I was recently made aware of a statement that was put out last Thursday by a large number of Orthodox Rabbis entitled, “A Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in Our Community.”
If you have not read the statement, I recommend reading it, because it was very interesting. My thoughts on it are that it was clearly very well thought out and it says exactly what needed to be said. I think a statement about homosexuals in the Orthodox community needed to emphasize two things: 1. Halacha, that acting on homosexual attraction is wrong, and 2. Acceptance- that we need to accept individuals who have a same-sex orientation who are not openly violating Halacha. I think the statement emphasized both of those points very well.
What surprised me the most about the statement was actually the 5th point, which stated straight out that often therapy is not affective in changing a person’s sexual orientation and that therapy should not necessarily be encouraged. I thought that was a brave statement, considering that in the past most Orthodox authorities have followed the view that homosexuality is a Yetzer Harah and one can fight it and change it. I actually thought that myself, until I watched the eye-opening movie Trembling Before G-d, a documentary about homosexuality in the Orthodox community. The documentary really changed how I viewed the issue, and I realized that most frum gay people do not want to be gay, and would try to change it if they could, and many have tried.
The point that I liked/agreed with the most was point #10, which stated that Judaism is not “all or nothing” and that everyone has different challenges. No one is perfect, everyone has a Yetzer Harah, and even if someone does something wrong, that doesn’t mean to give up Torah entirely. This is also the reason I like the blog Another Frum Gay Jew, because the blogger who writes the blog accepts the fact that he is gay, while at the same time keeping his commitment to Halacha. It was interesting to read his view on the statement that came out, since my first thought when I read the statement was, “I wonder what frum gay Jews think of this statement.” I was glad to see that he supported it, since some people thought that it wasn’t sufficient. I would be curious to hear opinions of people against it, since I haven’t heard any yet, and I’m sure there is bound to be someone who objects to some part of it.
I think that all we can ask of gay Jews is the same thing we ask of all Jews, to keep Mitzvot as best as they can and to not violate Halacha, even if it’s a struggle and really hard. I believe that Hashem gives everyone their own set of Nisyonot/tests as part of their mission and purpose in this world, and that Hashem doesn't give anyone a challenge that they are incapable of dealing with. The video Trembling Before G-d, which I watched at a class in Stern College, really awakened me to the pain and struggles of those frum Jews with a same-sex attraction. I think when we see older singles who haven’t been able to find their spouse, we are sad for them because they haven’t found true love, someone to have a romantic relationship with, which is the ultimate of relationships. Just imagine being told from the beginning that all chances of having that relationship are gone. That’s what being gay and frum means. Your sexual orientation means that you will never have a romantic relationship with the opposite gender, and Halacha tells you that you are forbidden to have a complete romantic relationship with someone from the same gender. So you’re stuck. That is the most painful thing in my mind, and that is what I felt ever since I saw that video.
The reason this new statement is so necessary and so great is that frum gay Jews have enough of a struggle as it is. We need to do everything we can to support them and at least allow them to be a part of our community. They have three choices: 1. Go off the Derech and forget Torah Judaism, 2. Fight being gay and try therapy to change something that in most cases (not all, but most) cannot be changed or 3. To accept themselves and still keep Halacha, to struggle every single day with feelings that contradict everything they believe, while holding on to their faith. To those who choose that last option, I say, Wow. That is not an easy path. It requires so much strength and courage. We need to support such individuals, and that’s what this statement says.