Rise of the Phoenix
By: Rosally Saltsman
Date: Wednesday, August 04 2010
The phoenix is a bird mentioned in the Gemara. He rises from the ashes and is reborn every so often. While we may all envy this trait of the phoenix, some people are actually able to emulate him.
Sue (not her real name) is one such person. An artist in her fifties, originally from the States, now living in Israel she has begun a new life. "Every single decision I made, I made again," she said, including what kind of person she wants to be with.
Sue was in a lesbian relationship for 16 years. She and her partner shared a house, a business and an adopted child. Sue was satisfied and things could have remained that way forever. But they didn't. Sue's partner became ill and when she had recovered, she decided she wanted a different life and left the relationship.
Sue took a good look at her life and decided she didn't want to be involved with that lifestyle anymore.
"I decided I would be alone forever and was willing to live with that. Then I saw something on JONAH's (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing) website, a quote by Rav Kamenetsky: 'The Torah doesn't demand something from us that we can't do.' I sat with that for months. And I decided that I was going to try to remake myself."
Sue went into therapy with Adam Jessel and has recently contacted a shadchan. The choice of male therapist and male shadchan were deliberate. She also started going to shiurim where there are men. She decided to expose herself to male society and she says (with a smile) that it hasn't been so bad. She also says a prayer that is supposed to be a segulah for major change, reciting names of male tzaddikim. All of these were "in order to inject maleness in my life."
Sue came from a religious background and spent many years denying her lesbianism. She dated many men, but didn't find any to be particularly nice or what she was looking for. She was serious about at least five men but she couldn't make the commitment.
Besides the usual familial foundation for the kind of disillusionment that leads to a lesbian lifestyle (difficult father, over-attachment to mother - though not everyone from this kind of family will develop homosexual feelings), Sue was self sufficient and not driven to have children, which made her less motivated to get married. "I fought it, I was going to be a nice religious girl," she said. But at 32, a precipitating event made her accept her lesbianism.
Now, Sue wants to get away from that life.
"I got into learning and made the decision that I was never going to be with a woman again. What I want is a life of kedusha. I don't want to have to hide or be cut off from the religious community. I don't want to worry about their approval or non-approval. I don't want this lifestyle. It's as if Hashem reached in and pulled me out of there."
Sue says that a lesbian lifestyle is less likely to mesh with a religious one. "I maintained my religiosity but found that many lesbian women become less religious or non-religious.
"The men are somehow able to live with it, women are not able to tolerate the duplicity and became non or significantly less religious. Women need to be shalem - whole. They're more uncomfortable living with inconsistency. Men can compartmentalize. Women need wholeness more."
Sue is much happier now. She feels she's living a more authentic, holy life. "I didn't finish the process. My life is continuously in transition. But, I feel grateful to Hashem that this is what happened to me.
"I don't want to be involved in that world anymore," she says of the lesbian life she used to live. "I have chosen to leave it behind and I'm reconditioning myself. Through force of will and discipline, and with Hashem's help, I will make it work."
To contact Adam Jessel:
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