Friday, January 01, 2010

Being Gay in the OJ World: The problem and its solution

Lets boil this down to bear essentials.

The problem
There's a verse in Leviticus which says a particular act is a toevah, usually translated as "abomination" (Alter: "Abhorrence"; others: "Disgusting thing.") For reasons explained below, some OJs have decided that this verse provides license to mistreat other Jews who have a confessed interest in other men. Note: We're not speaking of men who have committed the act (likely sodomy, but perhaps also intercrural intercourse) but of men who've merely admitted that they experience certain urges or suffer from a particular appetite. The hypocrisy and prejudice of these bigoted OJs can be proven in two ways: 

First, anti-gay OJs  rarely -if ever-display overt dislike for people who have performed the other six acts the Torah calls "toevah." If gay-hating OJs were truly attempting to live up to the Torah's ideals or to live according to Torah morality, as they so often claim, wouldn't they experience and express revulsion in the presence of shell-fish eaters? But they don't. This strongly suggests that their revulsion toward gays is not connected to anything the Torah says, but the product of something else. If it were otherwise, gay hating OJs would behave identically in cases where the Torah uses identical language. 

Second, homosexual men are subject to mistreatment even if no proof exists that they have acted on their desires, though the real "crime" is the act, not the thought. Nowhere does it say that homosexual thoughts are a toevah. The Torah speaks only of actions. If gay-hating OJs were motivated by something other than their own prejudices, they'd delay their prejudicial behavior until after proof of the crime was provided. 

So, to sum up, the problem is this: Some OJs hate gays for reasons unconnected to anything the Torah says, and, in the manner of bigots and shallow thinkers everywhere, use scriptural verses to justify their pre-existing opinions.

The solution
As a community, Orthodox Jews must discover and agree that homosexuals are potential sinners like all of us. They are not a unique category of offenders. Contrary to the polemical claim made by R. Twersky, the event last week at YU was not intended to legitimize homosexuality, or to bring about a change in Torah law, but to call attention to the large and small atrocities committed against Jews who've merely confessed to - let's call it - a homosexual appetite.  The argument made by the panel was not "Sodomy should be made mutar" but "We, like you, are potential sinners, and we do not deserve to be singled out for special abuse when we are guilty of nothing but desires." Their call was not for sympathy, but for common sense and fairness. If a Jew who expresses a desire to eat insects isn't expelled from Yeshiva, a male Jew who says he finds men attractive must also be allowed to remain in school. If we aren't going to marginalize people who confess a wish to break shabbos, we shouldn't marginalize men who confess a wish to commit sodomy with other men. If its ok for a male Jew to say "Don't set me up with blonds, I find them unattractive", it should be equally okay for a male Jew to say, "Don't set me up with anyone, I don't like women." Today, telling these types of truths invites ostracism, and the shunning of entire families. One panelist says his sister can't get dates because of his appetites. That's the sort of behavior that has to change, and the event last week at YU was a small step in the right direction.

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