Sunday, October 5, 2008

On Being Jewish and SSA (Same Sex Attracted)

There is an article in AISH.com which is a website on Judaism and Spirituality. I have been reading their material for years and much of it is very good.

There is an article called, The Straight Path Home: My personal struggles with homosexuality. The essence of it is that the writer, "David" does not feel that homosexuality is right for him nor does he see himself as a gay man. He writes:



I didn't have to "change" anything. The definition of teshuva is returning
to one's true self, one's soul. The sexual attraction I felt to other men was
not my true nature; it was an attempt driven by my yetzer hara, my baser self,
to satisfy unmet needs, a symptom of missed developmental opportunities and
distorted perceptions


Most of it is good in terms of his struggle with SSA and his Judaism. I write on this very blog about how men exist who act out homosexually and are not gay. The problem with "David's" article is that he believe that all those who struggle with SSA's are not right and cannot lead healthy lives as gay men. This is not true as I have seen differently in my own life and amongst my clients who ultimately come out as gay.

However, there are definitely many men who struggle with SSA's and never come out--nor should they--because either they are not gay and the SSA's are a result of other problems or they are innately homosexual but living a gay affirmative life would be fraught with problems.

The place the author is misguided--and anti-gay--is when he paints a broad brush about all men who struggled with SSA is here:

I grew up in what psychologists call a "triadic family" -- it is so
common in the backgrounds of men who struggle with homosexuality that it has a
name. A distant or belittling father, an emotionally smothering or needy mother,
and in the center a boy with nobody to guide him on the path to manhood. A boy
for whom manhood has become dangerous, threatening, distant. A boy who grows up feeling different from other boys and men, yet yearns to connect with them, with
his own masculinity.


As a therapist I see many men coming from this type of background that are not gay at all--nor are they struggling with sexual issues of any kind.

This believe that this family dynamic is "so common in the backgrounds of men who struggle with homosexuality" is old-school thinking from the 1960's and false. In addition it doesn't address lesbianism at all.

I have treated straight men and women with family dynamics exactly like this and, again, their suffering does not include anything related to homosexuality. It is like the old theory that Schizophrenic children were the product of "refrigerator" cold mothers. That is, until we discovered that Schizophrenia is genetic and the mothers were detached from these babies because the babies could not attach to her. Psychiatry and Psychology had to reexamine that false dynamic created around this.

Then the author addresses JONAH, which he feels helped him. However here is what JONAH is really about:

JONAH

Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH) is a Jersey
City-based Jewish “ex-gay” ministry. The organization adheres to NARTH’s archaic
reparative therapy model and promotes the work of the International Healing
Foundation’s Richard Cohen, a discredited fundamentalist Christian therapist and
former Moonie who was expelled for life from the American Counseling Association
in 2002.

JONAH perpetuates the unwise idea that gay people should marry,
even if they are not attracted to their opposite-sex spouse. According to an
article by Rabbi Joel Beasley posted prominently on JONAH’s site: “But even if
their innermost desires remained unfulfilled, it does not matter. It may never
become clear why some people do not feel predisposed to marrying someone of the
opposite sex. The obligation remains.

Marriage is meant to teach people
how to rise above their own selfish needs in order to give to a partner who is
both psychologically and physiologically different.” This idea of marriage at
all costs is cruel and unfair to the gay individual struggling to accept his or
her sexual orientation. But, it is just as harmful for the spouse, who will
likely find an unsatisfying marriage that may end in heartbreak and divorce.

JONAH is so wedded to its interpretation of doctrine that it seems to
have little regard for the feelings and legitimate needs of people – including
children - who would suffer inside such catastrophic marriages. In the same
article by Rabbi Beasley, crass stereotypes are used to oppose same-sex unions
and promote heterosexual marriage: “Same-gender marriages might have been too
easy. As one essayist put it, male couples would have been able to sit around
and watch ballgames all day; female couples would have been able to sit down and
really talk about one another's feelings. But marriage is meant to challenge
each of the partners.”Perhaps, the biggest concern that most Jews have about
JONAH is that it appears to be a front for converting Jews to Christianity.

While there are a few obligatory Jewish resources on the organization’s
website, the majority of the books recommended to readers are written by born
again Christian authors. Works offered on the site by Richard Cohen, Joe Dallas,
Jeff Konrad, Alan Medinger and John Paulk are deeply sectarian and consider
believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior a crucial component in “overcoming”
homosexuality.

JONAH even pushes a book co-written by Wheaton College’s Stanton Jones and
Pat Robertson University’s Mark Yarhouse entitled, “Homosexuality: The Use of
Scientific Research in the Church's Moral Debate.” For Jews who attend
Synagogue, not church, this reading list may seem a bit peculiar, if not
downright offensive. It is debatable whether JONAH’s real mission is to create
ex-gays or ex-Jews. Like other ex-gay organizations, JONAH keeps no statistics
and offers the promise of change without any documentation of success.

The group relies on anecdotal stories and promotes a therapeutic
approach that is not supported by any mainstream medical or mental health
organization.


So I hope that those who read Straight Guise can understand that while there is help available you must ensure that you are receiving the correct help that does not include hateful information and ways of an organization the ways in which JONAH, NARTH and any other reparatative therapy organization does.

There is nothing wrong with someone who has unwanted interests and behaviors toward sexual experiences with other men. There is something very wrong with those who say that man has to be gay or could never be gay. There are many things between this and the man needs to have the right to search this out himself.

A great book on homosexuality and Judaism on this topic is:




The author states that there is nothing in the Torah which states that homosexuality is wrong and bad. It does state, however, that if it is not your "true" nature and identity than, perhaps this behavior should be stopped. Back when the Torah was written people did not understand that homosexuality could be an identity the way we understand today.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Joe,
Once again I must disagree with your interpretation of this kind of thinking as old school. It is much more common than you know. Simply because the men that come to you may not be dealing with this kind of struggle does not mean that it is not common.
What was once old is new again.

Joe Kort said...

It is old school and uneducated to say that "all homosexuality" is the result of bad parenting.

As you can see on this site, I absolutely believe that there are men who struggle with sexual behaviors which are homosexual and same sex attractions. However, if they are able to rid themselves of this, they were not gay at the start.

Heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality cannot be changed with a program, religion or even fear. Behavior can change, not identity.

Groups like JONAH should leave lesbians and gays out of their vocabulary and simply talk about heterosexuals who are struggling with same sex behaviors and attractions.

They are misguided in promoting their anti-gay agendas by promising a change of identity and orientation.

Anonymous said...

Dear Joe,

I appreciate the balance you are attempting to create here. As I said in other posts, you've gained a rare balance in this that I don't see a lot of out there.

Let me say, I'm not sure where I fall into--gay, bi, neither, straight, dog, cat lol. However, I also do have to say (and I'm not saying I'm right) from my seeking, my speaking with gays, and straights, and ex-gays, and bi's to learn for myself what the reality is of where they are coming from and what their experiences are...you can call it old school but the reality is 90% of those I talk to have the same if not very similar backgrounds. Everytime I give it the benefit of the doubt with the belief I'm misguided, it comes up again and again. Example: I read Clay Aiken's coming out article and there it is again--almost like a gay formula. Absent father, strong male peer rejection and I hear it all the time! Now, I'm not saying this to refute you. I'm saying this, because personally, as a guy seeking, it scares the shit out of me. You tell me its old school, but my street experience with real people tells me different even when I would be glad to be proven wrong. Which right now, what that says to me that though no formula is exact, 90% is a high figure for me.

And there is also another factor...there are guys I know who say no sexual abuse occured, that they got along great with their father so they don't fit that formula. And they are 'great' at explaining it away. But keep at it, dig deeper, talk to them long enough, and what I've found is its just that their family systems are all they knew and they think it is "normal". They weren't taught what qualifies as sexual abuse and instead say well, it was experimenting. Their very same siblings may not exhibit homsexuality but dig deeper and they got some hang up or worked through some hang up.

The reality is after having been part of helping family raise 3 children, I discovered something amazing. Children know nothing coming into this world. Not even what they like or don't like. They learn everything through imitation of their parents and then through fellow peers who are also imitating that. And all those kids remember as grown ups, is that they always liked sports, girls, guys...fill in the blank.
That's because our minds don't remember that far back of when all any of us were doing was imitating the parents and peers. Those who we wanted love and acceptance from and male initiation with.

So what happens when all the guy has to imitate from is either an overdose of the feminine or abusive people or is essentially isolated?

I guess in conclusion, I have to ask what does this mean for me? And I don't know but I do know I'm asking myself something as of late...could it be that my relating to guys sexually stems out of my own past and abadonment issues and I call it "attraction"? Would if it isn't attraction but a drive based on a way to cope?

Lots of questions yet for me. A part of me wants to say you are right Joe because it would be easier, but in the real world out there, I only find evidence in the lives of men and women out there that point to the contrary even though they themselves may want to believe otherwise--even at times, I would.

These are just my thoughts for the day we call Today. I'm still on the journey.

Anonymous said...

anonymous,
You have expressed my own experience extremely well, so when I hear someone saying this is old school my first feeling is they are in an extreme staight of denial or they are covering something up that they do not want the general public to know. There should be no shame in admitting that bad things have happened to people, but first you must be able to recognize what those bad things were and how they affected your thoughts and development throughout your life.

Anonymous said...

Correction,

I meant state of denial, not "staight".

Anonymous said...

Well, thanks. I am a better writer than a speaker. There's still a lot of questions I have, and I'm actually trying an experiment now that you can read on my own blog at http://onstrangeplanet.blogspot.com/

I would love anyone's insight as I seek my path and follow my intuition.