Volume 49 Number 19
                    Produced: Mon Jul 25  5:37:29 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Another "Gay" Issue
         [Bill Bernstein]
Frum and Gay (2)
         [Aryeh Gielchinsky, Anonymous_6]
Gay/Lesbian Issues, Continued
         [Leah S. Gordon]
Pressuring Gays into Straight Marriages (2)
         [Anonymous_7, Carl Singer]


From: Bill Bernstein <billbernstein@...>
Date: Sat, 23 Jul 2005 22:15:38 -0500
Subject: Another "Gay" Issue

I am a gay man.  At age 43 I have established enough of an income to
afford comfortably most things I want or need.  I do not worry about
paying my mortgage or other expenses.  My children are b'h bright and
well-behaved with very few issues.  My wife has an excellent job that
she likes.

This Shabbos at shul I was quite gay at the kiddush, swapping stories
with the rabbi about his recent trip to Germany and seeing other
friends.  Lunch was a gay event with nice wine and zmiros and Torah
discussion.  We are all b'h in good health.  With so few worries why
should I not be gay?

But assuredly I do not commit homosexual acts of sodomy or fellatio.
Nor have I ever.

So I object to the word "gay" being used to describe those who commit
homosexual acts.  My Oxford English Dictionary cites the word in the way
I have used it above as early as the 1300s.  It does not cite a usage
relating to homosexuality.  I feel it is important to point this out
because the way words are used frequently masks a greater reality.  In
this case the "acceptance" of homosexuality is promoted by wrapping it
in innocuous terms.  The use of language to whitewash the otherwise
unpalatable is as old as Thucydides' description of the phenomenon in
his account of the Corcyrean Revolution.  It is probably older.  But
"gay" as a synonym for homosexual removes the stigma that is attached to
the latter word.  That stigma is a correct understanding of the
phenomenon by the Torah community for the behavior is prohibited,
whether d'rabbonon or d'oraisa.  And it is singled out for special
opprobrium, as the Igros Moshe details in OC 4.115.

So while I recognize that contemporary usage is such that nothing could
be called "gay" without reference to homosexuality, I would ask
awareness that the word usage covers more than it reveals.

Bill Bernstein
Nashville TN


From: Aryeh Gielchinsky <agielchinsky@...>
Date: Sun, 24 Jul 2005 23:43:31 -0400
Subject: Frum and Gay

Shlomo Spiro said:

>There are many orthodox youngsters who in their early years find
>difficulty defining themselves sexually.  They are confused and look
>around for models and examples. When they find that gays ( I am talking
>about those who let it be known that they are gay) are accorded the same
>courtesies as others, and perhaps are complimented on their contribution
>to the synagogue they will certainly get the idea that it's OK to be gay
>and that it is acceptable as normal.  Parents talking to them is usually
>irrelevant. They observe and make their own minds on the basis of what
>they see, especially in a synagogue.

The responses he got was 

>While some in the community might know that a synagogue member is
>gay, I doubt very much that any gay member of an Orthodox shul is
>going to flaunt homosexual affection at shul to the extent that a
>young person is going to be aware of the situation...

While Shlomo made his point about young children, he could also have
made the point regarding older people who are aware of their

another poster said:
>Personally, I would be honored for my children to have these kinds of
>Jews as role models- for me, the essence of following halacha is
>struggling to carry ol malchut shamayim. I can't think of a better

While they may be great role models in regards to the fact that they are
fighting their desires, the concern was that they will influence those
around them.  Now someone else made a point that no one would choose a
life like that. Also many posters assumed that being gay was not a
choice but something you are born with ("Hashem hard wired some people
to be gay, and some people to hate Black people").

Ancient Greece can shed light onto this topic (and I thought Torah
U'Madah was a waste of time!). Many men were actual gay or bisexual.
Older men would become a mentor for a young boy and actually sleep with
them! Some suggest this developed because women were hardly ever seen in
public and there was no Greek Bible to prohibit such relationships. In
any event, my point is your surroundings have a tremendous effect on how
you think and act, even to the point of changing a whole nations
perspective on sex. Before claiming that gays are hardwired, realize
that many of us are heavily influenced by non-Halachik sources (how many
of us can say we spend more time learning than watching TV?) which
portray homosexuality as OK, as did the Greek society.

Aryeh Gielchinsky
President of the Yeshiva University Physics and Engineering Club, retired

From: Anonymous_6
Date: Sun, 24 Jul 2005 20:35:35 -0400
Subject: RE: Frum and Gay

Shalom Kohn wrote:

> Second, the verse "lo sikrivu le-galot ervah" (thou shalt not become
> close to uncovering nakedness) extends prohibitions of in cases of
> prohibited sexual activity to kissing, hugging etc., either
> rabbinically or according to some (e.g. Rambam) biblically.  (The
> discussions typically deal with heterosexual activity, but the logic
> applies to homosexual activity as well.)  This imposes greater
> challenges on the "frum" gay person to restrain himself from any
> physical manifestations of affection.

I am not going to respond directly to this post inasmuch as I'm not an
expert in halacha and therefore cannot supply the necessary sources.  I
very much hope that there's someone else who is equipped to respond
intelligently.  But I would like to make two brief comments.

First: just as gay frum Jews cannot manipulate halacha to permit
forbidden behavior, heterosexual frum Jews should, similarly, refrain
from manipulating texts to forbid permitted behavior.  That is not to
say that people should not build g'darim for themselves (ie, "fences");
speaking for myself, I have not been swimming since I was a teenager and
became aware of my response to other women (even though at that point I
certainly had no idea that I was not going to be attracted to men), even
though I loved to swim and miss it dearly.

Second: Since the poster is -- or ought to be -- aware that there are
people on this list for whom his statements are more than theoretically
relevant, it would behoove him to think through to the implications of
his remarks and consider whether he should make them without being
absolutely certain that they are accurate.  Essentially, what this
poster is saying is that a gay or lesbian Jew is forbidden to have any
type of physical contact with ANY other human being
(parents/grandparents excluded), ever.

If the poster -- or anyone else on this list -- finds it conceivable
that Gd would demand this of any human being, then I find it
inconceivable that we are co-religionists.  You might just as well be
telling me -- and anyone else on this list to whom your comments apply
-- to jump off a bridge.


From: Leah S. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Sat, 23 Jul 2005 20:22:56 -0700
Subject: Gay/Lesbian Issues, Continued

I am hesitant to post more on the issues of derech eretz toward
gay/lesbian Jews.  Frankly, the recent rash of posts on the subject has
left me appalled that we have such bigotry in our midst.  I wonder if I
have enough common ground with others on this list even to have a

However, I feel that if I remain silent on the issue, that it could be
construed as agreement, so I hope that my comments are helpful to those
who are either anonymous or quietly thinking about these issues.

First, I think that it is a crass minimization of gay/lesbian
persecution to e.g. compare it with the lack of kosher pizza at a campus
event.  Gay and lesbian Jews are so persecuted that they are
statistically more likely to self-mutilate and even commit suicide,
particularly as teenagers.  It is a challenge even to stay alive and not
depressed for someone who is constantly marginalized in any culture.
Obviously, the numbers are also huge of gay/lesbian Jews who choose to
leave religious Judaism altogether.  This is not a topic for jokes or
sarcastic remarks.

Second, I think that heterosexuals, particularly men, are often so
*comfortable* in their own roles as the default kind of person in
society, that they don't even recognize their own privilege.  Comments
like "what's the big deal" or "why make a public thing about it" just
bring home this observation.  (And it's not just re. sexual orientation,
either.  This is a huge problem in trying to make men understand what
women's needs might be in a culture of marginalization.)

If you are a person who fits society's default expectations, then you
aren't really being particularly courageous when you go along with
society's default life patterns.  BUT, this fit is an accident of birth,
not some glorious set of choices or faith.  Heterosexuals who follow
traditional Jewish patterns of marriage/reproduction are not doing that
because they're such great Jews.  They just happen to match the default
assumptions.  Until heterosexuals recognize this fact, they will not
have the proper respect/understanding of what it means to be homosexual
in a heterosexual world.

Third, it is a straw-person argument to start talking about various
kinds of "sins" in relation to extra-halakhic issues such as shul
membership.  In my opinion, if there is a group of people who present
themselves as a family--why not just accept them as a family?  If the
issue is an economic one, then just charge by the persion.  If the issue
is that we "want to support Jewish kids" then give a discount per minor
child.  When was the last time a shul asked to see a kosher ketubah
before giving a couples membership?  When was the last time a shul
revoked a couple's family membership because the couple didn't have
children, or wasn't producing them fast enough to be a "real family"?
As I recall, adopted children have no official halakhic status as "real
children" to their parents (much as this bothers modern people).  Do
shuls only include biological children in the "family" membership?

But you know, the people who have said, "a membership makes *them*
legitimate" are absolutely right!  And, gay/lesbian Jews, and their
families, *should* feel legitimately members of shuls.  How could anyone
want it any other way?

Let's take this a step further.  Do those who want gay/lesbian families
ostracized by not being allowed shul memberships, prefer:
a. The family pays for two single memberships and questions its own legitimacy
b. The family goes to another shul and blows off the ostracizers
c. The family has a sudden realization that they are evil sinners who
should quickly recant and marry people of the opposite sex and never
bring it up again

I think that the possibility of (c) above is exactly zero.  From M.J
posts on the subject, it seems that there may be people who believe that
it could happen.  I guarantee you that it will not.

The possibility of (a) used to be non-zero because persecution was so
widespread.  If it happens, I think that is very sad, and shows some
self-denigration of those involved.  Furthermore, with the lack of a
shtetl-mentality nowadays, why would any gay/lesbian family put up with
such foolishness?

The vast majority of cases, of course, will be (b).  I expect that many
people understand this, and would be happy to rid their shul of any gays
or lesbians, because then the issue can quietly go away.  I find this to
be a very upsetting attitude from a population that is supposed to be
kind and encouraging to all Jews who want to join and participate and
become religious.

Third, I think that some M.J posters just don't know (or think they
don't know) any gay/lesbian Jews.  It is pretty easy to ignore the issue
if you live in an Orthodox community and don't ask a lot of questions.
Whether or not you think that gay families existed (or should have
existed) in ancient times, they exist now.  They're not going away.
Many of them are Jewish.  Many of those lead what seem to me to be
traditional Jewish lives.

I already pointed out that most families spend more time doing laundry
than having sex, so what's the big preoccupation with other families'
sexual activities....  I cannot accept that everyone on M.J is so
fascinated with sex in marriage that they don't see any other content to
a family's existence!

Also, I want to ask--why do people perceive it as a threat if another
kind of family is perceived to be "legitimate"?  Do you think that it
will entice young Jewish kids to "become gay" (which is impossible)?  Do
you think that it would be better to stigmatize people because of their
inborn biology?  Do you think that it somehow lessens your own privilege
as the "right" kind of family?

--Leah Sarah Reingold Gordon


From: Anonymous_7
Date: Sun, 24 Jul 2005 17:31:52 -0700
Subject: Pressuring Gays into Straight Marriages

Chaim Shapiro wrote:
> This was touched on in a few posts.  How does the list feel about
> pressuring frum gays into hetero relationships for any reason?

If we're asking about how the list feels about something connected to
this issue, I respectfully submit that a more appropriate question would
be, "How does the list feel about heterosexuals who find themselves
married, or pressured to become married, to gays"?  For at least the
overwhelming majority of gay people, a heterosexual marriage is a
painful sham because they can't possibly desire their spouses nor engage
with them in anything remotely resembling a spousal mode.  I'm hard put
to imagine that, for the heterosexual spouses of these people, the
situation could be other than the ultimate degradation.

One poster brought up the notion that gay men aren't exempt from
procreation.  However, IMHO it is possible to envision scenarios under
which they might be regarded as exempt because of the severe mental
health consequences to themselves, not to mention the women involved,
from the procreative processes involved.  There are probably some
lesbians out there who would willingly marry and engage in procreative
acts with gay men for the sake of procreation.  However, I daresay the
vast majority of women, whether heterosexual or lesbian, finding
themselves thus conscripted into "procreative service" with gay men,
would, IMHO rightly, feel nothing more than *used* for their wombs and
ovaries.  Personally, I find the thought that our ranks would condone,
let alone encourage, such exploitation of women as baby machines, to be
100% repugnant.

From: <casinger@...> (Carl Singer)
Date: Sun, 24 Jul 2005 16:22:41 -0400
Subject: Pressuring Gays into Straight Marriages

> This was touched on in a few posts.  How does the list feel about
> pressuring frum gays into hetero relationships for any reason?

Why would anyone think that pressuring anyone into any kind of
relationship is appropriate?  Or for that matter will be successful
(whatever that means) in the long run.

Carl Singer


End of Volume 49 Issue 19