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Being Gay and Orthodox Gets Really Complicated

Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret (1930–2002), Countess of Snowdon, younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II and the younger daughter of King George VI. And that's a whole lot of production value for one joke!

Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret (1930–2002), Countess of Snowdon, younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II and the younger daughter of King George VI. And that's a whole lot of production value for one joke!

Our recent discussions in the Jewish media of gay marriages and the conflict between being a faithful Jew and being gay reminded me of a really old joke.

A matchmaker comes up to a yeshiva guy, takes him aside and says, “Have I got a shidduch for you!”

“Who?”

“Princes Margaret.”

“What?”

Trust me, she’s just right for you. She’s educated, good looking, smart, good family, money. She’s perfect for you.”

“She’s not Jewish!”

“Nu, nu, so she’s not Jewish. Trust me, for the right man, she’ll convert.”

“This is crazy?”

“Crazy? Did you or did I put together 400 couples, thank God, and not one divorce among them – you tell me it’s crazy? I tell you can’t afford to lose this opportunity!”

And so, for the longest time the yeshiva boy puts up a resistance and the shadchan pushes him back, until, finally, the yeshiva boy gives up and says, “Fine, if Princess Margaret wants to marry me, I’ll marry her.”

And the shadchan sighs deeply, wipes the sweat off his forehead and says, “Now comes the hard part.”

THE NEIGHBOR LOVING THING

Judy Resnick writes in “Hannah Has Two Mommies,” on Beyond Teshuva, a blog “focused on providing ideas, connection and support for Baalei Teshuva in their continuing quest of learning, growing, and giving,” that for years, the Jewish world had its own Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

“Two older men, or two older women, living together for many years: well, that could simply be a financial arrangement. No one asked; no one told. It was no one’s business.”

She continues: “Nowadays, things are different. Men and women declare openly that they are gay Jews, lesbian Jews. What’s more, they want to be recognized by our mosdos, our shuls and our yeshivos and our communities, as openly gay and lesbian Jews. They want also to be Orthodox Jews, seeing no conflict between the gay lifestyle and the Orthodox Jewish lifestyle.”

Concluding with more questions, she writes: “Is Orthodox Judaism a big tent, big enough to include gay and lesbian Jews? Or must we exclude all those individuals who unapologetically and willfully violate an explicit prohibition of the Torah? What about celibate homosexuals and lesbians, those who consider themselves to be gay but do not engage in acts of intimacy? If a known pork eater is not at this moment eating pig meat, is he or she still a sinner?”

Her post is followed by more than 100 comments, from what I’ve seen, mostly the intelligent kind. I recommend a visit, while we here continue to ponder those same qaestions and maybe even offer something of an answer, who knows.

Naaah…

MAKE FUN OF THE FEIGELE

Thank you, Frum Satire’s Heshy Fried, for introducing an intriguing angle on the entire issue of being gay and staying inside the Orthodox fold (or is it under the Orthodox umbrella? Depends on the weather, I guess).

Heshy presents an ostensibly real email from a gay frum man who asks which is better, to date other gay non-Jews or Jews. “On the one hand I have much more in common with other frum guys, on the other hand, I feel bad causing other Jewish guys to sin with me.”

Fabulous question, right?

Now, I’m not sure if Heshy’s entire entry is a routine (some composed with the aid of consciousness expanding substances), or if the question is real and only the stuff that follows is the routine. Regardless, the question still begs an answer.

I remember, years ago, a frum gay friend of ours was in a relationship with another frum guy, an Upper West Sider. We loved having them over, especially since our friend’s friend was so helpful around the kitchen and the dining room table on Shabbat. Man, was he neat. Which is why I was so sad when they broke up and our side of the couple started dating an Asian fellow, who was very nice, but too shy to be of any use with the dishes.

The problem is that the discussion between gay men and the rest of society is almost exclusively about acceptance. This is, in my opinion, why, once gays have come out of the closet, they can’t shut up about how much they deserve to be viewed like everyone else. I understand it. Life as a perpetual outsider even in one’s own family is soul murder. But as a result, the discussion between gay frum Jews and the halachic authorities they approach is the proverbial dialogue between deaf people.

One side just wants to be loved and accepted by their family; the other side fears the sanctioning of a life style which is inherently against the law of our Torah.

On the face of it there is no meeting place between those two sides because they rarely ever exist on the same plane.

WILL YOU BE HAVING A KAVANAH WITH YOUR MITZVAH?

Here’s a lovely excerpt from “Orthodox. And Gay,” published on a blog named “Morethodoxy: Exploring the Breadth, Depth and Passion of Orthodox Judaism,” which is run by five mid-Western Orthodox rabbis. The excerpt I’m excerpting here is by Aviva Buck-Yael:

“I once went to an ultra-orthodox shul and once loved being a part of that community.  I loved knowing that I was a valued member of my community and that I had a place where I belonged. But I also knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was a lesbian and that if my community ever knew this about me, there would be no place for me. I struggled with my identity. I spent a very long time trying desperately to be who I wasn’t. I tried to do that which I knew my community would wish me to do had they known they had a lesbian in their midst. I ignored, denied, and suppressed this piece of myself.  I married a man, created a home, and established myself in the community. But I always felt like a fraud. I felt like a fraud to myself, to my community, and to the man I married.”

Does Jewish halacha deal with people who feel that by laboring to fulfill a mitzvah they are being frauds? I suppose it does, there’s the whole kavanah thing, and “mitoch shelo lishma” – by starting out doing a mitzvah without the best intent, we may end up eventually doing it for all the right reasons.

But that’s almost necessarily not the case with the majority of gay men and women – more men than women, I think – whose attempts at finding peace by conforming to a sexual life they can’t sustain often end up sadly.

NOW, LET’S DELIGHT IN ANOTHER’S CHAGRIN

A Hollywood masseur has alleged that John Travolta propositioned him for sex during a massage, and is suing for $2 million. Now, Heeb’s Mark Dommu writes, “John Travolta Blames Gay Hollywood Jews for Own Homosexuality.”

The suit alleges, according to Dommu, that “Defendant began screaming at Plaintiff, telling Plaintiff how selfish he was; that Defendant got to where he is now due to sexual favors he had performed when he was in his Welcome Back, Kotter days; and that Hollywood is controlled by homosexual Jewish men who expect favors in return for sexual activity. Defendant then went on to say how he had done things in his past that would make most people throw up.”

Absolutely true, I watched Welcome Back, Kotter!

TOO MANY MINORITIES IS JUST RIGHT

Finally, file this under “Only in America,” really. Erika Davis is a Brooklyn based, Black lesbian who recently converted to Judaism and is now known as Batya bat Avraham and Sarah. Just that in itself should be enough of a recommendation for a visit. But she also contributes a thought to our discussion today (our blogalogue?) with her entry “Hate Breeds Hate & Love Breeds Love?

She writes: “Unlike being born female, black and gay-things I do not control, I chose to become a Jew.  Not to check off another box, not to join the minority Olympics, not to be more unique, but because Judaism is where I found God.”

She writes a whole lot more, and some of it is rough stuff. But in the end, she, too, is yearning to be accepted, tough dyke and all.

This is where we may have to invite our halachic leaders to leap over intellectual certainties which cannot be denied, to a less exact realm, the realm of feelings and senses. I know, it sounds too hippie for words, but I’m not sure what else is there for our fellow homosexual yet God fearing and mishpoche seeking Jews who simply don’t wish to go away.

About the Author: Tibbi Singer is a veteran contributor to publications such as Israel Shelanu and the US supplement of Yedioth, and Jewish Business News.


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One Response to “Being Gay and Orthodox Gets Really Complicated”

  1. Poster Atat says:

    I think the difference is that it's one thing to go against the Torah from time to time, it's another thing to say, "I'm not even going to try to follow that Torah law any more."

    Example, I could eat bacon, even frequently, but if I'm upset about it, each time I do, I regret it, I seek strategies to over-come it, I fail over and over, but I want and try to change, that's one thing.

    But if I start bringing my pork sandwiches to shul, serving pork at the Shabbos table for all to see, it doesn't look like I"m trying or even want to try to follow that law any more.

    Look at Ezekiel 18, the examples of the wicked are all open, brazen, examples of someone who is not struggling with himself, he's doing it openly and without any shame at all.

    That's the difference.

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