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October 22, 2016 / 20 Tishri, 5777
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‘What If I Don’t Want to be Gay?’

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pray away the gay

One of the hottest topics of our day is the subject of homosexuality. This is an issue I’ve discussed many times. It is a painful one for many reasons. But mostly because my sense of compassion is not in harmony with the severe Torah prohibition against the sexual act that it usually entails. The Torah mentions this prohibition twice:

And with a male – do not lie as with a woman. It is an abomination’ (Vayikra 18:22). And then again,‘If a man lies with a male as with a woman, the two of them have done an abomination; they shall be put to death—their blood is upon them” (Vayikra 20:13).

Despite these clear declarations I believe that the Torah does not judge people who have this inclination. If a man is sexually attracted only by other men, then he has no sin. It is only when he commits the act as described above that he does.

For the record, all those who try and interpret this act out of its Issur-prohibition are mindboggelingly foolish, in my view. As are those who try and say that the sex drive in any human is something which they are forced by their nature to act upon – and if gay – a merciful God automatically forgives (Oness Rachmana Patrei). That basically stands the prohibition on its head and in my view is pure nonsense.

Nevertheless, I could not care less who anyone is sexually attracted to. While I cannot give my blessing to a forbidden act, it is not my business to judge anyone who submits to his desires, whether that submission is forbidden by the Torah or not. I am not God’s accountant. It is only for Him to judge. I would instead treat all human beings with the human dignity required of me by God. No matter what that individual does in private. Unless a man flagrantly flaunts his sins in public, I will be Dan L’Kaf Zechus – judge him favorably even if I know they are gay and can only get sexual gratification with other men.

For well over 40 years now, the mental health profession has determined that homosexuality is not considered a mental disorder. Until the early seventies, it was. Since then these same professionals have advanced the theory that sexual orientation is predetermined genetically, so that if a person is born gay – he will stay gay. I’m not sure that has been scientifically proven. But I do believe that in most cases it is impossible to change one’s true sexual orientation once they know what it is.

That said, I do not think that everyone who thinks he’s gay – is gay. I do believe that it is possible for young people to become confused about their sexual identity. And via experimentation with the same sex, in their teens come to believe they are gay. I believe that such people can change their behavior. I have no clue what the percentages are of people like that. But I know that they exist.

The question is what if someone doesn’t want to be gay? What if he wants to be like his peers? What if he wants to get married, and have a family? What if he doesn’t want to live with the stigma of being gay in a religious community that does not accept a gay lifestyle?

In my view, that individual ought to be given the opportunity to do that. A democracy that allows people to change their sex with the help of medical professionals ought to allow people who want to change their sexual orientation with the help of mental health professionals. But only by traditional psychotherapy and not with what has come to be knows as conversion therapy – which is often carried out by non professionals.

Traditional therapy may not work for them. But it may. Especially for those who are just confused about it. They should have the opportunity to realize their true sexual orientation if indeed it is different from what they think it is. Banning any and all therapy is in effect a denial of individual rights in my view.

The cruel and degrading methods of clinics like JONAH which have caused embarrassment and psychological damage to their clients is why I supported New Jersey Governor Christie’s ban on conversion therapy. I recall a horrifying description of it experienced by a decent and modest gay ‘patient’. It made me want to vomit in disgust! Their claims of success are probably either with those people who aren’t really gay. Or with people who are gay and think they are cured only to be confronted later by a same sex temptation – and succumb. And then realizing that they aren’t really ‘cured’ at all!

But this is not the case with standard psychotherapy. And it ought to be permitted. Which is why I am mostly in agreement with Nefesh. From the Forward:

A group known as Nefesh has joined with the ultra-Orthodox umbrella group Agudath Israel of America to challenge a New Jersey law prohibiting use of this therapy with minors

Rabbi Mordechai Biser, Agudath Israel’s general counsel, said his organization swung into action after receiving requests from Orthodox therapists who “pleaded with us to take whatever steps we could to prevent this legislation from being enacted.”

But even some members of the group supporting the challenge are glum about their prospects.

“I cannot say I’m terribly optimistic,” said Nathan “Nosson“ Solomon, a New York therapist and former president of Nefesh, which brings together Orthodox Jewish mental health professionals. “People are scared, the atmosphere is very hostile.

Conversion therapy clinics should be opposed. I support legislation that bans it. But I do not understand the hostility to allowing standard psychotherapy be an option for those who want it. It is as if the militant gay community doesn’t want people who are mistakenly gay to be find to their true sexual orientation. It is as if they think being gay is a Mitzvah to be worn proudly on your sleeve. They call it Gay Pride.

I completely disagree with that! Sexual orientation is not something to be proud of whether one is gay or straight. Not any more than one should be proud of eating and sleeping. Making your sexual orientation your identity is in my view a mental disorder all by itself! My sexual orientation does not define me at all. And it should not define gay people.

It’s pretty hard living as a homosexual in a religious society that shuns it – even as the rest of the world increasingly becomes to be more tolerant of it. If someone wants to try and change his sexual orientation, that ought to be his right. My only caveat is that he goes into therapy with his eyes wide open and realizes that therapy may not work. If he fails to change his sexual orientation after therapy, so be it. But forcibly preventing people from choosing that option via legislation is just as wrong as forcing them to accept it.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Harry Maryles

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

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  1. I'm still not convinced that all gay people are born gay. Most of the friends I've had with gay tendencies were molested or raped by men when they were in their early teens or earlier. And as society sweeps child molestation under the carpet and gay "pride" doesn't allow the individual to admit that he may have been influenced by sexual molestation because they believe society acceptance has to be built around the genetic compulsion, we'll never get a good understanding of nurture (or torture) vs. nature.

    But I also believe a lot of members from the community are born into it, and either way, I don't believe in discriminating against anybody who falls into either category, and I don't think conversion therapies work…not when guilt and religious commandments are the main tools being used.

  2. Satan is very bust at these end times and even the chosen will be tempted. Stick to the Word of God.

  3. 1. The blog What if I don't want to be gay written by Harry Maryles has innumerable factual errors.
    e.g He says that the mental health professionals advance the theory that sexual orientation is predetermined at birth. After stating that, Maryles says he is not sure if that premise has been scientifically proven but then goes on to say that in "most cases it is impossible to change one's true sexual orientation once they know what it is."
    His view about "born that way" is clearly disputed by the comprehensive identical twin studies which show that more often than not, when one twin is gay, the other is not. If homosexuality was genetic or people were born that way, the concordance rate would have to be 100%. But the rates of several identical twin studies are nowhere near that. See Neil Whitehead's website which goes into this question in great detail. Moreover, the pro-gay American Psychological Association (APA) (which Maryles sets up as a "straw man" by claiming predetermination at birth) admits that the APA believes homosexuality is caused by a complex mix of factors that may include biological influences (such as oversensitive personalities) and developmental factors. Several APA statements are to that effect.
    Moreover, the APA also admits that change is possible and that for some people homosexuality is fluid and flexible. The recent book by Dr. James Phelan "Successful Outcomes of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts: an Annotated Bibliography published in January 2014 cites scores of such studies.

    2. When Maryles speaks of his own support for "Gov. Christie's ban on conversion therapy", he is again off the mark. The ban on therapy for unwanted same-sex attraction was passed by the legislature and was not proposed by Christie. In fact, Christie said he agonized over the decision when he signed it. However, Christie signed it on the false premise that people are born that way, something that even Maryles questions, and Christie went against parental rights of minors by signing the bill.

    3. Even more interesting however is that the legislature who passed the bill was defrauded by the false testimony of Brielle Goldani, a transgendered woman from Toms River, NJ who claimed she was tortured at an Ohio based "conversion therapy camp" in 1997. (See Doyle, Transgendered 'woman' lies about therapy torture" WND (March 21, 2013) http:www.wnd.com/2013/transgendered-woman-lies-about-therapy-torture. A couple of facts about this testimony which apparently was riveting and helped sway the legislators. Rev. John Wooton, superintendent of the Ohio Council of Assembly of G-d Churches, the religious group that allegedly sponsored the camp, stated that no such program ever existed in Ohio. The Ohio Secty of State and the Ohio Attorney General both denied the existence of the alleged camp Goldani testified about The camp was called "True Directions" and Goldani claims to have been forced to attend it. However, the only place the camp existed (besides in Goldan's imagination) was in a Rue Paul move in 1999 called "But I'm a Cheerleader." (By the way, Maryles claims that he vomited in disgust by the horrifying description experienced by a decent and modest gay 'patient'–I wonder if he is talking about Goldani's testimony, which if he is, is incredulous.)

    4. However, an even worse fraud is Maryles claim of "cruel and degrading methods of clinics like JONAH which have [allegedly] caused embarrassment and psychological damage to their clients." These claims of Maryles are fraudulent in much the same way as Goldani's. They are fabricated. Thus, the fraud involved in the JONAH case involves the clients of SPLC and not JONAH nor the individual defendants. The evidence to date in the case to date proves that statement. First of all, JONAH is a referral agency: it does not do any counseling nor does it directly employ counselors. Secondly, none of the plaintiffs completed the recommended programs suggested by JONAH to help the individuals suing find appropriate resources. (In fact, one of the plaintiffs attended 4 sessions with his referral therapist. I do not think that any intelligent person would say that is an adequate time to overcome homosexual ideation nor more importantly the underlying wounds causing such ideation.) Third, the evidence shows that none of the plaintiffs complained, and to the contrary expressed gratitude for defendants' efforts, while they were in the program and even after they left the programs recommended by JONAH. They were complimentary until close to 2 years after termination at which time they were recruited by gay activists in an attempt to destroy the concept of counseling for change of sexual orientation, whether by Ph.Ds or by experienced life coaches. The attorneys bringing this malicious lawsuit admit that their goal is to destroy any form of counseling to help those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction. The counselors to whom JONAH referred the plaintiffs employed widely used processes that help diminish guilt, shame and envy of other men (factors that typically underlie same-sex attraction.) This focus on dealing with underlying issues and assuming that the sexual acting out is a by-product of the underlying issues directly contradicts the false claims put forth that JONAH's referral therapists use processes that shame and humiliate clients, a false belief that apparently Mr. Maryles has bought into.

    5. Maryles continues that JONAH's claims of success "are probably either with those who aren't really gay", an argument often used by gay activists or by those who believe they have healed only to "be confronted by a same sex temptation–and succumb." Neither premise is correct. A website http://www.voices-of-change.org has nearly a hundred testimonials of individuals who have successfully overcome. JONAH's website has additional ones. At the recent depositions of some former JONAH clients, individuals who were homosexual sex addicts and had sex with thousands of other men testified that their same sex attractions had been overcome because of the resources JONAH suggested and they now are heterosexual in feelings, behavior, and identity. Neither premise of Maryles is true as it applies to them. On the other hand, can someone regress? Yes, just like someone who is alcoholic or obese may regress but that doesn't mean that AA or weight watchers are invalid programs for those seeking to overcome unwanted behavioral issues.

    6. The blog quotes Dr. Nosson Solomon,who understands that "the atmosphere [today] is very hostile". Creating this hostile environment can be attributed to people like Maryles who appear to be greatly confused about the facts of the issue and add to the confusion of society.

    Yonatan, I hope you can put the material above into a coherent format. It is absurd to see the type of drivel written by someone who is supposed to be an educated rabbi.

Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
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