Saturday, April 26, 2014

A response to David Benkof, if that is his real name...

(In the article Orthodox, Celibate, Gay and That's Okay - - I was quoted from a speech I gave four years ago. I don't care much to be an active party in this conversation anymore, but since you already dragged me back into it...)

How is David Benkof any less absurd than a female anti-feminist, or any less hypocritical than Bill Clinton and his anti-drug policies (he didn't swallow)? A group of compassionate and well meaning Rabbis and community leaders have struggled to offer reparations to a demoralized minority, and David Benkof self-appoints himself to represent us, saying "No thanks. Just keep treating us like the pieces of garbage we should consider ourselves to be. I used to enjoy a life of love, compassion, and sexual fulfillment, but now I know the truth, and everyone must avoid my mistakes altogether, never tasting those enjoyments… All for me… All for me."

Whoops, is my rhetoric too emotionally driven? My apologies, but this is an emotional subject! The brain isn’t so logical. It appeals to belief and sentiment all the time. The manner through which David Benkof attempts to approach gay sex with a level of unaffected intellectualism (until you get to the comments section, where he asks another commenter, “Mark - you think a relationship is not ‘complete’ if it doesn't involve genitals?”) shows just how intellectually dishonest he is being.

Likewise, by not giving credence to the emotional dimensions of the conversation, David completely misinterprets my question from four years ago. He takes it out of the context, which was “Growing Up Gay in an Orthodox World.” Obvious to everyone who attended the panel, it wasn’t an unanswerable question. It was a question that wasn’t supposed to be answered. It was a reaction I had, something I felt. It was a reality I knew and could share with an audience who might have had no prior exposure. Clearly I had enough mental prowess to come to David’s brilliant response, “Because God said so.” In Yeshiva University, we also studied Job. But during the panel, we were discussing lived experiences, not theology.

Granted, the two realms often overlap. However, as many commentators more wise than me have posited, theology is useless if it doesn’t have real world interpretations. So, I am very curious as to what David is even trying to accomplish with his article. What is his end goal? How does he envision the future he is advocating for? A world where all gay men abstain from sex, yet come out so they can get their heter not to marry a woman, and then develop really strong, close relationships with their straight male friends? Maybe this can work for one or two peculiar individuals, but I can’t imagine such constructs working for the majority of the community, members gay and straight alike. The gay people I know have too much dignity than to subside off such scraps of affection, and the straight friends I have would never allow a cruel, emotionally unbalanced dynamic to exist in the first place.

In his article, David is not just rebuking a group that will never heed his warnings. Worse, he is providing justification to arguments that believe a priori that homosexuals should not embrace their gay identity, solely based on the legitimization that he himself is attracted to the same sex. This is a platform he has stood on time and time again, to support California’s Proposition 8, to discredit the LGBT community, and to promote further discrimination against gay and lesbian individuals. A quick perusal of his writings on the will illustrate just exactly what his agenda consists of.

Surely David is entitled to his opinions, but I want my soap box back. I am denouncing David as my representative. He comes from a very different place than I do. I would much rather take the compassionate and well meaning and loving Rabbis and community leaders to speak on my behalf.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

“If you don’t believe me, just read my book.”

I am sure some wise man somewhere once said something about not stooping to ad hominem attacks – how it only detracts from your argument by spoiling your credibility, alienating the reader, and dramatizing the issue at hand. Therefore, in responding to Arthur Goldberg article, “YU ‘Gay’ Panel: A Trojan Horse” (found here), I will try to forget about Goldberg’s more-than-sordid past, for example, when he pleaded guilty to one act of conspiracy and fraud and was sentenced to 18 months in prison for his role in arranging a $223 million municipal bond, on behalf of Mathew & Wright Inc., for a river port that was never built (although if you’re interested, please read the NY Times’ report) – indeed, Goldberg seems to be an expert in more than one type of ex-toeva therapy. And while it does strike me as comical, a Reform Jew, addressing a primarily ultra-Orthodox audience with his opinion of “the true Torah response” to homosexuality, instead I will only focus on his conspiratorial accusations and fraudulent scientific claims about reparative therapy (oh snap!).

First and foremost, let me set the record “straight:” members of the ex-gay community (note: seemingly homosexual Jews can be part of an “ex-gay community," but God forbid them from ever identifying with a “gay community”) were NEVER denied an opportunity to appear on the panel or have their representatives present a different viewpoint. Goldberg emailed me eight days before the day of the event, asking if I would consent to having someone from JONAH join the panel. In fact, he also tracked down Rabbi Blau, Dr. Schwartz, and practically anyone who had anything to do with the panel, requesting the same thing. Everyone I spoke with about him was far from impressed by Goldberg’s aggressive tactics. Yet, we all told him the same thing: the theme of the panel was giving YU students who are gay a platform from which to express their personal, lived experiences. Therefore, he himself had no place on the panel as he is not an alumnus of YU nor is he (as far as we know) gay. And unless he could procure a JONAH member who attends/attended YU and had gone through JONAH’s program, then we would be unable to meet his demands. However, I personally promised him that if we ever planned to host a follow-up event of how to “deal” with the issue of homosexuality within a halakhic/mental health framework, then I would definitely keep his generous offer in mind.

Besides, do our stories really not adequately address those of gay Jews who also attempt altering their sexual orientations? Have Jewish member’s of the ex-gay community not also experienced confusion, dejection, alienation, depression, loneliness, and everything else we mentioned as a result of their attraction to those of the same-sex? I could go to JONAH today, and my experiences up until this point would still be the same. During the panel, we rarely ever discussed our own actions, but rather our understandings brought on by the actions of those around us. Goldberg goes so far as to accuse Mordechai of intentionally omitting the existences of ex-gay Jews when he recounted being kicked out of Camp Monk. Goldberg writes, “This may be true, but is this the only option?” Of course not! But it is the one that happened.

Clearly then, the only reason that Goldberg says, “Members of the ‘ex-gay’ community were denied an opportunity to appear on the Panel or to have their representatives present a different viewpoint,” is to slander the panel’s organizers, i.e. me, in order to lend credence to his condemning accusations of our secret and hidden gay agenda. Goldberg recognizes this agenda as manifest in a book called After the Ball: How America will conquer its fear & hatred of Gays in the 90's. But if he thinks that one book can ever speak for the entire gay community then he has no understanding of queer politics (or any minority group politics for that matter). Goldberg explains how we panellists portrayed ourselves as sufferers due to no faults of our own, in order to co-opt the audience’s sympathy and use it towards legitimization of our deviant lifestyle. According to Goldberg, the real victims of the panel are actually those who have been denied the opportunity to be healed (... by Goldberg). Fortunately, I have already been charged with such ulterior motives by Rabbi Twersky (think they are cohorts? If not, just look at the similar language they use – usually someone’s choice of words is indicative of their influences), and have already responded here.

Having said all this – that the panel did actually try to address the experiences of all individuals who are gay within the Orthodox Jewish community, whether or not they attend therapy to alter their sexual orientation – what scared Goldberg so much by the event that he paints it as a “Trojan Horse,” infiltrating the Jewish camp? What is his agenda (other than to unashamedly promote his book and his organization)?

In order for Goldberg to win, he needs everyone to believe that homosexual tendencies are unnatural and mutable, of which he is convinced the panel actively rejected. For if homosexuality is caused, then, supposedly, it can be uncaused. However, how he comes to this conclusion is beyond me. He attempts to debunk the myths that people are born gay or that people are genetically motivated towards homosexuality, as if it follows
somehow that therefore gay people can become straight. But does it really matter when unable to cure someone whose legs had been blown off, whether or not s/he was born with them in the first place? Conversely, if a child is born with a genetic disease, do we not attempt to heal their disorder even though it originated through natural processes? The efficacy of reparative therapy will only be proved one way or another based on the efforts of science, the same efforts we trust when considering any medical procedure. Surprisingly (or not), he never references, for instance, the American Psychological Association’s 124-to-4 vote, rejecting the therapy, this past summer. The only supporting evidence Goldberg ever offers for his therapies is Light in the Closet: Torah, Homosexuality, and the Power to Change – his own freakin’ book!

To further his point about modern psychology, Goldberg adds that “it is important to remember that the Torah has no word for ‘homosexual,’ only for homosexual acts.” Arthur, don’t be ridiculous! The Torah doesn’t have words for a lot of things, for example electricity, cancer, astronauts, etc. In fact, the Torah does not even have a word for homosexual acts! The Torah says, “Do not lie with a man as one would a woman.” To me, this suggests a heterosexual act, only committed with someone of the same sex. And besides, what does any of this have to do with whether or not people can change who they are attracted to anyway?!

Sheesh! I guess I have to admit: the only reason I’m even bothering to respond to all this nonsense is because it has been published by an accepted Jewish media source. And while I will always tolerate people’s ideas and promote open dialogue and discovery (as promised, JONAH will be more than welcome to attend any panel on how to “deal” with homosexuality), ideally, people like Arthur Goldberg and his ideas should be kept on the outskirts of society with all of the other radical, pseudo-scientific, alternative healers – not forcibly so, but just because their theories bear no proof of principle to begin with. But we, the Jewish community, have embraced him as an expert in a field where every other respected opinion disagrees with him. This, I am not going to stand for.

During the panel, I was asked what the next step in confronting the issue of homosexuality within Judaism should be. Maybe before deciding what we should do, we need to agree on what we should NOT do. We should NOT allow Arthur Goldberg and his fanatical ideas to represent our community. We should NOT put homosexual Jews through a therapy that has been disproven and recognized to cause personal harm and distress. We need to stamp out such fundamentalist factions from our camp, not fear their misleading constructs of fake Trojan Horses. For if we don’t, not only will we no longer be able to laugh at far-right Evangelical Christians (zing!), but like I’ve said time and time again, we will only be avoiding the issue and pushing it further and further in the closet where it no longer belongs.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

“I am a normal kid... I am just asking questions!”

This post is for Moshe. (Although, that is not his real name – just the name he used when he anonymously reached out to me for help and guidance in his struggle, dealing with his homosexuality.)

I have been in contact with Moshe ever since the panel, “Being Gay in the Orthodox World,” on Dec. 22, 2009. His story sounds very similar to that of my co-panelists’ and mine: “I am a senior in high school and I am gay (it feels so weird saying that). Probably since like 7th or 8th grade I knew I was attracted to men, although the signs were there from the time I was two-years-old.” Since then, I have been trying my hardest to help Moshe understand that what he feels is not his fault, that he is not alone, and that he doesn’t have to hate who he is, just because some other people may not understand him.

I admitted to Moshe that, although I have learned a lot from my own personal experiences, I am not an expert in all things gay and/or Jewish. I provided him with appropriate halachic AND non-halachic literature and advised him to seek informal council with a sympathetic rabbi... He chose Rabbi Twersky. (I know! I was just as shocked when he told me.) When I asked him what Rabbi Twersky’s response was, he told me, “he said he doesn’t think we should speak via email so he gave me his number to call.” As nice as it was to offer his phone number, is Rabbi Twersky really that oblivious to the sensitivities of individuals in the closet? I wondered, is Rabbi Twersky worried about being on the record for something insensitive, or is he more afraid that, once actually confronted by someone who is gay, he might say something supportive and then give off the impression of legitimization? Hmmm.

Anyway, today, I received this email message from Moshe: “Just got another reply back from Rav Twersky. He sent me this d’var torah he and some other rabbis wrote this week on or something. Here it is:” (Insensitive to Moshe’s personal story and struggle, Rav Twersky sent a generic response. If I could make a comparison: When Moshe contacted me after the panel, had  I just forwarded the video recordings and links to the press coverage instead of responding personally to an appeal for help, I too would be guilty of insensitivity to a young person begging for help and guidance.) So now, even though I desperately hoped that one response to Rabbi Twersky’s bigoted rhetoric would suffice, I decided that, for Moshe’s sake, I must unearth that horse from his eternal slumber, and beat it dead just one more time. Here I go: (whap whap whap)

Before I proceed, I must try to acknowledge and respect my limitations. Obviously I am no halachist and do not know nearly the amount of Torah as Rabbis Schachter, Willig, Rosensweig, and Twersky do. Likewise, I am not an expert in psychology. I would never say something like, “The ‘Mitzrayim’ in which we find ourselves is also plagued by aberrant behaviour, including the practice of homosexuality. Here too, due to societal influence, we have become susceptible to such behaviour.” (Translation: People feel same sex attractions because society is accepting of homosexuals.) Not only would I not have the qualifications for such a statement (question: Which one of these Rabbis does?), but I feel as though such claims spit directly into the face of the “University” part of Yeshiva University. I can picture any one of my professors from YU raising a finger and cocking open a mouth in protest, but then just rolling their eyes, sighing, and, motivated by a misplaced respect of religious sensitivities, deciding to forget about it.

Instead, I will focus on what I am comfortable with – something truly anyone is capable of – highlighting prejudiced, irrational rhetoric and exposing it for what it is – nonsense.

The article is titled, “Torah View on Homosexuality.” First, we must ask the question: is this THE Torah view on homosexuality, or just A Torah view on homosexuality? Next, upon reading the article, we must wonder why it has been so inaccurately titled. Only in the first paragraph do the authors offer any discussion on the Torah view of homosexuality. Other than those four-or-five lines, the majority of the article is spent decrying the effects of society’s influence on our Jewish Modern Orthodox community. The authors almost seem to be trying to ensure that this article becomes a top search result should anyone google “what is the Torah view on homosexuality?” (As of this posting, it’s listed eighth.)

Besides, does the Torah even have a view on homosexuality, or rather just a view on a certain sexual act with a person of the same sex? This ambiguity presents itself throughout the entire article. Instead of talking about homosexuals or people who are gay, the authors consistently (16 times) refer to “homosexual behaviour,” “homosexual activity,” or “the practice of homosexuality.” These rabbis are obsessed with sex! God forbid they should allow us to look past a certain action and recognize the individual. Should we start to empathize with a person in his/her entirety, feelings and all, we might lose sight of the most important matter – anal penetration.

But what about all the other aspects of being gay? And this isn’t meant to be an emotive, touchy-feely argument, but rather very serious and realistic: Being gay is a lot more than just sexual tendencies. As Josh alluded to at the panel when he recounted his relationship with his chavruta, it includes emotional attraction, i.e. love. Like straight people, a gay person doesn’t just fantasize about who he wants to have sex with, but also who he wants to marry, raise a family with, make Shabbat dinner for, etc. The lack of fulfillment in this aspect of his homosexuality is just as distressful, if not more so, than the requirement to repress his sexual urges. Does tzniut additionally prevent us from discussing the issues of gay romance? Or are these authors just too uncomfortable or scared of this topic to address it honestly? (Are we perhaps seeing another effect of societal influences?)

Take stock of the arena of conversation in which these rabbis have placed us. We are not, in fact, dealing here at all with people who are gay. Instead, these rabbis have constructed a dichotomy: We are either presented with “discreet” (whatever that still means...) “Jews who do not practice homosexuality but feel same sex attraction” (please note the word sex and how it makes you uncomfortable), or “brazen” Jews who “identify with their yetzer hara for forbidden behaviour.” The former category “can be wonderful Jews, fully deserving of our love, respect, and support.” But the latter are not deserving of our love and respect? It is as if coming out of the closet is in it of itself halachically assur.

Disregarding the obviously ludicrous assertion that people ever develop an identity based around their personal preferences (“Hi, nice to meet you - I’m a chocolate ice cream eater.”), let us instead focus on their practical suggestion for how to appropriately handle someone who feels an unwanted SSA: “They should be encouraged to seek professional guidance.” Wait. What type of professional guidance? Should a rabbi be considered a professional? (These rabbis don’t advise gay people to seek “rabbinical” guidance.) Or are they instead alluding to - but never stating outright - professional therapists, who allegedly help re-orient homosexuals, thus allowing them to become the healthy, normal heterosexuals that society has always wanted them to be (for a sense of what this therapy consists of, please see my last post here)?

According to these rabbis, if we do not direct these struggling Jews to the closest JONAH office, but rather allow our sympathies to be hijacked and “conflated with public, celebratory identification of people with an urge for forbidden behaviour,” then we have unfortunately succumbed to the negative influences of the “[evil]” Western culture. However, what social mores are we in fact being swayed by? Do we live in a society that promotes the acceptance of homosexuals solely for the sake of accepting homosexuality? (You know, because everyone loves gay people.*rolling eyes*) Or are there more universal ideals at work here? For instance, the notion of basic individual, civil rights? Or the protection of minorities, as long as they don’t harm anyone? The same values that allow us to practice Judaism in a country that is primarily Christian...

And gosh do I hate repeating what I said in my response to Rabbi Twersy two and half weeks ago, but it really needs to be stressed: these rabbis are just as ensconced in the Western “Judeo-Christian” culture as their religious adherents. As such, they are equally susceptible to its influences, especially with regards to the popular stereotypes and prejudices as promulgated by its religious Christian-right. Case in point: If we determine morality by what the Torah and halacha dictates, then it is definitely safe to label homosexual practices as “immoral.” However, when they refer to homosexual activity as one of “the most egregious and vile forms of behaviour” and as "aberrant behaviour" they are really projecting their extra-Judaic attitudes onto the debate. Does halacha care if an action goes according to the norm or not? Even using the term “abomination,” represents a non-Jewish translation/tradition/sentiment of the word תועבה (toeiva). The Torah was not translated into English by rabbis. Rather, Christian scholars are mostly to blame for this association. (I know I promised not to broach religious issues, but bear with me for one last second.) The Torah also tells us not to eat anything that is a תועבה (Deuteronomy 14:3). But do we refrain from having bacon with our scrambled eggs because it tastes bad, or rather just because we’re not supposed to partake in it? These are subjective tastes, which Rabbis Schachter, Willig, Rosensweig, and Twersky cast as objective, based on their own personal/social biases.

So Moshe, please do not accept this article as the Torah viewpoint on homosexuality, but rather a viewpoint held by a few rabbis, who hopefully do not represent the rest of the Modern Orthodox community. All it surmounts to is a re-run of Rabbi Twersky's lecture: It reiterates the issur, but doesn't really explain how to deal with ALL the individuals it affects. It declares, "How to take such precautionary measures will, God willing, be discussed below." I guess God didn't will it? By all means Moshe, continue your dialogue with Rabbi Twersky. Maybe it will even eventually lead to positive understandings on both sides of the debate. But as I have already advised you to do, get in touch with a sympathetic rabbi. Because as well-intentioned as Rabbi Twersky and Co. are (does it sound as condescending when I say it too?), they can’t help but be influenced by the homophobic inclinations of the society around them.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Wait, who's the one with the agenda again?

Now that we’ve started talking about the issue of homosexuality within the Orthodox Jewish community, it is only inevitable that debates about reparative therapy should come up. Therefore, this article in the 5 Towns Jewish News shouldn’t surprise anyone: Unfortunately, whenever someone mentions reorientation therapy, s/he usually only approaches it as a scientific/political issue. Rarely does one describe where these theories/therapies come from nor what conversion therapy actually consists of. Therefore, let me elucidate:

Most ex-gay methods are based on the works of Joseph Nicolosi, a fundamentalist Christian researcher, and Richard Cohen, a Jewish-to-Christian convert with a sordid past. Nicolosi bases most of his ideas on the previously discredited works of Elizabeth Moberly, Edmund Bergler, Dr. Paul Cameron, and Drs. Irving Beiber and Charles Socarides. For instance, Dr. Paul Cameron published many studies, which spread stereotypes of gays as sex-addicted monsters, responsible for everything from spreading disease to causing increases in crime. To prove these hypotheses, Cameron used patients discharged from VD clinics as his representative sample. In Dr. Irving Beiber’s paper “Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals,” his three major findings were that most of his gay patients had overbearing mothers, experienced “profound interpersonal disturbance” in their relationships with their fathers, and fit a “sissy stereotype.” For his sample, Beiber interviewed 106 male homosexuals, including 28 schizophrenics, 31 neurotics, and 42 patients with character disorders. Unsurprisingly, his results could not be replicated by other, more diligent researchers.

To Nicolosi’s pseudo-science, Richard Cohen adds the New Age, holistic treatment of “touch therapy.” Cohen picked up this method during his stay with the Weslyan Christian Community, a cultish, religious sex-commune that was charged with sixteen counts of rape and other illegal sex acts against boys and girls ages two to thirteen. The idea of touch therapy is to promote “inner healing” and the demystification of one’s sexual fascination with the same sex through healthy physical interaction. Basically, this consists of group sessions where individuals massage and hug members of the same sex, thereby making them straight. And while in theory, this type of therapy is ludicrous, in practice, it can be downright destructive.

Granted, while groups like JONAH (Jews Offering Alternatives to Homosexuality) may not employ such electroshock treatments, which are more popular in ex-gay clinics in Israel (the sole reason being because it is illegal in the state of New York), still, their gender-affirming, gay aversion therapy can be just as psychologically harming as electroshock is physically. As described on JONAH's website, curing the homosexual of his same-sex attraction demands a variety of techniques, such as, and not exclusive to, “bibliotherapy,” “healing of the family system,” “support groups,” “receiving healthy touch and affection,” and “Jewish spiritual development.”

Bibliotherapy is based on Nicolosi’s theories that the root of homosexuality stems from childhood events that “turned” the patient gay (i.e. people aren’t born gay). Bibliotherapy is used to determine what that root is. It could be any number of things. Cohen has even been known to bring patients back to intrauterine experience, where the patient’s mother harboured negative feelings towards the male sex, thus causing the patient to deny love from his father and set him up for a life full of Barbie dolls, good hair, and shrill whining.

Once a root is determined, the patient must then learn to repair his relationship with his father and detach from his overbearing mother (“healing of the family system”). This occurs regardless of whether, in reality, the patient has a bad relationship with his father or a too-close one with his mother - the fact that he is gay PROVES that he has dysfunctional relationships with both of his parents. Therefore, his life coaches at JONAH will help him to reinterpret childhood events in ways that focus on negative relationships with the father, just to demonstrate how bad it truly is. In addition, they encourage the patient to distance himself from his mother in an effort to "detach," damaging that relationship as well. So much for healing the family system...

Even more psychologically harming than this psycho-analytical therapy are the group sessions at JONAH. At the beginning of the session, each member confesses whether or not they slipped recently. Then, they declare what their gay sexual-triggers are. When thinking about these triggers, they are to imagine themselves throwing up or employ other sorts of Clockwork Orangian, aversive techniques. Lastly, they must outwardly analyze what they find attractive in each other and why, the notion being that people are attracted to the qualities in others that they themselves feel deficient in. For instance, I can be attracted to someone’s strong arms, if I believe mine are weak. This part of the session basically amounts to extended periods of time dedicated to self-deprecation: “I think you are awesome, because I am a big, fat loser.” The sessions finally close with a hearty dose of “healthy touch and affection” (hopefully with that guy with the strong arms).

Now admittedly, by just focusing on the information above, ex-gay therapy doesn’t seem THAT harmful – unpleasant, maybe. It definitely shouldn’t warrant the 125 to 4 vote against practicing it by the American Psychological Association, in August. Heck, it gives gay individuals hope! It gives them an option they wouldn’t otherwise have. Due to whatever reasons, religious or otherwise, these are individuals who would never live a life as an admitted homosexual in the first place. Therefore, we should at least allow them to try to cleanse themselves of their “unwanted same-sex attractions,” if they so choose to. No?

No. For the most dangerous aspect of ex-gay therapy is, in fact, this false-hope, which organizations, like JONAH, conjure. These ex-gay counsellors prey on the confused and helpless. They warn these lost boys about the evils of a stereotypical, constructed “gay lifestyle.” For instance, here's a excerpt from an email that one of the directors of JONAH sent to their entire listerve:
"I am a Reformed/Conservative Jew. If I were a guy who felt persistent SSA, here would be a FEW of the reasons I would work my touchas off to 'change': Gay men die significantly earlier than hetero men (the exact number of years is debatable); Gay men are 3 x's more likely to be: alcoholics, drug addicts, suicide victims, sufferers of depression, victims of sexual abuse, perpetrators of sexual abuse, and sufferers of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Over 90% of gay men never find a permanent partner; Gay men with permanent partners are over 90% non-monogamous after 5 years; Gay men are 55 times more likely to contract AIDS than hetero men; Over 75% of gay men get a sexually transmitted disease; Over 40% of gay men have more than 500 partners in their lifetime... Isn't there enough pain in the gay community to make you not want to be gay other than Halachah?"
Then, they convince these struggling homosexuals that they can “choose” to be straight. However, in the end, if an inflicted individual doesn’t become straight, it is not JONAH’s fault, but rather the patient’s for not trying hard enough – he yearned too strongly for that demonic gay lifestyle. For, according to their experts, ex-gay therapy has a success rate of as high as 85%. If someone leaves unchanged, then he didn’t stay in the program long enough. How long is the program, you ask? Well, it varies from person to person, but it can definitely take a lifetime of healing – a lifetime of competitive sports, drinking beer, and healthy touching (though doubtfully in that consecutive order).

In addition, ex-gay organizations target family and friends with this false hope. If homosexuality was not a choice, it would be considerably easier for a homosexual to “come out” to his family and friends. However, ex-gay organizations persuade everyone to think that he is not actually the victim, but rather the offender in this crime, because, if he just wanted to, he could get rid of his same-sex attractions. Parents, who would have otherwise accepted their gay son, are now only frustrated with him for being stubborn. Bearing all of this pressure and feelings of failure in mind, it is no wonder that reparative therapy often leads to depression and a higher incidence of suicide.

Hopefully by now, most readers will realize the dangers of engaging in this form of therapy. Additionally, hopefully I have given them an aversive reaction to the organizations themselves, organizations which claim not to hate homosexuals or take political stands yet act as expert witnesses at many trials to prevent homosexuals from attaining civil rights, for instance in the Supreme Court case of Proposition 22 in California. However, for those people who will still maintain no sympathy for abominations – let’s call them homophobes for now – and who would still prefer to subject homosexuals to this risky and dangerous form of therapy, because, supposedly, "the debate is still up in the air," perhaps I can at last sway them with an appeal to their religious convictions. (Although, probably not.)

JONAH was founded by Reform Jews to act as a Jewish front for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a seemingly secular, non-profit organization with a primarily right-wing Christian leadership and backing. The last technique of JONAH’s that I mentioned above was “Jewish spiritual development.” JONAH says that they “blend lessons from the Torah (what Christians refer to as the Old Testament) with other Jewish sources in order to help individuals access their inner souls and thus recapture their G-d given inherent heterosexuality.” In addition to what Christians refer to as the Old Testament, JONAH actually promotes a lot of Christian-produced literature as well, with the disclaimer: "Many of these books are Christian, but offer plenty of helpful ideas for nonbelievers too." Inside, the books usually say that the only way to become straight is to embrace Jesus Christ as your lord and saviour. Also, JONAH sends their patients on shabbaton-esque weekend retreats, called “Journey into Manhood,” with other, mostly Christian, religious groups. With all of these pluralistic beliefs, you have a greater chance of producing ex-Jews than ex-Gays!

So please, for the sake of every gay individual’s mind, body, and soul, let us quickly move past this distracting idea of therapy and instead look for more constructive methods for dealing with this complex tolerance issue of homosexuality in our communities.