My previous post about participation in and support off pride parade in Jerusalem sparked several other debates. Below is probably the most heated one. I was uncertain whether to post only my responses (as in my previous post) or also opponent’s (regretfully, that would be the accurate term to use).
I decided to post both sides of the debate. This is for 2 reasons:
1. He makes some interesting points and brings up some arguments I had not thought of previously, or at least not in that way. I think they are worthy of consideration even if I disagree with them.
2. More importantly, because the tone and some of the language used is a very good example and expression of much of today’s progressive discourse in general and queer discourse in particular. A sense that part of being right comes from vilifying your opponent and/or from being a victim. It is a shame, as I do believe he had some interesting arguments, which were shadowed by some of the terminology and tone he chose to use.
Several people have messaged me privately that they would have liked to “like” and “share” my original post as they felt it articulated their own beliefs on the matter but are hesitant to do so for fear of being accused of intolerance or worse and from fear of losing friends. It is sad and a bit scary to me that we have reached a point where people are made to be scared to express their opinions and engage in intellectual debate, and in the name of “tolerance”, none the less. That is part of the reason I feel it is important for me to continue having these debates – and posting them.
As a response to my original post he wrote:
Wow. I’ve read a lot of silly things about Pride, but Yair’s piece takes the cake. Pride is about cultivating a collective self-esteem for an identity that is too often met with familial, communal, historic and systemic rejection. Ask any LGBTQ person and they will tell you that there was one point in their life where they thought that if the people around them knew their truth, they would be rejected or worse. This ubiquitous experience stays with you forever, and Pride is about combating it with a celebration of self-worth. Full stop. In places like Jerusalem, where LGBTQ children, teens and adults are being rejected by their families and communities every day, Pride is even more important. Research shows that it is actually the lack of self-esteem about one’s sexuality that is correlated with sexual compulsion, risky behavior, self-harm and promiscuity. Events like Pride fight against that and helps to rebuild a stronger sense of dignity so that we have the well-being to make more moral, ethical, and accountable decisions. So if you were really worried about sinful behavior, I suggest being concerned about LGBTQ people not having access to Pride events.
Furthermore, as a mental health professional who takes his whole youth group to pride every year, I am physically disgusted by the suggestion that you think these 13 and 14 year old’s are celebrating their “sexual behavior”. STOP SEXUALIZING LGBTQ CHILDREN!
Yair Spitz, While I appreciate any musing about a subject, I would be embarrassed to share such a sophomoric analysis on a subject that you clearly know very little about. For more info about the importance of Pride to LGBTQ youth, check our website.
One of the points I was trying to get across is that I disagree with the fundamental concept of sexual identity. Meaning, I believe that many people have decided to allow it to define them but I am claiming that that is a choice. A sexual attraction very well may not be a choice but allowing that to define oneself is. One can choose – consciously or unconsciously – which biological and emotional tendencies and which actions define him and impact their self-esteem and feeling of self-worth. If you disagree – I’d be happy to hear why.
That have been said, I do think that in a culture which idealizes being “true” to one’s natural state (meaning, not restricting it) and extreme individualism of “just be who you are”, it is easy to understand why sexuality has become such an integral part of peoples sense of identity. Much of this is diametrically opposed to how I understand the traditional Jewish approach to the meaning and purpose of human and Jewish life. If you disagree with the traditional Jewish approach – that is of course absolutely fine. It would be important to define those differences to understand where each of us is coming from. If you think your approach to this topic is consistent with the traditional Jewish approach – I’d be happy to hear how.
This also has to do with your comment about self-esteem. Lack of, or low, self-esteem is the cause of at-risk behavior for most teens, whether they are struggling with their sexuality, the way they look or the feeling that they are a failure in school. When people are surrounded by a culture in which sexualization and even romanticism is on every billboard, every movie, every show, etc… it indeed makes a lot of sense that this will become the litmus test by which they measure themselves and their self-worth.
I did not say that 13 and 14 year old’s are celebrating their sexual behavior. You either misunderstood what I wrote or are grossly misrepresenting it. I would hope that you wouldn’t need to misrepresent your opponent’s arguments in order to argue your own. Additionally, I would hope that when you think about the topic yourself, or discuss it with your students, you have more to say about the opposing opinions than to dismiss them as nothing more than ‘silly’, ‘sophomoric’ and ‘disgusting’. This is because:
1. It is false. Is it not possible that I have spoken to students and extended family of mine who are openly gay and am aware of their struggles and challenges? and that I have read literature on the topic and simply disagree with many of their premises?
2. It cuts off any possibility of exchange of ideas – in either direction, something I imagine you would like to see happen – at least in one direction.
I most definitely do try to do better. I simply think we have very different understandings of what “better” is, including when it comes to this topic.
To which he responded:
First of all, the whole “I know about race because I spoke to a black person” narrative may work in your circles, but in intelligent society, those kinds of statements are laughable. I’m sure you spoke to a gay, I hope it was lovely. With respect to your other “points”, I honestly have no idea what you are talking about (and likely neither do you). LGBTQ people have these identities foisted on them because they live in a world where, at best everyone is assumed to be straight and cis, and at worse, you are bullied and rejected if you appear to be anything but straight and cis. Do you think any of us wanted to feel different, alone and rejected? Again, what are you talking about?!?
LGBTQ children and teens are being made to feel bad about themselves because of their sexual orientation and gender identity…so it stands to reason that the building of collective self esteem healing should begin there. Most queer people come out far before they engage in any sexual behavior. And they certainly attend pride events far before they ever engage in any sexual behavior. Their identities are not formed around sexual desire, but the experience of being different than the assumed norm when it comes to something as essential as sexuality and gender. This is an important distinction that you seem to be missing. My identity, and my pride is not at all rooted in what I find sexually arousing.
The whole idea of LGBTQ Pride is the liberation from labels, not restricting ourselves to framings generated in a world where people like us had little say. Our queerness is non-binary, and much more related to the Judaic-german concept of dialectic – than words used for diagnoses. We are at once the bread of affliction and the bread of freedom. If you don’t get that, then you simply don’t get the LGBTQ experience…and probably shouldn’t write about it…yet.
You claimed I knew very little about the subject. I responded that I know, have spoken and counseled individuals who see themselves as gay. I tell you I have read at least some of the literature people in this thread are referring to and your response is, basically – “you sound just like a racist”. I don’t see how you can claim both sides of the argument. I ask again – is it just completely inconceivable to you that someone may know and may have spoken to many gay people and empathizes with them and has read queer literature and still disagree with the philosophical, ideological and moral foundations of queer culture?
As I have written previously, my observations and main argument is not of how individual people feel or even act. My observations and argument are about LGBTQ culture. And I will add – the conflict it can, and many times does, cause between one, specific, aspect of young people’s identity and other parts of their identity – their family, their religious faith and belief, their community, their heritage, etc… I continue to argue that the two – individual gay identity and LGBTQ culture – are two very distinct things. You are quite obviously of the opinion that the two are inseparable. I understand the argument but disagree with it, because of my differing understanding of what constitutes identity, in general, and the role LGBTQ culture plays in amplifying one part of it at the expense of the others, which stems – among other things – from a certain ideology and political stance. I’m sorry I am not able to better explain my point, at least enough for you to realize the possibility of their being merit to an opposing approach to the matter. Maybe more acceptance and tolerance would be helpful on both sides of the isle.
To which he responded:
As a mental health professional who specializes in working with this population, it terrifies me that you “counseled individuals who see themselves as gay”. I wonder if they refer to you as “an individual who sees himself as Yair”? I mean seriously, are you even aware of how rude and insulting you sound by framing your reference like that? Let me be clear, from your writing it is evident that you know very little about both LGBTQ identity and LGBTQ Culture. This fabricated distinction that you seem to be peddling as a false dichotomy is meaningless. To weasel out, now you want to reduce your argument to semantics. I’ve graded many a paper from students who try to pass off these amateur mistakes as substantial rhetoric. It doesn’t get passed me then, and it isn’t now.
We don’t have to accept or tolerate bad arguments or ignorance. We certainly do not have to tolerate it when it is coming from a person with no personal stake in the matter who is waxing recklessly about our very value, self worth and emotional well-being. You wouldn’t tolerate it when a non Jew starts telling you what your Jewish Identity means and denying your Jewish name, the same way you should not tolerate it when a man tells a woman what being a woman is all about. This is not a debate, this is me trying to teach you something and you sitting in your ill informed foolishness. When non Jews come for and question your Jewish flag, your right to your own Jeowsh name, your right to celebrate as a Jew, and your entitlement to some pride in your Jewish heritage, perhaps you might begin to grasp that casually musing about whether other people should have or have no access to basic dignity…is obnoxious.
For the record, yes readers, the person who has advocated to strip other people’s rights away, the person who is questioning other people’s identities, the person who broadly dismisses other people’s culture… is the one now asking for tolerance. Typical.
1. Where did you see me write anything about stripping people’s rights?
2. I fear you misunderstood my comment about tolerance. I was not asking you to be tolerant of me or my opinions for my sake. I am not insulted by your dismissiveness. Really. I’m not. I didn’t imagine it would be possible to have such conversations on social media without being called names and dismissed. My comment about tolerance was for your own sake as I find that it usually serves the argument of the side exhibiting it and enables dialogue. Meaning, even if you have no hope in convincing me, I’d think you would want people reading these exchanges to have the best chance of understanding your actual arguments and not disregard you because of the rhetoric you choose to use.
At some point someone else responded to one of my comments saying:
We just finished reading Parshat Naso in which the woman suspected of adultery is dragged through a horrific ritual in order to prove or disprove her guilt. I would ask those haters when the last time was that they forced a woman to drink the Waters of Bitterness or stoned to death a rebellious son. Hypocrites all of them! They pick and choose whom to hate based upon their own fears and ignorance.
When was the last time someone stoned to death a homosexual – or called to do so? Additionally, I’d be just as opposed to a parade of adulterers/adulterets celebrating their choice to commit adultery and calling on people to come out and support their right to do so. This, despite the fact that I don’t think there is anything unnatural about wanting to, and actually committing, adultery.
To which she responded
I must have struck a nerve or not have been clear in my statement. The point I was trying to make is that there were many biblical practices that when seen through a modern lens, we realize were abhorrent and beyond what we would tolerate as acceptable behavior today. Similarly, there are many practices which were deemed abhorrent in ancient times due to sociological misunderstandings, which today, we would find acceptable practices. when someone has a boo-boo on their arm, the high priest doesn’t come look at it and send them out of the community for a week anymore. Similarly, we understand the ancient sociological basis for the admonition against the practice of homosexuality and today, understand the errors of that prohibition. Okay! Flame away!
We are quite obviously coming to this discussion with very different assumptions and beliefs about the Torah in general and its relevance, in particular. There is no Mitzvah I would see, let alone define, as abhorrent.
Similarly, I wholly disagree with your assumption that the content of the Torah and the Mitzvot are based on the societal norms of the time. I am operating from a very different assumption and belief; the one which is consistent with Jewish tradition throughout history – 1. that the Torah was given by Hashem and is not a human creation or just “divinely inspired” 2. (Because of point 1) The Torah and the Mitzvot are not based on the societal norms of the time it was given, rather is based on societal norms as they should be.
This have been said, there is much to discuss regarding the penal system of the Torah – and the rabbis of the Talmud and others have done so at length. For example – the discussion regarding a rebellious son and to what degree the Torah meant it as an actual punishment vs. a very severe warning sign. The fact that both opinions have been part of our literature for over 1500 years means that these two approaches play completing roles in the approach to the topic -the practical level which serves as a warning sign for parents and kids alike about the dangers and destructive nature of extreme rebelliousness and the theoretical level where such a thing could even warrant death.
This is just one possible explanation to one of the points you brought up. I chose it because it is the less politicized of the three but I believe there are similar ways to reconcile some of our modern sensitivities without dismissing and without putting ourselves in a place of passing moral judgment on our communal identity and heritage. Especially when it is that exact heritage which serves as the foundation and source of most, if not all, of the morals and ideals in whose name we are speaking,
I am sorry you chose to present Tzara’at is a mere “boo boo”. I have a feeling you know very well the amount of literature, ancient and modern, that discuss this disease and am uncertain why you feel the need to mock something that has been part of our tradition – in one way or another – for thousands of years.
As I stated, we seem to be speaking from two very different perspectives. Mine is rooted in what has been, consistently and wholly, the core moral and religious identity of Jewish tradition for thousands of years and through that has impacted and transformed Western Civilization’s and humanity’s moral identity and norms. I believe that we were able to do so because the Torah is divine and only because of its divine origin did it – and did we – succeed in it being so transformative. Unlike so many passing fashions of ideology which, over the years, have been adopted by many, claiming truth, justice and morality, just to fade away leaving little if any lasting impact on humanity. I’d be happy to understand what perspectives you are operating from.
At some point of this offshoot conversation, my original opponent joined in and wrote:
how in the world can you compare a pride parade to people who commit adultery? Is a pride Parade to you just a parade of people who commit anal sex and support their right to do so? Is that what the thousands of teens ages 12-18 are doing when they dance through the streets reclaiming their self worth? Are you that perverted that all you see is that when we celebrate our perseverance and community?
Are you even aware that the A in LGBTQIA stands for Asexuals?!?! Why would they be part of a parade about anal sex…or trans and intersex people for that matter?!?
The truth is: You have NO IDEA what you are talking about. The fact that you could even think that this analogy is apt, says everything.
To which I responded:
Why is it you assume that adultery is only about the act of having sex with someone other than one’s spouse? I mean this seriously. I am certain there are support systems and communities of people dealing with adultery dilemmas and the challenging relationships which drive them to choose the specific act. I am sure there are people who feel that once they have committed adultery this act defines them forever. There are people who see themselves as adulterers though they haven’t actually slept with anyone else.
I agree it isn’t a perfect analogy but I think it is a better one than you are presenting it…
And, just for the sake of accuracy, I am not the one who came up with the analogy. “Jane” tried pointing out that people treat the sins of adultery, rebelliousness and homosexuality very differently in order to make the point that people’s treatment of pride parade is motivated by simple hate that is excused through religion or fake ideology.
To that I responded that I would oppose public celebrations of the legitimacy of those prohibitions just the same. Which I would. First and foremost, this would be aimed internally, at people from among my own community – Orthodox and Observant Jews – who support or are considering to support pride parade. If you look back at where the conversation began, you will see this was my starting point.
Indeed, someone coming from a fundamentally different world view (which I don’t know to say if you are or aren’t) would find many of the things I am saying quite objectionable and ill-informed.
But, like you, I am writing less with the expectation to change your mind and more for the sake of others following these conversations and may be looking to form their own opinions on the matter.