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Surviving Bullying, Silencing And Torment For Being Gay In The Frum Community


Chaim-Levin-012712

Photo Credit: © Katja Heinemann/Aurora Select, courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center

It’s been more than six months since The Jewish Press published an op-ed titled “Orthodox Homosexuals and the Pursuit of Self Indulgence.” In the article, the writer, while not mentioning my name, calls me shameless and self-indulgent and suggests that I learn to suffer in silence. He was referring to an anti-suicide video I made for the “It Gets Better” project. In the YouTube video I talk about the endless bullying in my childhood, the trauma of reparative therapy and my suicide attempt as a result of a frum community that seemed to not want me to exist simply because I was gay.

My message was that, with time, with understanding friends and with self-acceptance, it gets better. I hoped to tell other kids who may be on the brink of suicide to stick it out, because life gets better; even for gay Jews growing up in the Orthodox community. This video never talks about private behavior, never mentions any assur activity, and certainly does not divulge anything about what I do behind closed doors. However, simply because I talk about how I was bullied for being gay, the author tried to make me feel horrible for simply sending a message of hope. He succeeded in embarrassing me and making me feel unwanted by this community.

I wish I could say that this is the exception. But the truth is that despite the fact that I would never talk publicly about private personal behavior or engaging in sin, the frum world seems to see me as part of a “gay agenda” simply because I won’t stay quiet.

My name is Chaim Levin. I grew up in a heimishe family in Crown Heights. I love my mother, my father and my family. I had always felt different and was the subject of relentless bullying by other boys for “seeming” gay. When I was 17 I confided to a friend that I was attracted to men and not sexually attracted to women at all. When it came out, I was thrown out of yeshiva. For the longest time I felt so alone because I truly believed that I was the only person battling this secret war. My older siblings were getting married and having kids, and all I ever wanted was to be a part of the beautiful world my parents had raised me in. My dream was to marry a woman and live the life my family hoped and dreamed for me. I would never have chosen to be gay; I could not imagine anyone growing up in the Orthodox world who would choose to be someone who doesn’t fit into the values and norms of everyone around them.

So do I think that I was “born gay”? I don’t know and I am not sure how important that is. What is important is that it certainly is not something that I chose or had anything to do with. And I felt immense pressure to somehow change who I was.

After much time and research I found a well-known organization that “specialized” in reparative therapy. This organization had endorsements from a wide range of rabbanim and I was sure that it was the answer to all my problems. The organization’s executive director told me that he believes everyone can change if they simply put in the hard work. I would have done anything to change, and this message was just the hope I was looking for. I spent two years attending every group meeting, weekend, and individual life coaching sessions they offered. My parents and I paid thousands of dollars. Every day, every session, I was working and waiting to feel a shift in my desires or experience authentic change. That moment never came. I didn’t change, I never developed any sexual desire for women, and never stopped being attracted to men. Instead, I only felt more and more helpless because I wasn’t changing. The organization and its staff taught us that change only comes to those who truly want it and are willing to put in the work. So if I wasn’t changing, I was seen as someone who either really didn’t sincerely want it, or would not put in the necessary work. In other words, there was no one to blame but myself.

The worst part of my experience in reparative therapy came at the end. In a locked office, alone with my unlicensed “life coach,” I was told to undress, stand in front of the counselor and do things too graphic to describe in this article. I was extremely uncomfortable, but he said that I must do this for the sake of changing and that if I didn’t remove my clothing I wouldn’t be doing the work it takes to achieve change. I would do anything to change, and so I did what he asked me to do. It was probably the most traumatizing experience of my life.

About the Author: The author can be reached at magazine@jewishpress.com


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208 Responses to “Surviving Bullying, Silencing And Torment For Being Gay In The Frum Community”

  1. RGreen says:

    Whenever an article on this subject apprears in an Orthodox publication, the VERY FIRST PARAGRAPH should state that acts of homosexuality are STRICTLY FORBIDEN by Jewish Law.

    Only in that context should this subject be discussed.

    It is a shame that only a watered down disclaimer was briefly alluded to half-way through the article.

    Be that as it may, with or without that disclaimer, it was a mistake for the Jewish Press to publish this article.

  2. Yossi says:

    Should we also write a disclaimer on every Agunah story, how adultery is against the Torah…silly…I think everyone here knows that there is an issur against certain Homosexual behaviors. This is obvious and is actually repeated and agreed to by the author.
    It seems that you are more interested in re-stating the obvious than actually opening your mind up to something more challenging: the Treatment of Gay kids in the Orthodox community.
    When the Frum community, allows, endorses, and fosters bullying, harmful psuedo-therapies, and hateful speech against our own sons and daughters simply because they happen to be oriented differently…IT IS WE WHO NEED TO DO THE TESHUVSA…not the gays.
    Maybe this article will help us truly be erase sinas chinam and finally be Zoche to Moshiach.

  3. RGreen says:

    Homosexuality is call an “abomination” by the Torah.

    My understanding of the word “abomination” is that this is something that is so gross and disgusting that it should make your skin crawl.

    This is the outlook with which we should approach this issue.

    If someone commits an act of homosexuality, they have committed a terrible sin.

    If you do not believe that, you should not be posting on an Orthodox Jewish website even if you use Hebrew words like “Mashiach” and “sinas chinam”.

    Only after we have approched the issue from this outlook, can we discuss how to properly counsel kids who think they are gay.

    We should counsel them by telling them that an act of homosexualty is a horrible sin, but that they have free choice and they can decide not to commit these acts even though they may have strong desires to commit these acts.

    If they overcome their desires to commit sin, they are good people.

    In the mean time, dont make an isse of it with the other kids in your class. You dont need to stick it anyone’s face. A lot of kids have issues that they need to deal with privatly and this is one of them

  4. Lisa says:

    With all due respect, RGreen, what’s your basis for that understanding of the word תועבה, which you translate as “abomination”?

    In Nedarim 51a, it says תועבה – תועה אתה בה. Meaning that the word means something through which one can go astray. Perhaps the English word abomination has the visceral connotation you assign to it, but happily, we rely on our Sages, and not on King James.

    That said, you are aware that the Torah calls other things תועבה as well, right? Unjust weights and measures, for one. Spreading harmful speech, for another. Ironic, yes?

    Aside from all of this, we still have the fact that “I am gay” does not mean “I do assur things.” It doesn’t.

    Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah said, “One should not say, ‘I don’t want to eat pork; I don’t want to wear shaatnez; I don’t want to sleep with my neighbor’s wife.’ Rather, one should say ‘I do want, but what can I do? My Father in heaven has forbidden it.”

    Neither the Torah nor the Sages attach blame to the way we feel. Nor to expressing the way that we feel. I can understand the criticisms leveled against the general (secular/gentile) gay community. There’s a degree of licensciousness in that community, generally speaking, that makes me very uncomfortable, and I’m sure it does the same for any frum Jew. But we aren’t talking about them. We’re talking about Torah Jews. Jews who are committed to Torah and mitzvot. And who were created by their Creator in such a way that the bonds you feel towards members of the opposite sex, we feel towards members of the same sex. Do we allow those feelings to drag us into transgressions? Not by design, certainly. Do some people fall short now and then? Sure. Everyone does. If you deny that you do, you can’t expect us to take you seriously. But our commitment is to Torat Hashem. Calling us תועבה for merely *being* gay is wrong. Upping that to “abomination”, with the connotation of “gross and disgusting” crosses the line into ona’at devarim, rechilut, and motzi shem ra.

  5. sf says:

    Well said, these words could not be anymore true.

  6. RGreen says:

    As long as we agree that sex between two men is very very assur we can hammer out the details.

    The point that sex between two men is considered among the most horrible crimes in Judaism seems to be getting lost as a result of all of this discussion (and the article itself)

    When I gave my definion of “to’ay’vah”, I was working with “pshat” (the simple meaning).
    The Talmud in Nedarim is working with “drash” (a deeper meaning)
    The two meanings are not mutually exclusive.

    According to the Artscroll translation “to’ay’vah” means abomination (i do not know or care what King James has to say about this). IE something so disgusting that it should make your reel in disgust.

    It appreared from you post that you are not familiar with the difference between “pshat” and “drash”. If you would like me to explain it to you please let me know.

  7. Lisa says:

    RGreen, I do *not* agree that sex between men is “very, very assur”. The “very, very” part is entirely your personal opinion.

    Nor is it considered “among the most horrible crimes in Judaism”. I’m not even sure what you mean by “crime”. We *do* distinguish between violations of the Torah that are between us and God or between us and other people. We *do* distinguish between chukim and mishpatim and eidot. Ordinarily, “crime” is used for violations of mishpatim between us and other people. Mishkav zachor doesn’t appear to fall into that category.

    But even granting the term “crime” (just for the sake of argument), your hyperbole about it being one of the most horrible ones just makes you sound like a friend of Fred Phelps (the charming fellow who pickets funerals with signs saying “God Hates Fags” and “God Hates Jews”).

    What’s your source for the pshat of toeiva being what you say it is? And please don’t take this the wrong way, but if you’re paskening based on an Artscroll translation instead of learning the actual material in the original, it’s hard to take you seriously.

    Give me a source in Chazal to support your misreading of toeiva. Give me a source in Chazal to support “among the most horrible crimes in Judaism”. Give me a source in Chazal to support “something so disgusting that it should make your [sic] reel in disgust.” Gemara, Rishonim, anything. Otherwise it’s just you being hysterical.

  8. Mark Roth says:

    Lisa, I appreciate your compassion and your wanting to be “Dan Licaf zechoos” but i have to slightly disagree with some of what you wrote. No matter how you translate the word toevah, the fact remains that according to the Torah sex between two men is categorically and totally forbidden, period. There is a machlokes Amongst the rishonim as to whether sex means only anal penetration or any contact between men. As I recall the rambam holds any sexualncontact whatsoever to be an issue d’oreisa for which one is liable to death. However The majority view of
    most podium today that I’m aware of say that one would be liable to death only for anal intercourse. But even if that is so, the fact remains that ANY sexual contact between men is still forbidden, no exceptions.

    Believe me, I struggle with this evey day. It’s a struggle but I have never given Jo and I will never give up! With the help of God I have so far resisted the temptation for anal intercourse with another male and I am actually proud of myself that inhale been able to resist that urge.

    The problem I have with some gay Jews is that they have given up the struggle and they try to convince others to give up too. They have become brainwashed by their yetzer hora and it clouds their thinking and they buy into the liberal gay propaganda that “God made me this way” etc. So they teach others that it’s notreally a sin. Or that if it is a sin its not really a serious sin and to not worry about it. They have given up and it makes me mad that they are trying to convince others to give up to. What is a Jew? A Jew never gives up! never! never! NEVER! I will NEVER give upnmy dream of a wife and a family and beautiful children of my own and living a life of holiness.

  9. Lisa says:

    I hear what you’re saying, Mark, and I’m definitely not a posek (poseket, I guess), but it’s equally true that lighting a fire on Shabbat is “categorically and totally forbidden, period”, right? And yet, there are cases in which it’s not. In which we permit the impermissible in order to prevent something worse. I have heard of rabbanim who have told gay men in certain cases that they can engage in those other behaviors if doing so will assuage their desire for mishkav zachor, which is yehareg v’al yaaseh. It’s a dynamic that exists in other areas of halakha as well.

  10. yael dvorah says:

    you mentioned additional aveiras, such as adultery, and then you went on to focus on the painful treatment of gay youth who had the courage to ‘come out’ in the orthodox community …

    i can assure you that adulterers, particularly women, who it is written about in our holy Torah as committing a similar sin as homosexual men, and deserving of the same punishment ….. are also treated with the utmost disrespect and disgrace … many leave the orthodox Jewish community completely when it is discovered what they did … why don’t they create articles such as this to complain about their painful treatment from the orthodox community …. with a like minded audience applauding every aspect of their ‘coming out’? …

    thankfully, orthodox women who commit adultery still have a healthy sense of shame …

  11. yael dvorah says:

    To Mark …. G-d bless you with tremendous success and the fulfillment of all your dreams …

    i also wanted to mention that if we simplify all of our urges, sexual and otherwise, to an ‘its the way G-d made me’ excuse … can you imagine how many millions, possibly billions, of people would never work on themselves to improve or become anything that they are not?

    we are instructed to follow the Torah and lose the sins of our parents … we are even instructed to lose our own sins and do ‘teshuva’ … which includes sexual cleanliness according to halacha …(http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Bible/Ezekiel18.html )… there are many things that are considered, according to halacha, sexually impure …

    it is said that G-d does not give us anything we can’t do … including the mitzvot … resigning ourselves to our own urges is not the Jewish way … otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten the Torah … almost all our holy mitzvot is against human nature in one way or another … the entire Torah teaches us to quell our own interests in favor of the mitzvot … the proof of this is in the laws of taharas hamishpacha … how many people, worldwide, would instinctively choose to wait two weeks for (heterosexual) marital relations? … or the laws of kashrut, including toiveling dishes before use? most of these things are completely out of the human realm … or shabbos … which is completely out of the question if you ask the ordinary person in their quest for parnassa … our holy mitzvot are supposed to subdue our urges … that the reason we were given the Torah in the first place ….

  12. OnTheTopic says:

    Lisa,

    I would just like to make you aware of something that isn’t necessarily gay/straight
    related, but rather in regards to boy/girl.

    Girls are usually more protective of their bodies, and in boyfriend/girlfriend relationships, are usually less motivated sexually (in the beginning) than their boyfriends. In general, girls minds are decently civil and clean, and remain somewhat unperverted.

    Enter boys (men)…

    A boy sees a pretty girl, and subliminally turned on in some sense (not physically).
    When a boy is with someone he is attracted to that he cannot have (be with sexually), his mind is pretty much focused solely on having sexual relations with the other person. (you may have a hundred people comment that this is untrue, but it is.)

    There are plenty of counter proofs people can bring to show that there are times that
    men are able to control themselves, but I’ll win the argument by saying this:

    Imagine a man is married to the woman he loves and is attracted to. He sleeps in the same bed as her, eats with her etc. Now we tell him, you can never have sexual relations with her, or anybody else including masturbation, for the rest of your life.
    Do you think that if he would continue the life style he has and still never succumb to his hormones?

    (I don’t mean this in a mean way, but if you’ve never been with a man, you might not understand!)

    So here we have this man who can no longer ‘live’ with his wife. He has to try his hardest to control himself. He may be able to control himself for a little, as his wife, being a woman, may have an easier time controlling herself.

    Now, put this man, and swap his wife in the story, for his gay lover… Between the two of them, it would not be possible long-term for them to control themselves.
    (This is under the assumption that they are not masturbating to relieve the pressure)

    In closing, I’m merely just trying to inform you that there is a BIG difference in
    the hormones and control levels of a Man than in a Woman.

  13. jeffeyges says:

    “it is said that G-d does not give us anything we can’t do…”

    It must be true, because I can’t read this narrishkeit any longer, and God has provided me with a solution – I can unsubscribe!

  14. RGreen says:

    My point is that this discussion must start with the understanding that it is assur for two men to engage in homosexual acts.

    It appears from many of the comments on this article that people are trying to find creative ways to say that its ok. Usually by picking on small irrelevent points like (as just one example) the use of “very very”

    Lisa, this is a yes/no question. Very simple:

    Do you believe it is assure for two men to engage in homosexual acts?

    This is a simple straight forward question. Just answer it.

  15. RGreen says:

    Sara, if you are not afraid, why dont you use your last name too?
    Lol

  16. Lisa Liel says:

    Why don’t you use your first name?

  17. yael dvorah says:

    just to add … the men who commit adultery with married women are also committing a grave sin punishable (in halacha) with death … these also do not brag or write articles attempting to gain approval and recognition … with a like minded audience applauding their ‘coming out’ as an adulterer …

    they also gave into their urges … but they don’t flaunt it … these, like women who commit adultery, also have a healthy sense of shame …

    makes one wonder why those who give into their ‘gay’ urges are so arrogant and shameless … and so desperate for acceptance …

    will acceptance remove the guilt and shame of giving into the urges of same-sex attraction? would it remove the guilt and shame of giving into the urges of having relations with a married woman? since both these sexual issues are similar in halacha … why are we even considering acceptance in orthodoxy …. for some things, acceptance isn’t even on the menu ….

  18. Batya says:

    Mr. Dweck, I resent you painting me as a “hater.” If you read what I wrote, I didn’t say anything about my feelings for gay Jews whether they act on it or not. I offered an observation. It is a mitzvah to love all Jews, a mitzvah I take as seriously as the other “biggies” like Shabbos, kashrus, family purity, tzedakah, prayer, etc. Instead, I ask that we “show lovingkindness to all Jews.” I struggle daily with my own challenges: emotionally, physically, spiritually. I recognize that you have been hurt, but please don’t paint me with the broad “hater” brush.

  19. Batya says:

    “When did an aveira become a lifestyle?” – Exactly! My argument is tandem to yours: we are not compelled to act on our desires which are aveiras according to Torah. We all have urges, society always does different than the Torah prescribes, each of us is given intellect and free will. We Jews should not be cruel and dismissive in the “just say no” way of dealing with the gay Jew’s feelings and needs. We all struggle. I don’t have that particular challenge, but Hashem has given me other tests. Maybe what I struggle with is easy for you, Mr. Dweck, but it is painful, stressful, and challenging for me. However, I can’t say in my case I willfully do something that I know is against Torah just because it is difficult, or I have a need, or I can’t change. That is not what Hashem gave me my difficulties for. Likewise, I don’t categorize anyone who disagrees with the way I handle my struggles as a “hater.” It’s a continuum. I’m not out to discard Torah for my inability to live perfectly to its specifications, however. It is a learning process, the proverbial “iron in the fire” becomes strengthened by its exposure to the intense heat.

  20. Batya says:

    “The REAL GOAL of people like Chaim and his friends is for the Orthodox Jewish world, and indeed the entire world to fully accept and embrace homosexuality as a lifestyle fully equal to hetherosexuality. [sic]”

    I didn’t get that at all from Chaim’s article. Yes, there are people who do as you said, but let’s be fair to Chaim and only judge what he wrote.

  21. Mushkie says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the freedome of speech and press, but I also think that as a Jewish newspaper, the Jewish Press should have NOT printed this article. I grew up in a world where until I was 17 did not know was gay was, and I think that I grew up just perfectly. I really don’t want my children growing up in a world, where such a topic now is considered acceptable tabletalk. It is clearly stated in the Toarh that the issues of gays are in fact real, and I’m not denaying it, but it also says how very worng it is. I feel that the Jewish Press should not have printed such a story, and if Chaim wants to live that lifestyle, let him, but he doesn’t have to rub it in our faces. I am highly considering canlceing my subscription to the Jewish Press, and this is not a threat, I just want to put it out there that the Jewish Press no longer is considered “Kosher Reading” for my home.

  22. yael dvorah says:

    what is interesting is that you folks know so much halacha with regards to the aveiras committed against you as Jews … as in ‘love your fellow Jew’ … which is understandable …

    but what you overlook entirely is that we are talking about what is considered ‘sexual perversions’ in halacha … and being gay is not the only one …

    what if there were an entire movement to recognize mother/son relationships … or father/daughter … or even (if you want to stay within the gay thing) father/son or mother/daughter sexual relationships … how far does this freedom from sexual restraints go?

    would you feel love towards fellow Jews, or even fellow americans, who promote those type of relationships? do mother/son sexual relationships sit well with you? can you love these people and show them tolerance and respect?

    it is not you or gays as people that the true halachic Jewish community has issues with … it is your sexual behavior … as I would assume that any normal person would have issues with the sexual behavior of sons who were sexually active with their mothers or fathers ….

    should there be no sexual conditions on anyone? how far would you like to take this? or are you planning to include homosexuality as the only proper sexual orientation outside of straight? if that’s the case, you can easily argue that people who engage in mother/son attraction and father/daughter attraction are straight ….

    in other words … by shelving true halachic rules for sex ….. how low can we go?

  23. Yossi says:

    Incest, Pedophilia, Rape and Adultery are all bad analogies because they are Bein Adam Le-chaveyro issurim. In their essence they hurt people and take away a sense of safety in the home. There can never be any social tolerance of those who threaten others, because that is Achzariut (cruelty disguised as kindness).

    What 2 consensual people of the same gender who seek companionship is most similar to are loving couples that struggle with Taharat Hamishpacha issues.

    Even though there may not be a local mikveh in their town, it is not the job of the whole congregation to make this couple feel terrible about themselves or each other. Certainly, it is not the job of the Orthodox community to lash out against gay people either.

    Furthermore, even if we were to use the Adultery analogy, the kind of adultery it would be analagous to would be to a woman who may be Hallachically an agunah (who’s husband is missing) whom under Jewish law is forbidden to ever be married or be intimate with another man again…even if she is young and childless.

    I ask you, if you happen to know an Agunah who you know is dying for companionship, who tells you that she wishes that hallacha was different, and who wont stay quiet about it…would you call her “low” and a “sexual perversion”?…or would you show compassion…even though she openly longs for behaviors that may be problematic.

    Show the same kind of compassion and respect to your gay community members in the frum world…Dont change or reinvent any hallacha…just be consistent and kind.

    We don’t ask young Jewish couples if they go to the mikveh or not, and we dont accuse Agunot who wish to again be intimate of being “perverse”.
    So please, use the same sensitivity to gay people. They deserve it, we all do.

  24. Rich Dweck says:

    Please stop making this about what is prohibited and what is not. If you feel it important to have people say before this topic that it is not prohibited for men to have sex with men, then maybe you need to think deeper. I really wonder what your issue is here. You obviously have no idea what it is like going through this. Aside from that, what are your motives here? Are you looking to just slam others, because you want to justify being more pious. Maybe you should focus on your own observance and leave others alone. It floors my mind to think that people are this ignorant about how to deal with others. As I have said in my past writings, this is God’s world and not yours. God is big enough to deal with all his children on his own. I would just warn you that words can kill. Do not take that lightly. Hatred kills people everyday! Read my article on baseless hatred on my blog. Maybe, you will learn about why the temple was destroyed. It wasn’t because a man loved another man. It was because of “Sinat Chinam”(Baseless Hatred).

    Rich Dweck
    http://richdweck.blogspot.com/

  25. Rich Dweck says:

    Kosher Reading? Really?? Shielding your children will not make them straight or gay. You might have a gay son or daughter. Have you tried to understand the plight of gay Jews? By shielding your children and you staying ignorant to these issues, you are setting yourself up for a disaster. Every parent should be learning how to love and accept their children no matter what. They should be educated on the issues enough to be able to talk about it and help educate their children. I promise you, when this is in your home and your child commits suicide because of your ignorance you will think very differently. I urge you to watch this clip that might open your eyes. It is from “Prayers for Bobby”. Trust me I am one of those children that could have done just that. Please watch the video. It is a couple of minutes and could save your child’s life and prevent you from their blood on your hands. I am not trying to tell you that you are a bad person. I am trying to share my experience and hurt I have seen!
    http://richdweck.blogspot.com/2012/01/prayers-for-bobby-trailer.html

  26. Anonymous says:

    You know what Chazal call you? A murderer. Get down off your high horse.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Do they not teach Shmiras Haloshon/Chofetz Chaim in Crown Heights? I’m sure Chaim’s mother is thrilled that her name is out there now too.

    And there were lots of people who, upon first immigrating to America 100 years ago, worked on Shabbos but probably still considered themselves frum. They were shomer mitzvos in every other respect, they raised frum children and grandchildren, they just weren’t perfect. (My grandfather was one such person – when he stopped working on Shabbos, he was still considered sufficiently frum by the city’s Rabbinate that he worked for them as a mashgiach.)

    I got news for you, you’re not perfect either. And you add nothing to the discussion by blabbing about Chaim’s life outside the article. Shall we start digging through your garbage?

  28. yael dvorah says:

    i don’t think sensitivity is the issue … i am sorry that i am not appearing as sensitive as you need …. but i feel this issue has nothing to do with feelings … it has to do with behaviors … and sexual behaviors at that …

    we are talking about Jews giving into various forms of sexual urges … in this case, sexual urges towards the same sex … but undoubtedly there are sexual urges that involve other types of relationships, including incest … and if the good people on this panel can rationalize the benefit and need for submitting to their urges involving same-sex attraction, surely people here can understand and defend those same needs for people who are overwhelmed by sexual urges involving their close adult relatives …

    if you or others are bringing into the equation a relationship that is hurtful or not consensual … upwards of 30% of same sex couples who are consensual adults are involved in some sort of domestic violence (http://www.aardvarc.org/dv/gay.shtml ) …. on the other hand, familial sexual relationships between consenting adults clearly have the potential to be not only consensual but very compatible …(Cleopatra, for example, was married to her brother).

    if we are talking about giving into sexual urges, than it is not the person, but the sexual behavior that needs to be addressed. People who give into consensual homosexual or incestuous urges (it is obvious that pedophilia can never be consensual) can be good people, even good Jews.

    why stop at homosexuality as a sexual behavior on the fringe, needing to be incorporated into the greater Jewish community? with the gay rights movement at the helm, people who practice or have uncontrollable incestuous urges can easily follow your example to seek acceptance and approval from the Jewish community …. according to this panel, giving into our various sexual urges is paramount and should not interfere with our membership in the Jewish community … and with the benefit of secular laws in the U.S. and throughout the world, and also in Israel, there is apparently no need for Jews to limit themselves to what used to be a sexual norm (not to mention an halachic requirement) between consenting adults.

    i’m waiting for the time in the near future when incest will be on the books for legalization. there are numerous groups and reportedly millions of people throughout the world who are waiting for this to happen .. including untold numbers of good and respectable Jews (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/switzerland-considers-legalizing-consensual-incest-columbia-professor-accused/story?id=12395499#.TymCwMia4ps …. and http://debatewise.org/debates/215-adult-incest-should-be-legalised ….

    i am sure when these good and highly respectable incestuously involved Jewish folks run the same sort of forum here you people will applaud and cheer them on … all in the name of loving those fellow Jews who needed to give into their overwhelmingly uncontrollable sexual urges … among consenting adults, of course …

  29. yael dvorah says:

    what you folks need most is a heavy dose of therapy … its a known fact that suicide involves a multitude of causes …

    to think that acceptance by the Jewish community is the cure for Jews who practice same-sex sexual behaviors is outrageous …

    that idea, in itself, will cost lives: http://www.suicide.org/suicide-causes.html

    get help, and get real … people who love themselves, love life, and can deal effectively with life’s issues don’t commit suicide …

    why are you promoting such a self-destructive self-loathing lifestyle? if homosexuality was such a respectable life choice, why so much self-hatred and an inability to cope?

    not a good example of a happy life …

  30. david sciascia says:

    For those who say being gay is a choice, they should consider how they would feel if they were forced to change their natural sexual urges and turn away from the opposite sex and towards having sex with someone of the same sex. They can’t even imagine such a thing, but they can imagine how impossible making that choice would be. I’ve known I was attracted to boys since the age of 9. I tried fervently to change my desires, even to the point of getting married at 21 and fathering 2 sons. But I could never change. I hurt my wife and those around me deeply by living this deception. Fortunately about 25 years ago I decided I couldn’t go on living this lie and came out. It was difficult for my 9 and 11-yr old sons for a brief period, but not because I was gay—but because I’d lied. Lies cause the most harm especially to children. Now we’re as close as any father could wish for. And BTW they are 100% heterosexual. I honor Chaim Levin’s honesty in going public with his story. Stay strong, Chaim, the truth will always prevail.

  31. Lisa Liel says:

    “undoubtedly there are sexual urges that involve other types of relationships, including incest … and if the good people on this panel can rationalize the benefit and need for submitting to their urges involving same-sex attraction, surely people here can understand and defend those same needs for people who are overwhelmed by sexual urges involving their close adult relatives”

    That’s a rather silly argument. Male and female are types of people. Relatives are types of relationship. There’s no comparison. If I’m attracted to women, it doesn’t mean I’m attracted to this woman or that woman. It means that women, as a class of human, are whom I’m attracted to. There’s nothing comparable in the world. Your neighbor’s wife? That’s a type of relationship as well, and it means an attraction to a specific person; not a class of person.

    I’m beginning to think that you aren’t interested in the real world, and are merely throwing out the same old false analogies that everyone from Fred Phelps to Yehuda Levin likes to trot out.

  32. JoJo says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am a bisexual girl who lives in a very religious community, but am proud of who I am in all ways. For a long time, I didn’t wear my pride bracelet (a rainbow) around Jews, because I was afraid of them judging me harshly. Now I wear it whenever I feel like, and am not ashamed when someone asks me about it. Your story gives me even more courage, because I am sure there are plenty of people hiding who they are just to fit in to expectations.
    Hatzlacha on the rest of your journey!

  33. I have read all of the many comments, and I have come to the same conclusion, that I reached when I have observed this same conversation in the Christian and Muslim blogs.

    Your main problem is that you say, God says it has a problem with gay people.

    #1. In all these religions, you are basing this on words, though up by man, changed by man, written by man and told to you by those very same men that it was inspired by god. (You can fool all the people some of the time.)
    # 2. if your books are true and there is a god, How many gay people does this god have to make for you people to realize that they are supposed to be here, have always been here and will always be here.
    #3. This god of yours, what ever name you may call it, if it is true that it created the entire multiverse, then rest assured if it did not want to have gay people in it, we would not be here. that is unless you believe that gays have a power to create them selves in defiance and above the ability of god to to not have us be.

    Lastly, your religion like so many religions, are the greatest scams ever pulled on the human race. You blame gods and devils for the good or the bad that you do. One day humanity will gain the self awareness that will allow us to grow in to a mature respected species. Until then we will continue to be a child race, waring over ideas that are not worth the blood, death and destruction we have so willing partaken in, all in the name of a religion.
    If by chance I am wrong (merely for the sake of argument), and this god (s) that humanity has fought over for thousands of years, are watching what we have done in their respective names, then I would say to these things, Curse you for what you have done. May the very existence you have created crush you to the dust of ages. Now some of you might think I just challenged every god ever conceived by humanity. You would be correct. Now just what do you think will happen…

    Well I kept this for several days now, waiting for this god you speak of get off its behind and do something… oh I see a flaming bush… not wait its just a commercial on TV.

  34. Sarah says:

    I REALLY hope that R doesn’t stand for Rabbi, because that would be a disgrace.

  35. Sarah says:

    who gave you the right to define what “we” represent? Let me know when God decides to step down and give you his thrown.
    What the Jewish people should represent is unity, love, and acceptance for all of our brothers and sister. Ultimately we need to understand it is not our place to judge others, it is in the hands of God and I’m 100% sure God doesn’t need you’re help doing his job. It says God loves all of his creations, gay or straight God loves everyone and if you want to live in the image of God you might want to get on bored with this before you’re life is replayed before you in heaven and God asks you why you did not love you’re fellow Jew.

  36. Sarah says:

    I’m sorry the close minded education you received as a child didn’t teach you proper grammar. Then again judging by the immaturity of you’re comment you probably are a child, if not physically then mentally no doubt.

  37. Sarah says:

    Wow. The immaturity in you’re message pains me. If you’re not mature enough to be on the internet please do the rest of us a favor and stay off of it.
    When did spreading bad things about a person become any less of a sin than engaging in homosexual behavior or breaking shabbat?
    Who are you to be telling such intimate details of chaim’s life to everyone on the internet?
    You sound like a stalker, what do you wait outside on shabbas waiting to see him drive off so you can report it to the town gossipers?
    You can never understand another person’s struggles and you will NEVER have the right to judge them just so you can make snide comments and gossip with you’re equally close minded pears. How can you look at yourself in the mirror if you derive such pleasure from someone else’s pain?! Lashon Hara and sinat chinam are sins, don’t be confused because you were raised with hypocritical idealism.
    save the prayers for yourself, you will be needing them.

  38. Mark says:

    Sorry but I can’t except your post and am sorry that you had to try and take a stand on some one who is talking about same sex attractions (SSA)
    I am a religious Jew and can except to males having a sexual relationship which may or may not include sex, but I can not except a brother and sister or any other incestuous relationship, this is totaly different and makes me want to throw up.

  39. A says:

    That’s quite a moving story, Chaim. A brief summary, if I may: you had unwanted same-sex attractions, did your darnest to overcome them through JONAH-suggested therapy, the therapy didn’t work, you had an unpleasant experience with a therapist, notified JONAH’s leadership, they didn’t fire the therapist as per your demand, and so here you are: out and proud, trying to undermine JONAH by any means necessary. You left out a few pieces, such as yourself being abused as a child (could this have *something* to do with your SSA, depression, suicide attempt?) and your taking your story to Wayne Bessen, a notorious sleezeball gay activist.

    So here is a question for you, Chaim: can you honestly say that JONAH has not helped a single man overcome SSA and go on to live a normal, happy heterosexual life? You were with JONAH for some two years. In the course of that time, did you not see dozens of men make progress?

    For whatever reasons, you did not succeed. Nobody blamed or rejected you for it. You are not the only man who didn’t heal from SSA, and nowhere does JONAH claim a 100% success rate. The men who don’t succeed, even when they go on to live homosexual lives, are typically grateful to JONAH for the healing and the insight (some such men have come out publicly). JONAH never shuns or rejects these men. All decent people are always welcome, regardless of their orientation or success in the struggle.

    In your crusade to take down JONAH, have you once stopped to think of all the benefit it did bring to the lives of so many? You had a bad experience, you spoke out. The therapist who reportedly acted inappropriately with you had helped hundreds of men. The techniques are unorthodox are supposed to push you out of your comfort zone by design (and by the way, you are committed in writing to keep those techniques confidential — so by going public you are violating a contract you signed).

    You are acting in a self-indulgent, narcissist fashion so typical of gay men. JONAH didn’t meet your demand to fire the therapist, so you’re going to try your best to ruin JONAH — without any regard to the immeasurable benefit it brought to dozens of men before your very eyes! There is still time for Teshuva, Chaim. Your own personal choices are between you and G-d. But the damage you are causing to JONAH translates to harm caused to other men, and that’s a whole other category of aveira.

  40. B. Woonteiler says:

    Chaim, you’re invited to my family for Shabbos any time! I salute both the content and tone of your op-ed — well said!

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