Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"I did not choose to be what I am....."

As I wrote in the previous posting, over this past year I have met some wonderful people. One person who has been corresponding with me recently told me that he wrote an article about himself. He has permitted me to publish some excerpts. This article was published in The Jewish Press Magazine on Friday, December 1, 2006 as a response to Rachel, who writes "Chronicles of Crises in Our Community."

As a man who has struggled with homosexuality and frumkeit for many years, I take exception to your consistent championing of change being possible and of asserting that there is no such thing as gay. I'd like to offer another perspective.

Let me start by saying that I believe fully in Torah M'Sinai and consider myself to be a fully committed Orthodox Jew whose tafkid in life is to do my best to keep ALL of the Taryag Mitzvot. I am fully versed in both Halachah and Hashkafah and have no issues whatsoever with the philosophical underpinnings of our belief system. I truly believe that the very word of the Chamisha Chumshai Torah was given directly from Hashem to Moshe, and that along with those words, Moshe received Torah SheBa'al Peh.

What I do not fathom is how the prohibition of a very specific behaviour translates into Hashem not making people whose sexual orientation is homosexual.

From a Hashkafik perspective: The mistzvot revolving around Arayot in the Torah address one thing and one thing only - behavior. There is no discussion of desire, of motivation, of what's normal desire and deviant desire. Even if one translates "To'avah" in the pasuk of Mishkav Zachar as "abomination" - which is by no means a definitive definition based on Chazal - it still refers to the action, not the desire.

Your writers say that Hashem wouldn't or couldn't give an orientation to a person and then prohibit him from acting on it. They say that a person's desire must be able to change if the Torah prohibits an action. In my opinion, this is putting a very Pollyanish spin on the very nature of nisayon in Olam Ha'Zeh. The fact is that many times Hashem puts people in adverse circumstances that will not change.

I would argue that in those circumstances the definition of success with the nisayon is first accepting the circumstances and then living as rich a life as possible within those circumstances. Would you, for example, tell a person with medically incurable deafness not to accept that diagnosis? That Hashem would not do that to him because there are so many mitzvot, such as shofar, that involve hearing? That his focus in life should center on searching for a cure? Could you imagine a crueler and less productive way to deal with this most challenging nisayon?

My own struggle with homosexuality has come at enormous cost for me. I ruined a marriage and a successful career. Though I have been to the best "SSA Therapists", one thing that did not change is my basic desire.
Some may say I didn't try hard enough. Which believer in Torah M'Sinai would not want to "change"? Certainly one who lost as much as I did would have more than enough motivation.

But all the motivation in the world has not changed reality for me. When I think of the enormous pain men like me go through, I wish that the hope of change could be there. But I also know that at this point I'd rather face reality than embrace false hope.

I did not choose to be what I am.

Saul David

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Family Changed Forever - One Year Later

A year ago, during Sukkoth, our son announced to us that he is gay.

A few weeks later I began to express my feelings in this blog.

It has been an incredible journey.

We have learned so much. We have met so many people. And we have changed.

As parents, the world as we knew it shattered, as soon as our son came out to us. Our dreams came to an abrupt end. The world of our daughters irrevocably changed as they were forced to come to grips with their new reality.

Our faith in God has come into question and the trust that we thought we had in our friends has diminished.

But we were able to pick up the pieces and rebuild around our new reality.

We sought advice from our rabbi. This turned out to be a dead-end.

We joined a local chapter of PFLAG. We became friends with some nice people who have been through this journey in their lives. They have shown us how to celebrate the positive aspects of our new reality.

We reached out to whoever we felt could offer us assistance. Rabbi Steve Greenberg spent a few hours talking with me right after our son came out. He was a tremendous source of strength. Dr. Naomi Mark gave me the courage to continue writing in this blog. Dr. Linda Freedman willingly offered her services to me whenever I needed it, and there were times when I really needed it. Rabbi Michael Balinsky gave me his encouragement as a dear, old friend.

We chose to tell some of our friends in a cautious, deliberate manner, over the space of this past year. Those with whom we shared have been a source of strength for us.

Only some members of our family know.

And this blog has exposed us to a new world. The postings have elicited responses from gay men and women and their parents. We have become close with all who have chosen to have a dialogue with us. There are many emails that are written in private between us and we all have grown as we used this blog and its instruments as a forum to share our thoughts and our stories.

Our family has changed and grown. We have grown closer together and as individuals we have all grown stronger.

During this past Sukkoth, as we sat around the table, the discussion turned to this blog. My son turned to me and said that it is time to take a less lachrymose approach in the blog. I told him that I agree with him. I said that the mourning period has drawn to an end and that it is now time to move from sadness to advocacy.

He nodded and the discussion moved on to another topic.

The waters remain uncharted, but we can navigate knowing that it will all be good.

Be well.

Saul David