Why Is This Child Different From Most Other Children?
(*NOTE: Deep appreciation to Rabbi Samuel Rosenberg,L.C.S.W., Clinical Director of JONAH, and to my Co-Director, Arthur A. Goldberg, for their help with this article. JONAH, Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality, can be reached by telephone at 201-433-3444 and on the Internet at www.Jonahweb.org.)
“Gender, that deep sense or essence within us that reflects our
biological sex, is absolutely fundamental to our humanity.”
- Janelle Hallman
OK. You may have always suspected something, but now you know. Your child is self-identified as “gay.” You try to bargain with God, you cry, you rage, you deny – but you can’t run away from the pain that has gripped you ever since your child told you the news.
Why did this happen to your child? In today’s politically correct culture, the “experts” tell us that he/she was born that way, but in your heart and soul you know that isn’t true and that something went wrong in your family. Is it your fault? Is it your child’s fault? Is it anyone’s fault? Bottom line, what can and should you do about the situation?
Every day, anguished Jewish parents (as well as parents in every other societal group) around the globe ask themselves these questions as they go through the torment of learning about their child’s involvement with homosexuality. One of the worst aspects of this family problem is the common advice that parents must accept their child “for who they are” and there is nothing they can do. Even worse is the mistaken notion that reparative/change/reorientation therapy can actually harm their child. Nothing is further from the truth.
Politically astute gay activists have changed the way society views homosexuality in less than four decades. To their credit, gay activists have brought the issues surrounding homosexuality out of the closet. While this is good, the callous myths that homosexuality is inborn, benign, and unchangeable are absolutely false. Homosexual attractions are the result of childhood wounds which arrested a child’s psycho-sexual development. JONAH’s multi-faceted program (outlined below) offers great hope that your child can grow out of homosexuality and into the God-given heterosexuality which was his/her birthright. Please go to the Library Section of JONAH’s web site, Jonahweb.org, for a more complete discussion of this Model:
JONAH’S PSYCHO-EDUCATIONAL MODEL FOR HEALING HOMOSEXUALITY involves:
JONAH is frequently asked these ten common questions. The answers below can help start a parent on the long, difficult, but ultimately rewarding quest of learning why their child feels same-sex attractions and what can be done about changing this painful truth.
QUESTION ONE: WHY DID THIS HAPPEN TO MY CHILD?
ANSWER: The good news is that your child was born, like all children, to develop into a heterosexual; the bad news is that your child suffered emotional wounds in his/her childhood that blocked his/her innate capacity to grow into heterosexuality. The specific issues for each individual will depend on the totality of his/her environment
As Richard Cohen tells us in his book, Coming Out Straight, same-sex attractions (SSA) are symptoms of underlying wounds. They represent an inappropriate response to conflicts in the present, a way to medicate pain and discomfort, unresolved childhood trauma, archaic emotions, frozen feelings, wounds that never healed. They also represent a reparative drive to fulfill unmet homo-emotional love needs of the past – an unconscious drive for greater bonding with the same-sex parent.
Very briefly, homosexuality is not about sex, but is rather an emotionally-based condition consisting of the following three subconscious drives:
QUESTION TWO: DO LESBIANS AND GAY MEN DEAL WITH THE SAME
ANSWER: Some of the issues underlying male and female homosexuality are the same, but others are different. Here is an outline of the key elements underlying male and female same-sex attraction (SSA). For lesbianism, I will quote Janelle Hallman, a therapist noted for specializing in lesbian issues:
The Most Frequently Reported Elements of the Lesbian Struggle:
Common Root Problems of the Male Homosexual Struggle:
QUESTION THREE: WHAT ARE THE FIRST STEPS I SHOULD TAKE TO HELP
ANSWER: Homosexuality is a systemic problem involving family, extended family, school environment, peers, etc. You should never ostracize your child nor should you blame your child. Each member of the family needs to do his/her part in healing the family system.
Bibliotherapy is JONAH’s term for educating yourself about the issues underlying SSA and we believe this is a critical first step. Homosexuality is complex, caused by a variety of factors and often misunderstood by most therapists, doctors, teachers, and the general community. Therefore, parents need to read extensively until they understand the common causes of homosexual attractions and which of these apply to their son or daughter. For those who don’t enjoy reading, there are cassette tapes and videos available. The following web sites display extensive information about SSA and recommend the books, cassettes, and videos that will give you the education you need in order to help your child:
QUESTION FOUR: WHAT ARE THE LONG TERM GOALS OF A HEALING PROGRAM?
ANSWER: Remember that your child has probably been feeling tremendous conflict and anxiety for years before you found out about his/her SSA. We have found there is a process involved in coming to terms with this issue. The following suggestions have worked for other parents who have faced this problem:
QUESTION FIVE: WHAT SHOULD I NOT DO?
ANSWER: There are a number of caveats that are supported by most individuals and organizations that work in this field. Some are common sense and some have been gleaned by long years of experience:
QUESTION SIX: WHAT DOES “CHANGE” MEAN IN RELATION TO GROWING
ANSWER: Growing out of homosexuality rarely means that the person will never again experience a homosexual thought or attraction. We must learn to stop treating those who feel SSA as “different kinds of persons.” We understand that recovery from alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling, obesity, heterosexual promiscuity, etc., doesn’t mean the person will never be tempted again. So, too, many recovered homosexuals feel overwhelmed at times of stress and desire a “quick fix” to solve their problems. However, if they understand their “trigger points” and disengage them, they generally can resist such impulses.
Fantasizing or acting on homosexual impulses has been the way these individuals handled stress and feelings of inadequacy in the past, so at times they may briefly fall back to old habits of thinking and feeling. The difference will be that now they understand their homosexual feelings are symptoms of underlying emotional issues they need to address. Fantasizing or acting on those homosexual impulses will not solve their problems – in fact, acting out usually makes things worse because acting out covers up the real issues affecting their lives. Growth out of homosexuality or “change” will be different for each man or woman who makes the journey. Some will never have a homosexual feeling again; some will frequently struggle to overcome their attractions and/or compulsions; most will fall in between these two extremes.
QUESTION SEVEN: WHY DO NUMEROUS THERAPISTS, DOCTORS, RABBIS, TEACHERS, AND MEMBERS OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY EMBRACE THE THEORY THAT HOMOSEXUALITY IS INBORN AND UNCHANGEABLE?
ANSWER: Gay activism has done an excellent job of convincing the public. Not only do they confuse political and personal goals, but most distressingly they wrongly label those who have a principled disagreement with them as homophobic. Many professionals in the therapeutic field are skeptical about gay activist claims, but are afraid of being called intolerant, non-inclusive or homophobic if they speak up or protest.
In the personal sphere, each man or woman who feels SSA should be treated with the same dignity and compassion we feel for anyone with an emotional problem – which includes everyone of us at some point in our lives. However, to say that a problem like SSA is normal and merely an alternative lifestyle is the equivalent of saying that obesity or alcoholism is normal.
In the political sphere the gay activists have also gone too far and have almost succeeded in deconstructing the male/female design of God, nature, and evolution. We Jews were the first to proclaim that the nuclear family should be the basic building block of society. Numerous groups seek to overturn the Torah prohibition against the practice of homosexuality and accept such behavior as normal and unchangeable.
As parents who admit that we inadvertently played a role in our children feeling same-sex attraction, we must stand together and educate the Jewish community and the larger community about the prevention, intervention, and treatment of homosexuality. Our children, and all children, deserve to know the truth about this important issue.
QUESTION EIGHT: WHAT DOES JUDAISM SAY ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY AND
ANSWER: JONAH’s philosophy is consistent with the Torah’s approach to homosexuality. There is no word in the Torah for a homosexual, although there are words for homosexual behavior, which leads us to believe that the Torah sets forth an understanding that homosexuality is neither inborn nor an identity. The Jewish literature is replete with examples of accepting and loving the person who feels same-sex attractions while not accepting the undesirable behavior.
Accepting a person’s same-sex attractions as inborn and unchangeable does great harm to the individual, the family, and the community. There is absolutely no reliable proof that homosexuality is inborn so to tell young people who feel same-sex attractions they were born that way and have no choice to grow out of homosexuality is simply cruel and untrue. Same-sex attractions are just one of the many life-damaging conditions we all must learn to overcome.
In Judaism, teshuvah (repentance and return) is available to all of us. We must reach out to those feeling SSA, welcome them into the Jewish community, and educate them about their ability to grow out of homosexuality.
QUESTION NINE: WHAT PROFESSIONAL RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE?
ANSWER: JONAH is constantly expanding its world-wide list of referrals and resources. Please call our Message Line at 201-433-3444 for recommendations in the following categories:
QUESTION TEN: IT SEEMS SO DIFFICULT TO GROW OUT OF HOMOSEXUALITY, IS IT WORTH THE STRUGGLE?
ANSWER: While we cannot answer that question for any particular individual, we can tell the truth about homosexuality so that the individual is enabled to choose his/her own path based on facts, not myths. Some will choose not to start the journey, some will only be able to journey part of the way, some will be able to complete the journey. Many who complete the journey will reach back to help others. As one inspiring response to this question, here are the words of Jeffrey Burke Satinover, M.D., who is a member of JONAH’s Advisory Board:
“I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have met many people who have emerged from the gay life. When I see the personal difficulties they have squarely faced, the sheer courage they have displayed not only in facing these difficulties but also in confronting a culture that uses every possible means to deny the validity of their values, goals, and experiences, I truly stand back in wonder. Certainly they have forced me by the simple testimony of their lives to return again and again to my own self-examination. It is these people – former homosexuals and those still struggling, all across America and abroad – who stand for me as a model of everything good and possible in a world that takes the human heart, and the God of that heart, seriously. In my various explorations within the worlds of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, and psychiatry, I have simply never before seen such profound healing.
Because it is not really a battle over mere sexuality, but rather over which spirit shall claim our allegiance, the cultural and political battle over homosexuality has become in many respects the defining moment for our society. It has implications that go far beyond the surface matter of “gay rights.” And so the more important dimension of this battle is not the political one, it is the one for the individual human soul. It would be easy in this modern era, when our vision for things invisible is so easily blinded by the dazzling allure of our material accomplishment, to not even take the soul – and her loving, watchful, worried shepherd – seriously. But the soul that emerges in the lives of those who have successfully struggled with homosexuality, and the soul that is in the process of emerging in those who struggle still, is so beautiful that at one stroke her emergence into sight, even dimly, simply shatters the false dazzle of modernity.
And so, as dangerous a moment as this one may be, when so much of our inheritance stands in the balance, there is great hope as well. Slowly but surely, the great truths that have embodied themselves in the lives of these men and women – after terrible struggle – will be made widely known. More and more people will themselves gain the courage to return home from their long and fruitless wanderings in the wasteland of modern sophistication, however painful that return may be. It is our joyful duty to stand waiting, with open arms, remembering that we too are journeying home.” (Dr. Jeffrey Satinover: Postscript: Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth)