Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Dad, I'm really ok with it."

Last Friday night my son and I attended a shalom zachar.   We were leaving the home of the baal simchah at the very same time that the Rav of our shul was also exiting.  I introduced my son to the rabbi, who has only been in this position for less than a year and had never met my son.  They talked a bit.  The rabbi asked what my son is doing with his life.  After a few other pointed questions, the rabbi asked my son if he is married. The rabbi knows that we have a son who is gay.  We had spoken to him about our familial situation when he took on this position in our community.

When my son replied that he is not married, the rabbi told him that he would work towards finding him a b'shert in the city where my son is working, as he knows some young women there.  I was standing about five feet away.  My son glanced at me and smiled respectfully to the rabbi.  We bade farewell and left the house.

As we were walking home in the darkness, my son said to me, "I thought he knew."  I replied, "so did I."

We continued our walk a bit further and my son said to me, "Dad, I'm really ok with it, but are you?"

We walked home in silence.

Saul David

Monday, July 30, 2012

"If I am able to return to God...I must originally have been with God" - J.J. Petuchowski







On Tisha B'Av we commemorate not only the physical destruction of the Temple, but even more critically, our spiritual alienation from HaKodesh Baruch Hu.
The Shekhinah is exiled from our midst.  We mourn this loss more than the destruction of Jerusalem.  We are saddened by the perceived distance that HKBH has placed between ourselves and the Divine.


Parha'at Vaet'hanan comes on the heels of Tisha B'Av and at the beginning of our season of repentance leading up to the Days of Awe. The parsha challenges us to rethink our understanding of returning to God.  As the parsha declares, "But if you search there for the Lord your God, you will find him, if only you seek Him with all your heart and soul."


But teshuvah is a proactive experience.  Quite beautifully, Jakob J. Petuchowski writes, "If I am able to return to God, it follows that, notwithstanding my going astray, I must originally have been with God.  Man's natural state, so to speak, is therefore to be with God, to lead his life in the presence of God and in accordance with God's will" (Judaism 17, 178-179).


It has been quite a while since I have posted to this blog.  I apologize for that, but I do not have a lot to say.  Except that I am in constant contact with friends and parents of children who are gay.  I continue to listen to their stories, their struggle, their pain and their triumphs and their continued support of their children.


It fills my heart with tremendous pride and joy when I hear that a young man or woman has overcome the initial trauma of discovery, acceptance and proclamation of his or her sexuality, and has moved on to succeed in his or her pursuit of their dreams.


A case in point.  One of the speakers at the YU symposium on December 2009 spoke about hitting rock bottom and having contemplated suicide.  But with true faith and the support and acceptance of those friends and relatives who love him and stand behind him, he has been able to pull his life together and move forward.  This brave young man graduated from YU, continued onto NYU where he recently received his PhD in Jewish History, and he is moving to Oxford University to conduct his post-doctoral activities.


Mazal Tov Josh......  "Search there for the Lord your God, you will find Him."


Be well.


Saul David

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"I have dreamt"

In the course of writing this blog, I have been in contact with many parents and their children.  About eighteen months ago a young man wrote me and asked for advice as to how to finally tell his parents he is gay.  Since that time we have been corresponding on a regular basis.  He is bright and articulate.  He has since initiated his own blog, entitled "Chalamti: I have dreamt."


With his permission, I have copied one of his most recent posts.


You can read more at chalamti.blogspot.com.


Enjoy.


SD



With every movement there is an unspoken, unwritten history that tends to be forgotten.  The gay rights movement—and specifically the movement for recognition within the Orthodox Jewish community—is no different.  Over the past few years there has been an amazing amount of attention to gay and lesbian individual.  We have been the subject of panel discussions, video documentaries, op-eds and rabbinical statements.  And we have seen progress within the Modern Orthodox community.  People know, even if they cannot understand, that it is difficult to be gay and religious.  Some have even begun to press for recognition of gay relationships. The forgotten individuals in our stories are our parents.  
Obviously, I cannot tell you about the struggles that a parent faces when they discover or are informed of their child’s sexuality because I have not lived on that side of the story.  I imagine that some wish their child was heterosexual.  Others, if faced with a child who shirks religion in favor of comfort with her sexual identity, may pray that their child find a place in the fold of religious observance.  When I came out to my father he was accepting (I was shocked) but disappointed that I would never have the chance to raise a family as he did.  My mother wished (wishes? I’m not sure) that I would one day wake up and realize my heterosexuality.  They both love me for who I am, but I don’t think they expected or anticipated my homosexuality while raising me. 
It is not easy being gay, but it must be hard to know that your child is treated like a second class citizen and condemned by many in society. Little networking or support exists to unify and strengthen these parents in the challenges they face.  In the past I’ve mentioned Tmicha, an e-mail list-serve that attempts to do exactly this.  I’ve also linked to a blog the documents these struggles.  But is this enough?  While we protect and fight for our own recognition, we gays and lesbians must also ensure that our parents are shielded from the unfortunate small-mindedness that permeates our society.  We must applaud those parents who accept and support us and we must understand those who currently unable to reach this enlightened level of being.   
I am grateful for my parents and impressed by the positive energy I have seen emanate from some other parents I know

Monday, June 6, 2011

"No parent should have to bury their child." - Theoden

The first entry of this blog was titled "A Family Changed Forever."  I wrote about how our dreams have been shattered and the change that has hit our family.

But everything pales in comparison to the loss of a child.  Over the last few days we have been mourning as friends, as family and as a community, as we were struck with the news of the untimely death of a 28 year old man, just three weeks before his wedding.

There are no answers.  There are only questions.

It is the ultimate test of faith.

Over the last 12 months I can count at least five times that I personally know, of a parent who had to bury their child .

It is not natural.

On another note........

I have not had anything to write since February when I discussed the establishment of a parents' group.  I have been asked by several parents about this group.  Unfortunately, I was not asked nor was I involved with setting up this group.  Before it got off the ground, I suggested that it be held under the banner of "Kirtzono" but those who were involved did not agree.  As such, it was set up as a closed parents group.  Its membership numbers 19, including my wife and I.  There have been only a few discussions and the last time anyone wrote into it was two months ago.

The google group is called Temicha and you have to be invited.  Please send an email to rabbi.sarna@gmail.com.  He will send you an invitation to join the group.

Ironic? No?  These young men and women want to be heard and accepted and we parents are hiding behind a google group.

Boy am I going to get @#%& for this one.

Be well and let's hug our kids.  Who knows what's in store for any of us.

Saul David

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"If you build it, they will come."

On December 15, 2010, I posted a letter from a mother who suggested the following.......



Thus, I make a modest proposal that this blog serve as a way for parents to make contact with one another, to establish a buddy system so that no parent feels s/he is alone following the disclosure that a child is gay. Perhaps we can develop a pairing of parents, so to speak, who are willing to communicate with one another.  The questions, the problems, the comforts of a shared experience are ours to offer to one another in a context of sensitivity, religious commitment, empathy and concern for our children.  We need to be supportive of our children, but we too need support and comfort. This can be done with a therapist of course, and that is a good option for many parents and family members.  But less intense help can also come from another parent who has been in our shoes. Perhaps there are parents who are willing to write or speak to someone just beginning the road to acceptance and understanding.  And perhaps parents who feel they would benefit from this kind of anonymous and discreet contact can write into the blog and find that other family who is willing to show them support and help them deal with the challenge of living with the knowledge that they have a gay child.

Well this letter sparked some movement in a positive direction.  I received a comment from Erez, suggesting that a listserve be created.  A few weeks later, I received a call from a New York psychiatrist offering her services if such a group would start to "meet'.  My son relayed a message from a young rabbi in New York who is willing to be a moderator and a few other health professionals and parents have agreed to get involved in setting something up.
The goal is to be up and running in the next few weeks.

Be well.

Saul David

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"The Torah was not given to the ministering angels." - Me'ilah 14a

There is so much we have learned over the last few years.

In terms of friends, relatives and the support they offer we always felt that it was important to acknowledge and speak about the fact that our son is gay.  There are some people who we told and there are others who heard about it, and we were aware of the fact that they knew about it.  Knowing this, we expected them to say something, anything, to acknowledge this new reality.

One family in particular said nothing to us, yet we knew that they knew.  It was just recently that we asked why they had never mentioned anything to us.  Their response was that there was no need to, since it didn't matter and nothing is any different.

This evening I received a letter from our friend.

SD

I would like to relate a story that illustrates how reading your blog and knowing you and your family has made me a better and more caring physician and human being.


A 15 year old patient, let’s call her Joan, whom I have known for almost 10 years, recently came to see me for a follow up appointment together with her mother. During the appointment Joan revealed that she recently came out to her parents that she was transgendered. Joan also informed me that she was now going by John and preferred to be considered male. From then on I felt completely comfortable calling him John.

He described in detail how he had come out on the internet the previous year and how he was so nervous to confide in his parents. It turns out his mother is very supportive but his father is not. His parents are divorced and his father is not coping well. They are Reform Jews and their Rabbi has been extremely supportive. The one thing his mother is having difficulty with is calling him John. When I asked her why, she told me that she adopted a baby girl and now she no longer has that girl. She explained that she knows that John is happier now that he has come out and she will get used to calling him John and loves him as she always has.

Over the years John was teased and bullied and depressed and I did not really know why. He described to me being very upset when his breasts began to develop and how he went on the internet to learn to tape them flat and ultimately made a video which was posted on the internet and has helped others.

We discussed hormonal therapy which he called “T”, his name for testosterone, and the possibility of surgery down the road. Needless to say the appointment went on a great deal longer than the scheduled 30 minutes. He left having had an opportunity to talk freely and openly with his physician and I felt that I was able to provide them support and guidance.

So how does this relate to the blog and knowing you and your family? I am embarrassed to say that 3 years ago had John and his mother come to see me, my response would have been different and my ability to truly understand what they were going through would have been woefully inadequate. I would have been the typical physician by saying the”right” things but thinking that there was something that could be done to change the situation and make it more “normal”. I would have been supportive but would not have been confident in having a frank and open discussion and giving meaningful advice and counseling.

Reading the blog and knowing your son and your family has made me a more informed, non judgmental and caring physician. I have always known that in Medicine the more you learn, the more you realize you do not know, but the added dimension for me has been to more clearly recognize my deficiencies as a physician in dealing with families and patients whose sexual orientation is not the same as mine. I now truly feel more knowledgeable and I am able to impart that knowledge to my peers and colleagues and most importantly be a better physician to my patients and their families. I have directed a number of my colleagues to your blog. I have made a special point of ensuring that my fellow Jewish Orthodox physicians read the blog and then, in follow up discussions have seen that in most cases they too have learned and hopefully become better physicians to their patients.

You and your family are a great source of strength to many people and you have taught me that we can, and should, all be advocates to the best of our ability in our own unique way.


Be well, my friend.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"I'm innocent. You've got to believe I'm innocent." - Richard M. Nixon

So when you finally reach out to your rabbi after a few days of emotional hell, and he tells you that you should turn to an organization like JONAH, ask him if there is a moral or ethical dilemma in the fact that neither JONAH nor NARTH are actually legitimate counselling organizations.  In fact JONAH is headed by a known and convicted felon, while NARTH, the organization that JONAH derives its strength from is nothing more than a right-wing Christian organization.

Do they even realize who they are getting involved with?

It gets better.  Read on.........

Dr. George Alan Rekers has resigned from his position as sitting board member of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), following allegations that he received erotic massages from a male prostitute.


Rekers, an anti-gay activist for decades, took a 10 day European vacation with a male escort he met on the gay site, Rent Boy.com.


20 year old Jo-Vanni Roman (called in his work, “Lucien”) is a gay escort who says they met through the explicit website Rentboy.com.


Rekers denied the accusations, claiming he he hired Roman to help carry his luggage while he recovered from surgery. He said he only found out Roman was an escort partway through the trip, and tried as a Christian minister to turn the youth from homosexuality.


NARTH's Response to the media scandal:


In response to the media scandal, begun by the Miami New Times, and later picked up by the Miami Herald, FOX, CNN, MSNBC, The Rachel Maddow Show, Anderson Cooper, and many others, NARTH has posted the following on their official website:


"I am immediately resigning my membership in NARTH to allow myself the time necessary to fight the false media reports that have been made against me. With the assistance of a defamation attorney, I will fight these false reports because I have not engaged in any homosexual behavior whatsoever. I am not gay and never have been." --George A. Rekers, Ph.D.


NARTH has accepted Dr. Rekers' resignation and would hope that the legal process will sufficiently clarify the questions that have arisen in this unfortunate situation. We express our sincere sympathy to all individuals, regardless of their perspective, who have been injured by these events. We also wish to reiterate our traditional position that these personal controversies do not change the scientific data, nor do they detract from the important work of NARTH. NARTH continues to support scientific research, and to value client autonomy, client self-determination and client diversity.

By the way, if you go to the "rentboy" site, there is no way that you can confuse this.

Be well.

Saul David