Volume 49 Number 08
                    Produced: Tue Jul 19 22:20:43 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Gay Issues
Mundane matters
         [Chaim Shapiro]
Orthodox Gay Community


From: anonymous
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2005 10:00:24
Subject: RE: Gay Issues

I just want to add that obviously I can only speak for myself and not
for anyone else.  I don't know what every other person in my situation
does or wants to do.  As you might surmise, the observantly Orthodox gay
and lesbian population exists *way* underground and not in any organized
fashion (which obviously contributes to the perception that we don't
actually exist at all).  I can only report on my own situation and on
the situation of others whom I've encountered.

Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...> wrote:

> So I have the following questions for AP - and they are for information
> only; I mean to make no accusations:
> (1) What do you mean by "truly frum gay and lesbians"?  Specifically, do
>  they engage in homosexual acts, including those short of actual sex, or
>  simply abstain?
> (2) Do you - or more broadly, the Orthodox gay community--acknowledge
> that if they were to so engage, they would thereby be committing aveirot
> - possibly of the yehareig ve'al yaavor variety--which I'll assume they
> can't help committing?
> (3) What do you mean by "reality" of Orthodox gays?
> (4) To paraphrase the same question I've posed to Avi and the list (and
> hope to see his answer on Sunday), would you require the Orthodox
> community to accord the same "acknowledgement" you wish for Orthodox
> gays to Orthodox people with other deviant - in the halachic sense; I
> mean to make no extra-halachic moral statement - sexual inclinations,
> including those that are incestuous or heterosexual promiscuous?

I'll respond to your questions as best as I can.  I apologize in advance
for the brevity of response -- I'm very busy at the moment, but I
thought this was important and shouldn't be left entirely until I have
time to respond at length.

(1) By "truly frum gay men and lesbians" I mean frum Jews who are not
sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex but who are attracted
to members of the same sex.  The same way that heterosexual frum Jews
follow the halachos regarding forbidden sexual relationships, there are
frum gay men and lesbians who follow the halachos regarding forbidden
sexual relationships.  I'm not sure what you mean by "homosexual acts
that stop short of actual sex"; I would prefer to characterize some
behavior as forbidden and some as not forbidden.  If behavior is not
forbidden -- and I mean not forbidden according to a (no pun intended)
straight and narrow reading of halacha -- whether or not people engage
in it seems irrelevant.

(2) This is a pretty patronizing question, particularly in light of my
original post, although I will accept that you just want clarification.
Do *you* understand that if *you* violate halacha you're committing an
aveira?  Why should it be any different for a gay person?  How many
times do I and others have to repeat that we're not trying to promote
forbidden behavior as permitted.

(3) By the "reality" of Orthodox gay men and lesbians I mean the simple
fact that we exist -- that there are people who are completely committed
to Torah who are also gay.  That being observantly Orthodox and gay is
not an oxymoron, as one poster so wittily and charmingly put it
(bravo!).  Until people in the mainstream Orthodox community are willing
to begin a conversation with this premise, everything else is moot.

(4) I'm not sure that I understand this question entirely, but I'll try
to respond, although you may find my response a bit shocking.  I would
argue that halacha acknowledges that people have all manner of sexual
desires, but that not all of these desires can be acted upon.  We
acknowledge this *all the time*, by our insistence on the separation of
the sexes.  And we don't assume that Orthodox heterosexual people are
acting on their halachicly forbidden sexual desires (even though we may
be aware that some *do* -- but that's another story).

All I'm saying is that the same assumptions that the Orthodox community
makes about straight people -- that they're not engaging in forbidden
sexual acts *even when they're living in the same apartment building or
attending the same camp or taking vacations at the same time -- which
both married and unmarried frum people do all the time* -- be extended
to Orthodox gay people.  I'm not asking for anyone to say that engaging
in forbidden sexual acts is okay or understandable in the circumstances
or not so bad.

I wrote:

> (it's really hard to develop close relationships, even of the
> non-romantic sort, when you are afraid to reveal basic things about
> yourself)

Ari Trachtenberg replied:

> I keep certain basic things between me and my wife, and yet I do have
> close relationships with other friends.  Does sex or love really have
> to figure into any relationship?

This made me smile.  You obviously have no concept of what the focus of
life is and is expected to be for unmarried adults in the Orthodox

There are people (outside of the frum community) who know that I am gay.
We rarely if ever discuss it -- you're right, it's irrelevant.  But they
also don't think it's their chief duty in life to find me a match, they
don't feel obligated to engage me in conversation about my dating
prospects, and they generally respect the fact that my personal life (or
lack thereof) is private.  This is not the dynamic in the frum
community.  Obviously this is not just a problem for gay and lesbian
frum Jews -- it's a problem that all singles share.


Carl A. Singer <casinger@...> wrote:

> It's interesting (to me, anyhow) that some, perhaps many, Mail Jewish
> discussions seem to focus on those who consider themselves
> Torah-observant Jews (lots of apparently equivalent labels exist) yet
> deem some parts of Torah observance to be optional, negotiable or
> irrelevant.

I would just like to point out that in this particular instance, it's
not the "ham eaters" who are proclaiming that they eat ham every Yom

Rather, it's members of the Torah Observant community proclaiming that
other members of the community eat ham every Yom Kippur.

I'm not sure how to properly extend this unfortunate analogy.  But
there's a difference between a person saying -- I engage in [insert
forbidden sexual act here] -- and others assuming that their colleagues
are engaging in that act.

What some of us are trying to get across is that you can be gay or
lesbian and not engage in any sexual acts that are forbidden.


From: <Dagoobster@...> (Chaim Shapiro)
Date: Tue, 19 Jul 2005 12:25:48 EDT
Subject: Mundane matters

I was forced, as a member of my Collegiate community, to attend a
workshop on gay sensitivity.  Pizza and snacks were served.  Towards the
end of this production, the discussion revolved around heterosexism, the
"evil" presumption people have that everyone around them is
heterosexual.  This causes uncomfortable situations for gays, who don't
want to explain to each person how they aren't interested in being set
up with your aunt's cousins best friends sister.

At that point, I raised my hand.  99% of people are straight (or
depending on some divergence in legitimate studies, at least 97%).
People automatically presume that occurrences with such high reliability
are the norm.  Heterosexism, I claimed was a term used to deride people
who were honestly assuming that the overwhelming majority are the
overwhelming majority.

They challenged me.  They said, but you have to be sensitive to the
minority!  I responded, funny you should say that when your pizza is not
kosher!  What about my feelings as an Orthodox Jew?  And even if you
were to claim that it is a very legitimate assumption that no one would
want kosher food in Riverside, California (a presupposition I proved
false anyway), did you take into account all those people, many of whom
are Jews, that are lactose intolerant?  Aren't you Anti-Semites or at
the very least lacticcentric?

Chaim Shapiro


From: Anonymous_3
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2005 19:55:08
Subject: RE: Orthodox Gay Community

Ari Trachtenberg wrote:

> > (it's really hard to develop close relationships, even of the
> > non-romantic sort, when you are afraid to reveal basic things about
> > yourself)
> I keep certain basic things between me and my wife, and yet I do have
> close relationships with other friends.  Does sex or love really have to
> figure into any relationship?

No, not necessarily.  However, sex/love issues are far from the only
basic aspects of one's existence that, in the Torah-observant world, can
be unsafe to disclose anywhere.  Personal medical issues, especially for
unmarried people or people who have relatives "in the parashah" of
looking for spouses, are other examples.  This is particularly true for
matters that reflect genetic conditions, factors that would constrain
someone, especially someone female, from 2-3 decades of constant,
uninterrupted procreation, or simply conditions that are sufficiently
stigmatized for other (non-)reasons that others are made uncomfortable.
In some affluent and materialistic communities, financial, job loss, and
similar adversities also cannot be safely discussed.

Another category I can cite from painful, current personal experience
involves family issues.  In addition to having been seriously abusive of
me both emotionally and physically throughout my childhood, adolescence,
and early adult years, my parents used their prodigious Jewish learning
deliberately to try to force me "off the derech" by willfully misquoting
halacha, quoting it out of context, etc., and otherwise dis-informing me
about matters religious.  They did this while boasting publicly, though
not always in contexts that would halachically constitute "befarhesia,"
of their status as kofrim (active repudiators of basic principles of
belief).  Quite a few years ago, they instigated what proved to be the
final estrangement between themselves and me, acting in ways that many
people were amazed I survived.

After an illness of several years, my father died several months ago.
Because of the circumstances, I had received a p'saq from a "big name"
in another city (to whom I was properly referred, so please don't accuse
me of poseq- or p'saq-shopping) early in my father's illness, that I was
not obligated, and might not even be permitted if I wanted to do it, to
go to my parents, whether while they were alive or for their respective
funerals when the times came.  Further, the p'saq went, I was allowed
but not obligated to sit shiva; if I did sit, however, I was to do it in
my city of residence and not my parents' territory.  In any case, I was
not to observe aveilut (mourning) beyond shiva.

These directives came as an enormous relief, because I had no idea how I
could have reconciled the history between my parents and me with a
genuine, properly kavvanah-situated observance of aveilut.  However,
they also presented me with tremendous new burdens, including (a) having
to make my peace "for real" with the kinds of parents I had, and (b) not
being able to get any support from coreligionist friends because I
couldn't share with them what I was going through, both during my
father's long illness and after he died.  By the way, I was never
officially informed about any of these developments, but only told "back
channel" snippets from time to time by extended family members and
friends who, unbeknownst to my parents, were in touch with both them and

I did a pretty good job of preparing myself psychologically for the
inevitable, and knew what I had to do and not to do.  However, actually
having to do (or not do) it has proven to be very different from knowing
the drill intellectually, and it's been a strain I would have considered
unimaginable until I was actually faced with it, especially with almost
no coreligionist support system anywhere around the globe.  Ironically,
while going through all of this, I've been helping and supporting
friends through their aveilut for their parents; to connect with Akiva
Miller's post earlier in the digest to which I'm responding, here, too,
the things people take for granted as normative, including mourning
rituals and communal support through terribly difficult times, aren't
always available to all of us, through no fault of our own.

> > I look forward to the day when I can make a post like this on M-J
> > without asking Avi to strip my name off.
> You have nothing to fear from me but my thoughts.  My feeling from
> reading MJ is that, for the most part, people here are exceedingly
> respectful of one another and try to keep arguments on target.  I hope
> that the day will come when you feel comfortable posting by name.

On certain issues, I'm afraid I haven't always found certain people to
be particularly respectful, despite the valiant and heroic efforts of
our moderator to keep them so.  Even were it not for the rabbinic
directives I have described, I certainly wouldn't feel safe posting this
content under my own name, and understand only too well why the other
anonymous poster did not feel safe posting his material with his
identity attached.


End of Volume 49 Issue 8