Monday, 18 November 2013


Orthodox LGBT FAQs (courtesy of JQY)

Common Orthodox questions, criticisms, and concerns vs. Supportive Orthodox Rabbinic Responses
Over the years, JQY has spoken at various panels and has had many private conversations with Orthodox Rabbis. We have compiled this fact sheet as a resource to describe the common questions, criticisms, and concerns that our members have heard from friends, family and community members, and that they have struggled with internally. We have paired each question with responses we have received from supportive Orthodox rabbis.
If you have any questions about any items on this fact sheet, or if you would like request a JQY panel where we can discuss these questions in greater depth, pleasecontact us.

Common Questions, Criticisms, and ConcernsSupportive Rabbinic Responses
Hashem does not give us anything we can not overcome. Doesn't this mean that homosexuality can be overcome?Many challenges in life are not changeable. We do not tell deaf people that they can “overcome” their deafness and hear. We learn to live our best lives with life's realities.
Everyone has their nisayon (test) in life, some of which are very difficult, isn't being gay or lesbian just a nisayon for a person to overcome?A person's nisayon (test) is to make the most of their lives and be the best Jew they can be. We don't say the nisayon of a deaf person is to hear the shofar, it is to find his unique relationship to the commandment. A nisayon is intended to bring a person closer to G-d, it is not intended to make a person live in misery.
Since homosexuality is called a toevah (abomination), doesn't it mean that it is an ethical evil that goes against Jewish hashkofa (thought) and must never seem normal?We do not know taamei hamitzvot (the reasons for commandments), eating shrimp and wearing shatnez (cloth containing wool and linen) are also called a toevah (abomination), if a person struggles with a sin between him/her and G-d that does not make him/her an evil person.
Isn't being “out” worse than merely sinning because the person is advertises the sin publicly, which is itself yehareg va'alyaver (death is preferable to the transgression)?Being “out” actually says nothing about whether one sins, or is public about sinning. Out LGBT Orthodox Jews can still be tzniut (modest), and not discuss specific sexual behaviors publicly. One should not make assumptions about someone else's private life or their sexual behaviors just because the person is 'out'.
Straight people don't go around telling people that they are straight, why do gay people feel the need to do so?Just as straight people would correct you if you assumed he or she were gay, gay people do not need to lie or pretend to be heterosexual when they are not. Every wedding, anniversary, and shidduch (arranged marriage) is a proclamation of one's heterosexuality. We do not ask an agunah (a woman who can not remarry due to not receiving a 'get') to say that she is no longer attracted to men, even though acting on this attraction would be a sin.
Doesn't pride or celebration of one's sexuality go against the Jewish tradition of tzniut (modesty)?It is important to combat the internalized shame that many LGBT people experience with self-esteem i.e. pride. Furthermore, the strength and bravery it takes to come out, overcome obstacles, and persevere is what is celebrated, not any specific sexual behavior.
We actually do not know whether homosexuality is genetic or environmental. Doesn't this mean that a person can and should change?Whether someone is 'born gay' or becomes gay due to environmental factors does not imply that being gay is somehow a choice or changeable. Many things that are caused by the environment are in fact unchangeable.
If we are openly affirming or accepting of gays, won't this be encouraging homosexuality and lead those who are on the fence to become gay?Speaking out against homosexuality does not prevent anyone from being gay; it just increases the shame and internal suffering that LGBT people experience in the Orthodox community. Sensitivity and being welcoming is the torah way, and can be life-saving for individuals suffering in silence.
We can love the sinner, but we are supposed to hate the sin, so how can we be supportive of gay Jewish organizations and homosexuality?Identifying as gay does not imply anything about whether or not a person is “sinning” by engaging in specific prohibited behaviors. Hating the sin should not mean denying a person the resources that they desperately need.
Sexuality may be fluid for some, so shouldn't everyone at least make an attempt in 'reparative therapy' if it helps some individuals?Helping some does not justify hurting others. Many individuals have reported being harmed by these types of therapies, which are often conducted by unlicensed individuals who face no repercussions for irresponsible and potentially damaging interventions.
How can we say “it gets better” to a life that halachicaly (from a Jewish legal standpoint) can have no sexual outlet?We don't say to agunot (women who can not remarry due to not receiving a 'get') that “it can never get better”, or that there is no value or place for them in Jewish life just because we can not legitimize any of their romantic behavior.
Why should LGBT Orthodox Jews be treated any different from those who desire other sexual sins like adultery?If we are to use adultery as an analogy, it would be similar to the case of an agunah (a woman who can not remarry due to not receiving a 'get'), who through no fault of her own may not have any halachicaly (from a Jewish legal standpoint) permitted sexual behavior or marriage.
Isn't homosexuality yehareg v'al yaavor (death is preferable to transgression), putting it in a different category than other sins, similar to murder?If we are to use murder as an analogy, it would be similar to the case of brain death and organ donation, where, although it is technically yehareg v'al yaavor (death is preferable to transgression), where sensitivity, ambiguity, and compassion are all imparted on those making decisions, even when they may be against rabbinic advice.
While desire may not be a choice, behavior is always a choice. Shouldn't we therefore judge those who we know engage in sexual behavior as sinners?In cases of Jewish suicide, halachic burial (burial according to Jewish law) is almost never observed because we assume that the behavior is engaged in when a person is in an altered mental state. Individuals who have Aspergers, ADD, or other different issues are often exempt from general orthodox expectations. We can not truly judge a person until we are in their shoes.
Shouldn't we avoid legitimizing or celebrating relationships that involve sin?Rabbis often counsel and celebrate couples who may not be following taharat hamishpocha (family purity laws) they still celebrate their relationships, and expect that the community not make any assumptions about possible sinful activity.
Kedushin (Jewish marriage) can only be between a man and a woman. How can we ever legitimize marriage between two people of the same sex as halachic marriage (Jewish legal marriage)?Refusing to go to attend a loved one's life events or not permitting someone's partner to attend a simcha (celebratory event) can damage relationships and create alienation and negative feelings toward Judaism. Attendance is a sign of love and support, and can help a person maintain their connection with Orthodoxy. It is not the same as legitimizing. A parent can celebrate a loved one being happy and not being alone without legitimizing the halachic nature (Jewish legal status) of his or her relationship.

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