--can also feel ill at ease, and that is a sensitivity that needs reinforcement. Thank you.

  2. Ergo, gays must marry.

  3. Hello FrumGay.

    People are born gay for genetic reasons. Asking why someone is gay is the same as asking as someone was born with blonde hair and blue eyes. It is not something you really have control over. A lot of religious organizations deny this point. They think that being a homo is something a person choose upon himself. So they have these sessions in which they think they can "cure" someone of being gay. But these sessions do not work. It only does more harm to these homos and it decieves them into believing that they can change.

    You say that why you are gay makes no sense from a Torah point-of-view. I agree. But consider for a possibility, just consider this option. That perhaps what was taught in Judaism to you is not all true. So there are errors in some of your beliefs. Maybe God never said that it is wrong to be gay or wrong to live gay with another man? Just consider that perhaps, men, thousands of years ago, wrote that living a life of homosexuality is wrong, not God who wrote that, and they pretended that God wrote that - so to have influence over the people. Then your confusion starts to make sense. It was not a God who wrote that, but some ignorant people who did.

  4. Spinoza, nice assertions about the genetic origins of homosexuality. Now, would you like to back that up with some scientific evidence?

  5. "Spinoza, nice assertions about the genetic origins of homosexuality. Now, would you like to back that up with some scientific evidence?":

    I do not know much about homosexuality but from what I know it is genetic. I am sure there are lots of books that explain this in a lot more detail that I possibly know.

    A simple reason why it is more likely that homosexuality is based on birth than development is that homosexuality cannot be changed. Just like a straight person cannot become gay a gay person cannot become straight.

    If you think about it, being straight is genetic. You did not have to learn to be straight. You were born straight. You were attracted to girls naturally. You did not actually have to learn anything to acquire this sexuality. So if straight is genetic then it makes a lot of sense to say that homosexuality is genetic also.

  6. Actually, there is a lot to say that sexuality is largely psychological. Think about fetishes, or the the sexual experience - there is SO much about it that is psychological. You can't discount the fact that homosexuality is not genetic on intuition. As it is, the academic world (through biases of both sides) largely disagree on whether or not homosexuality is genetic.

    Furthermore FrumGay, you're right. If you're being intellectually honest, you've laid all the groundwork - what does it lead you to conclude?

    A. Judaism is wrong
    B. Homosexuals can change, and the current institutions about accepting Jesus into your heart or flogging yourself out of extreme guilt are doing it wrong.
    C. Homosexuals can't change - but who says that sex is at the core of a marriage that God is interested in?

    You've been given the opportunity to do more in this world than a straight person can. You have the potential to be a walking eidus that you care about God more than you care about sex. Straight people can't do that as well as you can.

  7. I think the current understanding (by scientists, not religious people!) is that homosexuality is mostly genetic and/or environmental IN THE WOMB (i.e. hormonal.) Other, post-birth environmental factors are also possible, though. We don't really know yet.

    That said, what difference does it make? Regardless of how you became gay, you can't change it now and you shouldn't have to anyway just because some people think it's icky and/or sinful.

    As for your questions, about God, the answer is staring you in the face -- it's a classic reductio ad absurdum.

    If a benevolent God exists then He must want gay people to live fulfilling and complete lives. If He instead orders his followers to execute gay men for engaging in gay sex and refers to gay sex as a toevah, then he is not benevolent or does not exist.

    It's really quite simple. You cannot simultaneously believe in the Torah and in God's benevolence. It's one or the other (or neither.)

  8. "It's really quite simple. You cannot simultaneously believe in the Torah and in God's benevolence. It's one or the other (or neither.)":

    It is interesting that most pro-gay people are Christians. (Reminds me of that most people who accept the theory of evolution are also Christians, not atheists). These Christians do however give up the idea of a divine Bible but still believe in an benevolent God. Though I disagree with this, it is certainly a lot more compassionate than Christians who stick with the Bible. Many Jewish people (PunkTorah, for example) do the same (and Muslims too). This is a little surprising.

  9. Jewish Atheist, you make a great point. However, it is a point that has been considered and answered.

    Benevolence does not preclude suffering. A good God does not necessarily mean that the limited and finite world that humans live through must be good.

    Indeed, much of Jewish philosophy revolves around the notion that it is only in the absence of good can true good reveal itself. Kind of like, the light shines brightest in the darkest of places.
    One way to frame it is like this: God wanted to give good, but it is better to ACQUIRE good than to merely receive it. One must earn it and toil for it to truly assert creative energies in its acquisition and really come to own the good. As such, this world is full of struggles, if one is to surpass them successful, one has truly acquired the good, and owns it.

    This concept needn't be religious - it's universal. We admire success and triumph, but only if adversity is present. We don't celebrate when people jump up in the air, we celebrate olympians who train and push themselves to do what they couldn't do before.

    The greatest stories, the greatest movies we hold dear are ones where success if made in the face of adversity.

    What I'm saying is that someone who is gay has the ability to be a walking testimonial that they put in effort, they have struggled to succeed - the successful gay Jew is a hero.

  10. Wow, FrumGay, I'm sorry, but those are really unhealthy questions to ask. Whether being gay is genetic or developmental, or, as with pretty much every human biological phenomena, some kind of combination of both, asking yourself questions about things you can't control, nor really have access to( for example pivotal psychosexual developments often occurs in preconscious or early conscious states and is rarely, if ever, remembered) is just a recipe for driving yourself crazy. This obsession with marriage- also really a recipe for driving yourself crazy. If you want to get married, you should do it, but understand that many of your Orthodox peers will look down upon it. Those who are really your friends, however, will hopefully give best wished to you and your chatan, and celebrate in the joy you've found. In any case, I think you have a very possible answer to your question of how a God could've created you gay and also created a religion which specifically discriminates against gay men and women, if you're willing to see how many conditions are set up in that statement, how many are definitely true, and how many are really a matter of other's conjecture.

    Will, there's a difference between triumph in the face of adversity and self-denial to the point of self-negation. A man or woman having no avenue to express the feelings they have for other human beings of the same sex, which are in themselves as valid and real as any other( read heterosexual) feelings that humans have for each other is like telling someone they can't live as themselves, but rather have to pretend to be someone else with a different set of desires. Based on the high-rate of suicide amongst closeted men and women and the recent spat of hate-crime related suicides in the gay community, all evidence points to the deleterious and incredibly harmful effects of a person feeling denied the right to love and feel and being told the same to that effect.

  11. Just a word of caution about bandying about the word "genetic." In order for homosexuality to be genetic, you'd have to inherit the trait from someone in your family. Now before you go on some kinda homo witch hunt to see who passed down this "nefarious" gene to you, consider replacing the word "genetic" with "biological." In 1991, a neuroscientist named Simon LeVay studied the hypothalamus of both homosexual and heterosexual men and found that that the areas that govern sexual attraction were different in homosexual men compared to heterosexual men; in fact, the findings in homosexual men were consistent with those seen in heterosexual women. Therefore, there seems to be a biological component to homosexuality, but no gay gene locus has been identified.

  12. Rambler,

    There are a bunch of assumptions that I'm not yet willing to concede on.

    1)A Homosexual man can't build heterosexual desires toward women. I think that's possible, as I said above - I think the current methods are wrong and stupid (often about accepting Jesus into your heart to make you straight), but read Joseph Nicolosi's book on reparative therapy and tell me it doesn't resonate.

    2) While homosexual feelings are "valid" in a sense - saying that they have no avenue for expression is telling someone they can't live as themselves - I hear this. It makes a lot of sense. But I'm not of that school of thought that we should be governed by our feelings and desires - I think we can surpass them and choose to be whomever we want to be. Obviously through tremendous effort and exertion, but still. Judaism is a chance for that. Homosexuality is forbidden. I personally hate to let guilt be my motivator for mitzvoth, I use positive motivation. Instead of thinking - "I will burn in hell if I have gay sex" think "My abstention from homosexual activity is selfless sacrifice and is a testimony of my love for God."

    3) Lastly, the hate-crime related suicides and the closetedness - That's awful. No one can deny that. But that's not a proof that homosexuality is okay. The fact that keeping the Torah is hard is not a disproof to its validity. I, personally, was a fan of the gay panel because it revealed the heroic struggles of the people who are shomer torah umitzvoth and are gay - that's the real way to effect a change. Not by subverting Judaism and doing whatever you feel is right.

    I mean, If you honestly believe Judaism is wrong, then so be it. Live your life how you see fit. But if you are being intellectually honest, I don't think you can use the argument that because people are gay, Judaism must be wrong. Indeed, I don't think God would have forbade homosexuality if he didn't intend to create people who wanted to be homosexual. It's meaningless to follow a commandment that is not a struggle to follow.

  13. "A Homosexual man can't build heterosexual desires toward women. I think that's possible, as I said above - I think the current methods are wrong and stupid (often about accepting Jesus into your heart to make you straight), but read Joseph Nicolosi's book on reparative therapy and tell me it doesn't resonate.":

    Then show why this commonly accepted position is wrong. Just think about it. Can you develop sexual feelings for guys? I doubt it. So why do you expect homos to do the same? All of these programs are most likely failed attemps that will ruin homos life even more. Leave them alone.

    "But if you are being intellectually honest.":

    If you are being intellectually honest then you cannot be frum and supportive of homos.

  14. Baruch, excuse me for being so...uh...colorful, but if people can have sex with their hands they can have sex with anything.

    So yes. if I had to, if it was the norm and what God wanted, I could develop sexual feelings for another man.

    Another point: It says a whole lot that people think the focus of a relationship and is sex. It isn't. Sex is a great tool in the relationship, but isn't the crux of the relationship.

  15. "if I had to, if it was the norm and what God wanted, I could develop sexual feelings for another man."

    But would you be happy?

  16. I only do what God wants me to do because it makes me happy. That is my highest happiness. Developing a relationship with God, the source of all. I can't be happy satiating my desires if I know that I'm ignoring Him in the process.

    Yea. It would be noble, it would heroic, if that was what was required of me, I would be happy.

  17. "Baruch, excuse me for being so...uh...colorful, but if people can have sex with their hands they can have sex with anything.":

    It is called masturbation, not sex with your hands, you can say the word.

    I do not follow your reasoning. People masturbate because people are sex machines. They need a way to satify their sexual desires so they masturbate as a way to relieve that. But when men masturbate they often think of girls. They imagine themselves having sex with them. So masturbation is a way to express their fantasies involving other women. So how do you conclude that people would have sex with anything?

    "So yes. if I had to, if it was the norm and what God wanted, I could develop sexual feelings for another man.":

    I doubt it. A lot of gay Jewish people tried doing this and it failed, because they have something in them, from how they were born, that makes them attracted to the same sex. Gay people do not wake up one day and tell themselves, "I think I am going to go gay today".

    The reason why you insist that they can be sexually attracted to a woman is because it probably challenges your notions of homosexuality. A lot of more Orthodox Jews do not even accept that gay is a condition. They think it is what gay people decided for themselves. Because they view homosexuality as something a person brought on himself - this was the common view back when the Torah was written. You seem to try to at least partially hold on to that view. You kinda accept that homos are born that they but you still think that it is their reponsibility to go against their natures.

  18. Baruch, I appreciate your arguments, but there are a lot of assumptions I don't agree with and straw-men that don't represent my position.

    On masturbation - First, i don't have a problem with the word. I was just making a point. And while people do fantasize during masturbation, a lot of times people don't. It's like the Kinsey scale, or like prison. You can develop attraction to other things. I know, in my own life, I've been attracted to different things, my tastes have developed and changed.

    Despite "a lot of gay people" who try - you assume they fail because it is impossible. I suggest that they fail because the current networks for change are corrupt and flawed. Read Joseph Nicolosi's Reperative therapy. It's secularly based. Not faith-based. It makes loads of sense to me.

    And lastly - no, I don't think homosexuality is a choice. I do think it's possible to change, and even if I'm wrong about that - I think it's possible to live a heterosexual life, in a healthy and happy way. (And btw, many gay men did just that for many years before homosexuality became publicly acceptable, and they got to enjoy families, wives, children, etc.)

    And yes. I accept that desires are given to people. I also accept that humans are supremely powerful and can transcend or change their desires. That's a very Jewish concept.

  19. With all due respect, Spinoza and Will, you guys just opened up a huge can of worms, and I have discussed change and my respect for it, but how I feel it's not right for me. And I understand Will's point, that many people can and will have sex with anything, gender doesn't have to be an issue.
    Spinoza, you love "intellectual honesty" and telling me what's "right" and what's "wrong" and how the world dictates I should behave and the things I should believe in, but as I have stated in my latest post- I don't care what the world says. I'm gonna do what I feel is right for me.

  20. I know. And I respect your decision. At the end of the day, you have to choose what you think is true, and you need to also make sure to be healthy.

    A lot of this blog is interest in your particular struggle, but I also comment because I'm sure you have a lot of lurkers - and while your way may be the right way for you, I just want to represent that there are other ways around that may work for other people.

    I appreciate that you understand my point of view as well.

  21. "You can develop attraction to other things. I know, in my own life, I've been attracted to different things, my tastes have developed and changed."

    OK, the seemingly odd comparison of masturbatory fantasies to prison aside... :-)

    ...I think your argument confuses "attraction" with "adaptation." A prisoner adapts to his/her environment; do you think someone commits a crime because s/he WANTS to live as a convict, that's they're attracted to that? I'll wager that career criminals may offend repeatedly because they know of no other way, but that's an extreme case rather than the norm.

    A closeted homosexual adapts to living as a heterosexual; doing so doesn't mean that s/he's attracted to the opposite sex, only that there's the outward APPEARANCE. If a homosexual is indeed attracted to someone of the opposite sex, then that person could be bisexual, but for purposes of this discussion, let's not go there! :-)

    As for your tastes changing, does that include gender?

  22. "You can develop attraction to other things. I know, in my own life, I've been attracted to different things, my tastes have developed and changed.":

    What were your fantasies?

    "I don't care what the world says. I'm gonna do what I feel is right for me."

    Hello FrumGay: What feels the best for you is not necessarily what is true. If you want to live your life in a way that makes you feel the best then you can ignore what I and everyone else says. But if you want to live your life in a correct way then you need to be care for the arguments of other people and take them into consideration.

  23. Will, whether someone is governed by their thoughts or desires is completely separate from the question of whether one can dictate if another person should desire or not, in general. Telling someone they can have their desires but can never act on their desires, while heterosexual men and women must control their desire but do have an acceptable avenue for those desires to be fulfilled, is hypocritical and unfair, and one is not practically equivalent to the other.

    Personally, I think that Orthodox Judaism in its current state and homosexuality are incompatible, but that's because as a gay man who is happily living his life as he see fits without a belief in a hateful God( though not discrediting the possibility of a loving, non-judgmental one), but that doesn't mean that a fellow Jewish gay man or woman who wants to practice Judaism should feel the need to prescribe to everything, especially those hateful beliefs, but rather should practice what they see as right and want for themselves. So for FrumGay, he should continue to practice while not concerning himself with whether the Biblical God loves or hates him, because common-sensically and for psychological health, it's pretty ridiculous to believe in a God who discriminates against a specific group of people who he created in a certain way, especially if you belong to that group. In fact, it's downright disturbing to believe something like that in general, but whatever. In any case, and in regards to your latest posting, there do seem to be a number of issues that you keep returning to, and that you can't seem to climb over, "God's" benevolence and marriage being among them. I mean, I no longer practice, but I'm from an Orthodox background, and the obsession with marriage does sometimes get to me, especially the fact that whomever I meet, (if I decide to) marriage will be a much bigger hassle, personally and socially.

  24. So I know where you're coming from, but still, living the life you are, and confronting the same issues you do daily, there has to be a better way to deal with them than to bash against the same unbreachable walls again and again.


It Gets Better- Gay Orthodox Jews