Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"A desire for lobster dinner is not a violation of kashrus laws, only the dinner is. The same is true with homosexuality."

The other day, after Rabbis Helfgot and Freundel spoke, my wife and I sat with Rabbi Freundel over lunch. In a friendly manner, we continued our discussion. At one point, Rabbi Freundel stated that he would like to see a study done about the failure of reparative therapy.

Not a study done about the success of reparative therapy, but the failure of reparative therapy. He said that everyone is claiming that reparative therapy doesn't work, but he would like to see a scientific study conducted to prove it doesn't work. He then went on to say that if in fact reparative therapy was unsuccessful, maybe it was not the fault of the therapy, but due to some other factor weighing on the subject's psyche.

I answered by saying that I don't need scientific proof. My proof is in the large amount of young men who have told me that they have gone through reparative therapy, only to fail at it, sometimes leading them to the point of suicide.

I quietly vowed to myself that I would find the information that Rabbi Fruendel was searching for. I will post my findings over the next few days.

Here is the first one...................

But stay tuned......

There's more on the way.


ABC News

The Toughest Call: Conversion Therapy

Jennifer Lee Had a Tough Choice to Make When She Found Out Her Husband Is Gay


Sept. 22, 2007 —

Jennifer Lee thought she'd found the man of her dreams when she met Steve Lee. He was handsome, sensitive and most of all funny.

They quickly fell in love and after Jennifer converted to Mormonism, they married. After a few years, they welcomed a son. Despite their seemingly happy, secure relationship, Steve was hiding a secret, one he'd had since he was 19 years old.

Jennifer was devastated when her husband told her he is gay.

She was suddenly faced with the toughest call she could imagine: should she stay with her husband who has just come out to her or should she leave him? Although the news shocked and upset her, Jennifer decided something could be done.

"I started to convince myself it didn't have to be," Jennifer said, "and I started to convince him it didn't have to be and he agreed."

Steve, a devout Mormon, feared God would not accept him if he were gay. The couple met with their bishop who urged Steve to rid himself of his homosexuality by going through conversion therapy, a controversial program intended to eliminate homosexual feelings. Steve felt he had no choice.

"I wanted to be accepted by God," he said. "I wanted to be loved. That was everything to me. And so I saw no other route."

So every week Steve joined other Mormon men for group therapy. Most conversion therapy involves different forms of behavior modification, attempting to make people straight by having them act straight. Some programs even teach men about stereotypically "male" activities, such as talking about football and changing motor oil. Steve did not find that his experience with conversion therapy was at all therapeutic.

"I would definitely call it brainwashing," he said. "It was an exercise in humiliation."

There is much skepticism surrounding conversion therapy and whether it's even possible to reverse someone's sexual orientation. Most professional health organizations reject the theories behind conversion therapy, and many have even deemed it a potentially harmful "treatment."

Jack Drescher is a psychiatrist in New York and warns that not only is conversion therapy unlikely to work, it can be very dangerous.

"Patients feel more depressed and anxious when the treatment doesn't work," Drescher said. "They blame themselves. Some people became suicidal."

Are Conversions Successful?

The largest faith-based conversion therapy program in the country is Love in Action, which is located in Memphis, Tenn. Eight years ago "20/20" was invited to meet nine participants in the program who were attempting to purge themselves of what they called "homosexual behaviors."

James Serra, one of those men, says he is one of the program's success stories. Serra stayed in the program for three years, and today he's a counselor at Love in Action.

When asked whether he was a gay man or a straight man, Serra answered, "I'm a man, period. And the way I see it, it's a behavior. Homosexual, heterosexual is a behavior."

While Serra admits he is still attracted to men, he emphasizes that he has not acted on those feelings in eight years. Even though he has yet to have a relationship with a woman, he hopes that one day he will get married and have children.

Wade Richards was Serra's roommate when "20/20" visited Love in Action. As a devout Christian, Richards says he was faced with the difficult call of whether to accept his attraction to men or try to change. Despite the time he spent in conversion therapy, he now lives his life as a gay man.

"I believe that a loving God would not have someone go through such a struggle," said Richards.

Big Bucks on Sexuality Conversion

The faith-based movement to convert people's sexuality is a lucrative industry. Last spring the conservative Christian organization Focus on the Family hosted a conference called "Love Won Out" at a megachurch in Nebraska. Parents were encouraged to bring their children to the conference so they could learn the church's take on homosexuality.

In addition to the $60 entrance fee, attendees could purchase books and videos, including a book by John Paulk, former chairman of Exodus International, a network with more than 11,000 affiliated ministries. Claiming to be "ex-gay" for more than a decade and happily married to a woman, Paulk was considered a poster child for conversion therapy.

Then in 2001, "20/20" reported that Paulk was photographed coming out of a gay bar in Washington, D.C. He is still married, but stepped down from Exodus. His book about his own conversion from homosexuality is still being sold.

Like many of the attendees at the "Love Won Out" conference, Steve and Jennifer had hoped that conversion therapy would be effective. After Steve went through a Mormon therapy program, Jennifer made the tough call to stay in the marriage. They subsequently had two more children, but all along, Steve felt painfully trapped.

"There wasn't a 15-minute segment of any day that went by that I did not feel terrible inside my head," Steve said.

After 16 years of marriage, Steve admitted to Jennifer that he had been having a long-term affair with another married man. The couple has now been divorced for four years, and Jennifer has written a book called "My Ex Is Having Sex With Rex."

Jennifer says, in retrospect, one of her biggest regrets in life was to believe that her husband's sexuality could be changed by conversion therapy. She wishes churches would embrace anyone and everyone, but doubts that will ever be a reality.

"In a utopian world, the churches would open their arms and accept everybody in the world for who they are," she said, "but I don't believe that's going to happen."

Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Don't ask, don't tell."

A few months ago, I was asked if my son and I would be willing to sit on a panel to discuss the "Statement of Principles..."
At first both of us agreed, but after some discussion over the Chagim, we concluded that perhaps it would not be a good idea to sit on a panel in our own city. We questioned whether any good would come of it or would people attend just to see the gay guy and his father. So we politely declined.

The panel discussion was held today. On the panel was Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot, the driving force behind the Statement, and Rabbi Barry Freundel, who wrote "Homosexuality and Judaism" in the Journal of Halakha and Contemporary Society in 1986.

Rabbi Helfgot opened the discussion with a narrative of how The Statement came to fruition, how it began as a response to the YU symposium held last December and how it took six months for it to be published after it was vetted by a large amount of Rabbis, health professionals, halakhists, jurists. He explained that some people who were involved in the development of The Statement were unable to lend their name to it for political or social reasons.

Rabbi Freundel followed with a discussion that began with his claim that just about everything that was covered in The Statement has been previously been published either by him in 1986 or in subsequent essays over the years by the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA). He told us that his essay, "Homosexuality and Judaism" was used by the Pentagon during the Clinton administration to formulate its policy of "Don't ask, don't tell." He said that he would have no problem if a gay person had an aliyah in his shul, so long as he did not openly announce his homosexuality. He likened homosexuality to kashruth and shabbat observance and made a comparison to circumcisions which were frowned upon during Hellenistic times. He also claimed that in jurisdictions where gay marriage is legal, there is less of an issue.

After the speakers completed their talks, the floor was opened to questions. The first person to speak was asked to come up to the mike by Rabbi Freundel. This man, who claimed to be a psycho-therapist, claimed that he has cured numerous young men through reparative therapy. The next person to speak was the head of Mizrachi, an eighty-something man who said that something had to be done to stop gay people from influencing young people to become gay.

Prior to walking into this discussion, my wife and some friends had "advised" me not to speak. After these two people finished their so-called questions, I asked to speak. I stated that I did not have a question but I wanted to comment on some of the points which were raised.

I began by reminding the audience and the panelists that The Statement was a direct result of the symposium which was held at YU last December. I reminded them that the title of the symposium was "On Being Gay in the Modern Orthodox World" and as such they have to bear in mind that these young men want to be part of the Orthodox world. I made 4 points........

1. Legalized gay marriage is not an issue to these young men. They are not interested in a civil marriage just as heterosexual men and women who are modern Othrodox don't run off to Las Vegas for a civil marriage.

2. I stated that kashruth is a choice, Shabbat is a choice, milah is a choice but sexuality is not a choice.

3. In terms of reparative therapy, I stated that I have first hand knowledge of young men who have tried reparative therapy and instead of becoming a heterosexual had tried suicide. I commented that any life lost as a result of reparative therapy is one life too many.

4. Finally, my response to the head of Mizrachi was that these young men who want a place in the Modern Orthodox world are not cast members of Glee. Their goal is not to convert little boys to homosexuality.

I must say, this was an emotionally trying day. After the panel discussion, we broke for lunch and we sat with Rabbi Freundel during lunch. We had an open and frank discussion out of the public eye. I would much rather have a discussion with someone like Rabbi Freundel, who represents the establishment and who is clear and articulate in his opinion, than the rabbi of the shul where I used to attend, who signed The Statement but refused my son as an eyd.

Prior to today's panel discussion I spent the last two days with Rabbi Helfgot because he was a scholar in residence at my shul. We had lots of opportunity to discuss the symposium, the statement and my son's role in the Jewish community.

As the day drew to a close, the organizer came to me and said that it was a good idea that my son and I were not the main panelists in light of what came from the audience.

L'chaim Mr. Clinton.

Be well.