Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Maxed Out

Update (12/23/09 late/early in the morning): Chana at CuriousJew utilized her lightning fast stenography skills to transcribe the event and posted it on her blog.

I took part in an historic event at YU tonight. I attempted to attend the "Being Gay in the Orthodox World" discussion panel, and was turned away after waiting outside in the bone-chilling cold, half-freezing to death for half an hour - along with about 200 other YU and Stern students. This is absolutely unheard of for any extra-curricular event that (to my knowledge) has ever been planned and held on campus. The room was filled to its legal fire department mandated capacity, and security (which was a different firm than the usual campus guards) were very unforgiving and not up for negotiation.

Not to be rejected so easily, the group I was standing with decided to try to sneak in via the underground secret passageway and a back staircase. Of course, we were caught (other had attempted this earlier and succeeded) and sent back upstairs to go around and out the main entrance. We made one last attempt to convince the security at the front door before they basically shoved us (not quite so physically) out into the cold night, where I saw another 100 or so people waiting fruitlessly to be let indoors.

The whole issue certainly fits into the GREY AREA of discussion when it comes to observant Judaism. A "kol koreh" signed by several roshei yeshiva was hastily composed and posted around campus (Update 12/23/09: read it here). The gist of it was that in any public discussion of these matters, sensitivity should be given to those individuals who find themselves having a homosexual identity, but in no way, shape or form should the act of homosexuality or such a lifestyle by condoned. The emphasis was that the act itself is still a Biblical abomination, but concern and support should be given to people out of respect for the fact that they, too are Jews - but such behavior cannot be encouraged.

I think that having that mindset (which has been publicly stated before) is certainly the right way to approach this extremely difficult issue. People deserve compassion for their personal struggles, whatever that specific area may be, but any act that is clearly against halacha cannot be accepted or normalized. But therein lies the dilemma that has made this such a hot-button issue this past year (especially since the publication of several Commentator articles: here, here, here, and here).

I really wanted to attend the event to hear firsthand the students and graduates express the situation from their perspective. I firmly hold by the position the roshei yeshiva proclaimed, but the issue can no longer be ignored as it has been for so long. It seems like this is one of the greatest, most unsolvable halachic/hashkafic quagmires that we face in our day and age. I sort of know one gay student at YU as an acquaintance, but have never had any real friends that have been confronted by this issue of personal identity. I do commend the YU Tolerance Club and the community in general for addressing the issue in a forum - I just wish I was there now to listen to what has to be said.

The consensus our little group of failed secret agents was that the Tolerance Club, knowing that the crowd was going to be enormous, should have set up a video taping to be broadcast across the street in Furst 501 on a big projection screen. They really dropped the ball on that opportunity. I hope I can hear enough about it from friends who got in legitimately (or covertly), and perhaps they even had the foresight to record the panel (although I have no idea when I'll have time to listen to it).

So just some food for thought, assuming that some readers have checked out the articles I linked above: while we typically oriented singles may find difficulty with our quest to find a spouse, take time to consider the plight of our brothers and sisters who struggle with a far more personal, seemingly impossible conflict. While we are out there in the dating world, facing frustration from not finding the "right one," they face an inner battle that is counter intuitive to the halachically and hashkafically normative drive to even desire finding that "right one."

I definitely don't have any answers... nor can I claim to. Hopefully everything will be resolved when Eliyahu HaNavi arrives as the harbinger of Moshiach ben Dovid to announce the good news and set everything that troubles us aright. May that day be soon!


  1. I'd like to support that gay men be encouraged to procreate and co-parent with lesbian women and older single straight women. While this doesn't solve all the issues, it does resolve the issue of having a family- for both parties.

  2. I find this post very disturbing. Although I acknowledge the existence of homosexual individuals in our community, "the Torah in two places[i] tells us that the act of homosexuality is an abomination." My own subjective opinion is that homosexual thoughts are influenced by our environment. In other words, if homosexuals would not receive the media coverage that they do these days, there would be a significant decrease in the amount of individuals who are homosexual. In any case, the reason that this post is so disturbing is that while we know that homosexuals exist in our community, what happens when it comes time for shidduchim. Do these same individuals who are struggling commit themselves to marry? As someone who's in the shidduch scene, this thought freaks me out. Is it possible that I am dating guys who look at me as a salvation for covering up the challenges they face?

  3. I was writing a response to you that turned out to be really long, so I'm turning it into a post...


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