Friday, June 27, 2014

Pride and Prejudice

Once again, we are being subjected to what is now being called a Pride Parade. (The word ‘Gay’ has been dropped from the name). This has become an annual event sponsored by LGBT (the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender community).  I could never understand why anyone would choose sexual orientation as something to be proud of. But I am told by members of that community the purpose a ‘Pride Parade’ is to counter the negative self image of people whose sexual orientation is not heterosexual.

I can understand that. Homosexuality had always been frowned upon in society. People who had these tendencies were embarrassed by them and tried to hide them. If someone was caught in a homosexual relationship or act, he would pretty much be ostracized from his or her community.  Until the 1970s homosexuality was indeed considered abnormal – a psychological disorder that needed to be treated with psychotherapy.  

But in the 70s that all changed when mainstream psychology declared homosexuality an alternative but normal lifestyle. Since then, this community has been working diligently to get everyone to feel that way. Today, in 2014, that seems to have taken place. Gay marriage has been legalized in many states. And the public seems to have accepted it.

I can sympathize with those homosexuals that still feel ostracized in the community.  The three major faiths  consider the homosexual act to be a sinful one. For Jews and Christians it is spelled out in the Bible.  When a gay person that is raised in a religious home is led to believe that God rejects them because of their attraction to the people of the same sex, it can be pretty depressing in a clinical sense.

And that can and sometimes does lead to suicide. It doesn’t help matters when you have organizations like JONAH that use aversion therapy to try and change someone’s  homosexual orientation.  For those who are not simply confused about it and may not actually be homosexual, this kind of therapy might work. But for those who are not confused about it and know that they are only attracted to the same sex, it can be disheartening to go through the kind of embarrassing treatment only to remain gay afterward. Add to that the societal rejection one will get in a religious community, and one can see how someone would not want to live like that… and may attempt to take their own lives in desperation.

So I understand the motivation behind a Pride Parade. It in essence tells homosexuals that they should not pay any attention to anyone or any community that shuns them. But instead have pride in who they are. If who they are includes being gay, so be it. It’s nobody’s business who you love.

The problem is that a Pride Parade ends up being more than that. And not in a good way. First of all it brings out some pretty disgusting behavior by the more flamboyant drag queens. Lascivious public behavior is unbecoming of a holy person. And yes, we Jews are a holy people chosen by God to be so. And we are supposed to act like it.

But more than that, a pride parade ignores the sinful part of being gay – acting on it in a way that the Torah forbids. The message of this parade is that one need not worry about that… that expressing one’s love in a sinful way is something to be proud of. Forget about what an ancient and archaic book says about it. If it feels good, do it! Who are you going to harm if it is an act done between 2 consenting adults? 

The answer to that question, if you are a believing Jew, is that you are harming yourself. God does not approve of that behavior and has declared severe sanctions against it. Actions have consequences. There may not be any earthly consequences for this behavior. But surely there will be consequences in the world to come – if we violate His word. A Pride Parade therefore sends the wrong message.

This does not mean that one Jew has a right to embarrass another. Nor does it give them the right to somehow reject them from their community. I’ve said this many times. It is no sin to be gay. It is only a sin to act on it in ways that the Torah prohibits. We all have our Taavos – fantasies that may or may not be permitted by Halacha. And we would love to act on them. But we must refrain from doing so when the Torah forbids it. This applies to both straight and gay people.

But if anyone succumbs to a sinful desire in the privacy of their own bedroom, it is nobody’s business except God’s. It is completely unfair to react with hostility to a potential sinner just because we know that their desires may be against Halacha.

But at the same time, it is completely wrong in my view to celebrate it in such a public way by parading with signs about being proud of these desires. It would be like a parade about being proud of a desire to be Mechalel Shabbos.

Showing public pride in a sinful desire is not something that anyone should be doing. Yes, one should have pride in being who you are. But when ‘who you are’ includes sinful desires, it ought not to be center of focus. Not for gays. Not for straights. Besides - is the flaming 6 foot tall muscular flaming drag queen the image that gay people want the world to have of them? Because they are the ones getting all the media attention. From the Forward:
The most outrageous snapshots from any given Pride parade tend to be the most popular – six-foot drag queens (seven, if you count heels and hair,) chiseled go-go dancers in mini-Speedos, loads of glitter.
Being gay – or straight - is nothing to celebrate. We are who we are. We should not judge anyone else based on their sexual orientation.  It is not our business who others choose to love or live with. Unfortunately much of society is still repulsed by gay people. Especially religious society. And as I said that causes them much unhappiness, depression, and even suicide in some cases. That is wrong and societal attitudes ought to change. It’s nobody’s fault who they are attracted to. Human beings ought to be judged on the content of their character. Not on whom they love.

But to celebrate one’s homosexuality is the wrong way to go about changing public attitudes. Aside from being wrong,  I think it actually does more harm than good because of what the media focuses on. But more importantly instead of just giving them pride, it implies a seal of approval - a Hechsher if you will - to doing things that are completely sinful.  And that ought to be protested.