A rabbi, a bisexual Jewish therapist and gay Jews have condemned a comment article in the Jewish Telegraph that says gay religious people should be allowed to ‘cure’ their sexuality.
The British Jewish newspaper’s columnist Doreen Wachmann admits that ‘gay cures’ don’t ‘always work’ but says that they should be tried anyway, if people want to. She also claims there is a ‘fascism’ disallowing free speech on the subject among Orthodox Jews.
The British Jewish newspaper published the article by Doreen Wachmann today, in the aftermath of publicity surrounding Chief Rabbi of Amsterdam, Aryeh Ralbag. He was temporarily suspended after he said gays could be cured and was reported by Dutch news agency ANP to have been re-instated today.
It also follows concerns about ‘homosexual cure’ group JONAH being promoted in British Jewish schools.
In her article, Wachmann claims that gay religious people who are unhappy with their sexuality are 'discriminated against' by therapists who ignore their clients' religious beliefs and encourage them to come out and accept their sexuality.
She describes the case of an unnamed gay man who was unhappy with his 'troubling sexual urges' and sought therapy: 'Every British therapist he went to encouraged him to "come out" as a homosexual, something he really didn't want to do as indulging his desires made him deeply unhappy.
'He was only able to move on once he realised that his troubling sexual urges were part of a deeper malaise and that the solution lay in understanding the issues involved rather than indulging the symptoms.'
She also implies a similarity between patients who are treated for a ‘desire for sex with the dead' and those who wish to ‘cure’ their gayness.
Rabbi Mark Solomon of Manchester Liberal Jewish Community, told Gay Star News: ‘Doreen Wachmann’s article displays a shocking ignorance and malevolence towards gay Jews. It is Jewish tradition that was infected, millennia ago, with the sickness of homophobia. It is the Doreen Wachmanns of this world who are in need of curing.
‘The consensus of all respectable medical and psychological opinion not fettered by fundamentalist religious dogma is that same-sex attraction is utterly natural and deeply ingrained in the personality, not a disease or pathology of any kind. The language of “cure” simply does not apply, and any suggestion that it does reeks of bigotry.
‘Gay people who have been subjected to so-called “reparative therapy” overwhelmingly testify that it is humiliating, abusive and ultimately useless. Left-handed people were once forced to act right-handed – this might produce some temporary unnatural behaviour modification, but at the cost of the individual’s thriving and integrity.
‘Of course no-one should be forced to come out, or declare themselves gay if they are really bisexual – these are deeply personal decisions that should be made freely, perhaps with the help of sympathetic and non-judgemental counselling. But that is worlds away from telling a person who is insecure about their sexual identity that there is something sick about them that could be cured.
Ronete Cohen, a Jewish bisexual advice columnist, psychologist, and psychotherapist of the London based Rainbow Couch practise, also dismissed the idea that attempts to ‘cure’ people of their sexuality is helpful.
She said: ‘Therapists don’t serve some hidden agenda. We take care of the person and help them find the best way to live a better life. No-one is forced to come out of the closet.
‘The biggest cause of distress for LGBT people is rejection by those around them. How does further rejection by trying to “cure” them – thereby suggesting an illness – help?
‘Therapists are obliged not to knowingly damage or administer treatment that doesn’t work. Research shows that, contrary to claims by advocates of gay “cures”, treatment doesn’t change sexual orientation, but can potentially harm (there have been suicides in “ex-gay” programs). Those who claim to have become heterosexual will often later admit that they were never cured and were living a lie, including leaders and founders of the ex-gay movement. This “cure” is based on pseudo science and faulty reasoning. It harms.’
Solomon also criticized Wachmann for her comment that politically correct ‘fascism’ is preventing debate on the issue.
He said: ‘To suggest that the popular consensus supporting gay rights is somehow fascist, in the third sentence of her article, is like saying that Jews who fight for their rights are victimising the antisemites. It is the classic persecutors’ technique of blaming the victim.’
And the anger has been reflected by Jewish LGBT people in the wider community.
A 53-year-old Jewish gay Glaswegian said: ‘I am furious, being gay is not an illness its just who you are! How dare she presume it an illness?
‘It is shocking that the paper publishes such a travesty of an article. Such views can be extremely damaging for young Jewish, gay and lesbian people growing up in families who would be influenced by such irresponsible and outrageous views.’
A 39-year-old gay Londoner commented: ‘As the partner of a gay Orthodox Jew, I am saddened to read the discredited pseudo-science of reparative therapy being promoted in The Jewish Telegraph. A brief study of failures of, and damage caused by, the Christian so-called ex-gay movement should give Doreen Wachmann pause for thought.’
And Noam Fischer, a 32-year-old gay Jewish health professional in the NHS London told GSN: ‘I think Orhtodox Jews should realise that homosexuality is not an illness. Perhaps their particular view from within Judaism, though by no means largely shared by other Jews, doesn’t agree with homosexuality, but it is not an illness.
‘There are female Rabbis and that is against their views, is there a cure for that?
‘Orthodox Jews have also gay kids, most of them are disowned. Is this normal? Is that in the Torah? I don’t think so. Judaism has evolved greatly and many communities now openly embrace their LGBT members. Some people in the Orthodox Jewish movement should get rid of the blindfold and see the world as it really is.’