Op-Ed: YU "Gay" Panel: A Trojan Horse
Arthur GoldbergArthur Goldberg and Elaine Silodor Berk are joint authors of this article...
A controversial event called “Being Gay in the Orthodox World” was held at Yeshiva University (YU) in late December 2009. Its program illustrates a classic strategy designed to manipulate Jews into adopting a new set of ideas and perceptions so as to change the way homosexuals are looked at within the Jewish world. Those who advocated this type of public discourse intended to influence the listeners to arrive at a conclusion that would be internalized as their own.
The panel’s objective was to change the mind-set of the average “straight” person to a belief that homosexuality is innate and unchangeable. If that myth is accepted, a push will be made to try to change the halakhah (Jewish law)
The goal is first to evoke sympathy and then change it into advocation of legitimacy.
for those who, it is perceived, “can’t help being what they are". In effect, the goal is first to evoke sympathy and then change it into advocation of legitimacy.
If you think the above statements are homophobic rantings, just listen to the words of Rabbi Steve Greenberg, the first rabbi to publicly identify himself as Orthodox and gay. In discussing the YU panel on homosexuality, he explains,
“The first step is to tell the stories that break people’s hearts, … I like to say that only a broken-hearted Orthodox leadership will move forward to consider any halakhic re-evaluation of the issue. The next step in this conversation,” he continued, “is [to answer] ‘How can the halacha incorporate that reality’ of homosexuals who wish to maintain their level of observance and ties to the religious community?” He concludes by informing us that the Panel “was the first time an Orthodox institution has been willing to listen to our stories in a public forum, … It’s a game changer. It challenges people to come up with thoughtful ways to respond.”
Initially set forth more than 20 years ago by two gay activist writers, Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen, the YU Panel exemplifies the focus of a massive public relations effort to portray gay-identified persons as "victims" and thus change the perceptions of the Orthodox Jewish community. This specific campaign was spelled out in their manifesto: After the Ball: How America will conquer its fear & hatred of Gays in the 90's (1989: Doubleday). The thesis was simple: if homosexuals can be portrayed as victims of hatred and oppression, they would ultimately win the “battle for [the] hearts and minds of America”, or in this case, the Jewish nation, by transforming sympathy into legitimacy.
The YU panelists, by providing heart-rending testimonies, followed the strategy of Kirk and Madsen, who suggest delivering a carefully calculated “unabashedly subjective and one-sided…propaganda effort” (After the Ball, p. 163).
Members of the "ex-gay" community were denied an opportunity to appear on the Panel or to have their representatives present a different viewpoint.
After the panel, many individuals in the standing-room only crowd were ready to accept the myth that homosexual orientation and feelings cannot be changed and felt a desire to validate the pain and suffering of those who argued they "were made differently by G-d." This reaction is the response the panel sought to effect, but we ask whether the panelists are indeed true victims or simply clever purveyors of a propaganda effort to alter attitudes within the Orthodox community.
Kirk and Madsen stressed that in order to prevail in the world of public opinion it is important to avoid telling anything that would upset listeners. In this respect, the panelists were circumspect; they did not offer any details about their personal lives
Kirk and Madsen advise that homosexuals must portray themselves as victims of circumstances who “no more choose their sexual orientation then they did, say, their height, skin color, talents, or limitations.” (184) This posits that sexual orientation is already determined at birth - whether or not there exists any scientific basis for such a claim. (There is no scientific basis for such a claim, it is guesswork, see What Research Shows, Journal of Human Sexuality, Vol. 1, 2009, NARTH).
Even though Kirk and Madsen recognized the invalidity of the "born gay" theory, they emphasized the need for homosexuals to say it. “For all practical purposes, gays should be considered to have been born gay—even though for most humans, this seems to be the product of a complex interaction between innate predispositions and environmental factors during childhood and early adolescence.” (184).
Here are two illustrations of how panel members implemented Kirk and Madsen's advice: One panelist boldly stated, "My test is not that Hashem made me gay and I have to become straight but my test is to live with it." And the rabbinical adviser informed us that the point of the panel is to address "the pain and the conflict that is caused by someone "being" gay in the Orthodox world" (thereby implying the lack of free will or ability to do something about it).
Another part of the strategy is creating a false dichotomy: either you are totally supportive of us by advocating our agenda or you are against us, leaving out the possibility of a middle ground. To quote one of the panelists, "Kicking a kid out of camp because of a passionate understanding or misunderstanding of some great Gadol is hurting children." This may be true, but is this the only option? Of course not! Why not provide the youngster and his family, with counseling and expert assistance, with the understanding that homosexual attractions are an emotional response to unresolved emotional wounds?
Not once in the panel presentation do we hear about the possibility of change of orientation - which is the Torah true response - and should have been at least represented by someone on the panel.
While we recognize that some people may feel better admitting to same sex attraction (SSA), and that those who
Not one reliable study exists showing the existence of gay genes.
do have the freedom in today's society to do so, there is a large body of people for whom such an identity is painful, whether it be for religious or social reasons.
However, “gay rights" advocates feel that trying treatment options for these people threatens them and have successfully convinced many (including numerous mental health professionals and religious leaders) that people are "born gay" and that change is impossible. Such a belief system is totally fallacious, scientifically unsound, and contradicts basic Torah principles.
The undisputed fact is that not one reliable study exists showing the existence of gay genes. In fact, the massive well-controlled Twin Studies show the infinitesimal odds of any study proving that people are born gay. Over 10,000 pairs of identical twins were tracked for decades in Australia, Sweden, and Finland. Although advocates hoped these studies would prove that homosexuality was genetic, the results showed the exact opposite: If one twin is gay, the other twin has only a 10% or less chance of being gay. Over 90% of the time, identical twins (i.e. those who share the same genes) are discordant for homosexuality. There is simply no scientific proof of innate traits. ( See www.mygenes.co.nz )
It is important to remember that the Torah has no word for "homosexual," only for homosexual acts. The Torah considers such acts a form of behavior, and behavior can change. It does not accept "gay" as an identity. Western culture increasingly does.
We may want to offer acceptance to those who won't try to overcome homosexuality. But acceptance is not the same as telling youngsters who may feel confused about their identity that they were "born that way" nor that they should follow their feelings in order to lead a non-traditional life, one which is fraught with high rates of emotional, physical, and addictive problems caused by the unresolved emotional issues underlying SSA.
While we strongly empathize with those who suffer from a lack of self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence as well as isolation from the social relationships of the majority, these problems can be overcome by the analogous processes of Teshuvah and gender affirmation. True Teshuvah, the Jewish process of rebirth, is an internal transformational process of self-reflection, value clarification, and study.
Behavior changes are a by-product of this intense effort. Changing ingrained emotional responses, behaviors, and feelings does not occur in a single day or even in a single year. Homosexuality doesn't just vanish because a person decides he or she doesn't want it. There are benefits to be had from effective and knowledgeable counseling that parallels the process of Teshuvah. (See, Light in the Closet: Torah, Homosexuality, and the Power to Change, Los Angeles: Red Heifer Press, 2d printing, 2009)
Why we characterize the YU panel as a “Trojan Horse”
We believe the YU Panel was a Trojan Horse that may have appeared as an innocent discussion of the pain and suffering of “coming out of the closet”. In reality, it had a subliminal agenda that seeks to influence the hearts and minds of ordinary citizens as a means of forcing acceptance of the homosexual culture onto the Jewish community while seeking to silence opposition to this hidden agenda.
The real victims of the politically correct and scientifically incorrect event held at YU are the innumerable individuals who feel same-sex attractions (SSA) but who could change, their families, and the entire Jewish community. All of them are being fed the politically correct myths of gay activism i.e. that SSA is unique among all the emotional and spiritual problems that humanity suffers because of the false premise that such attractions are inborn and unchangeable.
We hope that next time YU or any other institution decides to discuss the "victimology" of SSA, they admit who the real victims are.
It is further hoped that these institutions, rather than attempting to transform sympathy into legitimacy, will provide life-giving information about the existence and effectiveness of various gender-affirming processes, set forth the treatment options available for sexual disorientation, and strongly encourage people’s attempting to benefit from them.
(For information about available resources to assist men and women struggling with these issues, please contact JONAH (www.jonahweb.org) at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 201 433 3444. in the USA.)