≡ Menu

Interview with an orthodox lesbian

gay frumFor those of you living under a rock, there was a brutal attack on a Gay community center in Tel Aviv this weekend in which 2 people were killed and 11 wounded, as expected the comments on Vos Iz Neias are basically saying that these people deserved it and they better wake up – disgusting indeed. I understand some of the views but the lack of respect for life and fellow Jews was unbelievable.

I met Talya Lev at the ROI Summit I attended last month, and upon finding out that she was an orthodox Lesbian who worked for Bat Kol, an Israeli organization that promotes and sponsors education and awareness on the subject – I asked her if she would do an interview, to which she readily agreed. Based on the ongoing arguement about Gays in the orthodox community going on elesewhere on this blog it could get interesting.

Thanks for agreeing to this interview, can you just give me a little back round information as to where you grew up, where you live now, your age, schooling – all that jazz.

Im an army brat, which means I grew up all over the US and Germany. It was an adventure; the longest I ever lived in one place was three years. When I turned 18, I made Aliyah and went to bar ilan university, served for a while in the IDF, then started a web design business. Today, Im 26 and live in maaleh adumim, right outside of jlem..

Youre an attractive and feminine lesbian, whats up with that, I thought lesbians where all the ugly girls who couldnt get any from guys?

🙂 Thanks for the compliment. Yeah, theres definitely a stereotype about lesbians, but it has nothing to do with girls who cant get any from guys. Just take a look at Portia de Rossi! I think that there are many women who simply feel more masculine and others who feel more feminine. Perhaps the more feminine looking ones are harder to recognize outwardly as Lesbians, and therefore the more masculine looking women who aren’t conforming to typical feminine norms of beauty are considered unattractive to the heterosexual world.

Did you grow up orthodox? If not how and when did you become observant?

I didnt grow up orthodox, but my home was very spiritual and committed to a Jewish way of life. When I was at Bar Ilan University, I became exposed to the religious world and was moved by the morality and values of the people who were my friends. It just made sense to me in a very deep and intrinsic way, so I decided to become religious. The entire process was very powerful which it is for most baaleh tshuva, and I am very happy that the process will and should continue for the rest of my life.

At what age did you realize you were attracted to the same sex?

I think I only began to realize same-sex attraction around the age of 17, but I ignored it since I had no idea there was such a thing as normal lesbian relationships. I knew nothing about the gay community and grew up in a world where homosexuality was extremely taboo, weird, and disgusting. I figured that even though I found certain women attractive, there was no reason to put energy into pursuing it. Gay was such a negative term.

How did you come to realize this?

There was a girl in one of my classes who I found attractive. Something in the way she interacted with me was a little unnerving, and I couldnt help but be conscious of my attraction. Nothing every happened until many years later, but it definitely opened my eyes to the fact that I had a powerful attraction to a woman.

Did you go through a denial stage or did you just admit it to yourself?

I admitted it to myself, but again, I would never pursue it just based on what I said before. I couldnt even translate attraction to certain women into thinking about an entire lifestyle, so I continued to date men as I had done my whole life. Since men didn’t repulse me and I enjoyed their companionship (and this is true for many lesbians they are not disgusted by men, just indifferent), I just decided to ignore my attraction to women. I never thought for even a second that I was a lesbian; again, I couldnt associate my own attraction with that term. It took a very long time for that to change because of my own prejudices.

When did you come out of the closet?

It took finding a woman who I love dearly and view as my partner to bring me to the awareness that I am a lesbian. After we were living together for a year and a half, I realized that I couldnt keep hiding our relationship from my friends, family, and the world. Living such a closeted way of life was so unhealthy and unnatural. Although I was nervous of what people would think because of living in an orthodox community in Jerusalem, I knew that I would have to begin telling people so that I could live normally again. I decided that if my friends chose to judge me negatively based on being in love with a woman, then they were not really my friends. Baruch Hashem, they were bigger than that.

How did your friends and family react? Did anyone refuse to talk to you again?

I was so nervous, and I still am every time I have to tell someone, but everyone has been so supportive and even happy for me. I feel that its sad that this surprises me, but hopefully someday, people wont have to be afraid of hatred and prejudice just because they’ve found loving and fulfilling relationships with someone of the same sex.

A lot of folks believe that if you are attracted to the same sex there must be something wrong with you, for example abusive childhood, traumatic experiences, etcWhat do you think of these ideas?

When there is so much prejudice around the topic, it is so much easier to fall prey to misinformation rather that to actually take the time to read up on it. I myself am no exception (I used to think that gay people were weird messed up and gross). I do know that even a brief read on Wikipedia would be enough to expel many of the misconceptions. To put it succinctly, sexual orientation probably is not determined by any one factor but by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences.” To blame homosexuality on negative experiences is a way of rationalizing homosexual behavior. Viewing same sex attraction as behavior, rather than being as natural and integral as any heterosexual individuals experience of attraction for the opposite sex, leads to the horrible idea that homosexuality can be cured or changed.

Have you ever heard of Jonah? (orthodox organization that provides therapy to reverse your same sex attraction) What do you think of this?

I think its so terrible. Its hard for me to even talk about it… it hurts so much to think that people would encourage what I experience as natural and healthy to be changed rather than examining where their own prejudices come from. There is an Israeli short film, Veahavta (And thou shalt love), which shows just how unbearably painful it is to believe that sexual orientation should attempt to be changed at all costs. This is so sad. The American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Association of Social Workers state: Sexual orientation has proved to be generally impervious to interventions intended to change it, which are sometimes referred to as reparative therapy. No scientifically adequate research has shown that such interventions are effective or safe. Moreover, because homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality, national mental health organizations do not encourage individuals to try to change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. Therefore, all major national mental health organizations have adopted policy statements cautioning the profession and the public about treatments that purport to change sexual orientation. The statement of the American Psychiatric Association cautions that [t]he potential risks of reparative therapy are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior.

But so many of us are trapped, refusing to look further than our prejudices so that a child who feels himself or herself attracted to someone of the same sex must suffer guilt and fear, perhaps for the rest of their lives, which so often leads to depression and even suicide. If there was only a move towards tolerance, a real exploration of the sources from a place of love, perhaps those who feel they must reject religion, or attempt to change who they are, will find they can live with both spiritual and emotional integrity without fear.

The torah doesnt say anything with regards to Lesbians, but with regards to Gays its pretty harsh, its quite hard to tell someone not to have sex or fall in love – two basic human needs – but if you are a torah observant Jew how can you reconcile this?

You know, Im not a posek. Im not the one to make the decisions for everyone on how to reconcile Torah with homosexuality. All I can do is tell you what I feel intuitively regarding the issue, and hope those who do have the learning and the authority will allow themselves to feel empathy for all their fellow yiddin who are suffering, depressed, and who may even be on the verge of suicide because they cant live with the terrible feeling of guilt and shame that comes from struggling to find a way to be true to Judaism while being aware of their very real, G-d given identities.

Even if you find a way to reconcile this, reinterpretation of the torah risky business and many right wing folks will never listen to you anyway.

Because perhaps people assume that my goal is to reinterpret the Torah. Thats not my goal at all. I am a religious Jew who loves Hashem and strives every day to live a fulfilling life in Eretz Yisrael engaging in Torah, Mitzvot and constant tshuva. If anything ever changes in Judaism, its because the Rabbis come to certain understandings regarding what mankind is really capable of upholding in order for us to continue living Torah observant lives. Let me give you an example the issue with agunot. Will this ever change? Should it change? What are the risks involved if it does change? Will it mean that we are no longer committed to Torah and Mitzvot, or that we have free reign to go about changing everything we want? It is risky business. Time will tell.

Seems like being orthodox and openly gay is like flaunting your sins?

I think that being in the closet pushes people towards depression, repressed, and erratic behavior due to how unhealthy it is. To be openly gay for someone who is homosexual is actually a return to normalcy and a greater capacity for leading a healthy life.

I understand you run some sort of organization, what is it and what does it aim to do?

I belong to an organization called Bat Kol, which fosters both a supportive community and a framework of mutual
trust for religious lesbians and their family members. Bat Kol also aspires to promote and sponsor education for tolerance and the acceptance of difference within the religious community and society at large. In collaboration with a diverse group of Orthodox Rabbis, Professors, community members and friends, we are determined to pave a way for religious lesbians and their family members to live lives of equality, openness, and active participation in all areas of religious society both in Israel and the Diaspora.

Here are some links

www.bat-kol.org

www.zeek.net/jay_0409.shtml

www.tirtzah.wordpress.com

These questions will take me forever to answer… kinda out of time, it’s taken me so long to answer the previous questions 🙂 its a delicate topic..

What do you think of the Gay Pride celebration in Jerusalem? Many people say its like eating pork in a shul, you can do what you want just dont flaunt it in a holy city?

Why is gay pride important?

Do you have a Rabbi/Rebetzin that you consult with?

What do think of many yeshiva guys fantasies of seminary girls gone wild?

So I guess there is no prohibition of pre-marital sex or shomer negiah for lesbians? Sounds kind of fun

Do lesbian couples keep the laws of nidah?

Can you explain to my audience what Gaydar is and how you can pick a lesbian out of a crowd?

{ 118 comments… add one }
  • Sergeant J August 10, 2009, 7:00 PM

    Yeah, they just get together in groups to talk loshen hara, and simply yabber away, knowing it’s physically easier to just shut the heck up, because they LIKE to. Or they send out anonymous hate messages over the internet about other Jews… and then condemn other “sinners”.

  • theleviteline.com August 17, 2009, 12:53 AM

    I wouldn’t trust the (Orthodox) rabbinate to give me the time of day. As far as rules and interpretation of Torah, again I ignore these four-eyed creepy looking, repressed looking, repressed SOB’s. And yeah, I totally blame them for the Tel Aviv massacre, just as I knew they were behind Rabin’s assasination.

    I trust in God, not in man, especially not people who hide behind religion. They have nothing left to prove to me. That goes particularly for religious Jews and religious Christians.

  • B December 15, 2009, 1:31 AM

    I don’t understand what all the fuss is about.
    Homosexuality is forbidden, whether d’oraisa (men) or d’rabbanon (women).
    You wouldn’t try to justify theft, murder, or incest… so why is this different?

    Yes, there is a lot of emotions involved with this issue, but that should have nothing to do with halacha.
    There is no gray area here, and no room for compromise.

    Being openly gay and being frum are opposites. They cannot co-exist, by pure definition. Same as someone who murders, is mhalel shabbos, or eats treif is not a frum Jew.

    • DrumIntellect December 15, 2009, 2:37 AM

      Probably because homosexuality is nothing like theft, murder or incest.

      If you want to make your argument, you should use less offensive examples. Perhaps, grace after meals, wearing tzitzes or keeping shabbos to the strictest letter of the law.

      Now to answer your question, there is gray area. Homosexuality, is just another “sin”. One _can_ be “frum” and a homosexual. (Since homosexuality is a state of being and not a action.) One can be celibate their entire lives and be a homosexual.

      You may think I’m playing with words. I’d go further, but this might not be the proper forum. I suggest you watch “Trembling Before G-d”, on hulu.com for free, before you make up your mind about this issue.

      • Phil December 15, 2009, 8:14 AM

        Drumintellect,

        Homos are very similar to people that commit incest, adultery, bestiality and most of the s*xual deviances listed in the Torah, at least on a halachic level.

        On a moral level, I don’t see the difference either. Just as one man can’t help himself when it comes to another man, so too, a guy can’t help himself when it comes to someon else’s wife, mom or goat. Only difference is that we don’t have parades for dudes that bang their grannies or give their dog “the bone”.

        I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. These people should stop trying to convince us that what they do is “normal” and “OK” or “no longer a sin in the 21st century”. It’s halachically wrong and immoral, no matter what the TV or movies say. Period.

        • DrumIntellect December 15, 2009, 9:11 AM

          Homosexuality has nothing in common with incest (which often involves child abuse), adultery (which is hurting the spouse), or bestiality (which involves lack of “consent”).
          It is, however, more akin to masturbation.

          I can’t help but wonder if your use of graphic words (like “bang their grannies” and “give their dog ‘the bone'”) is an attempt to paint homosexuality as being crude or more “disgusting” then any other type of sexual act. If you think of it rationally, and for this i give credit to the film I alluded to earlier (although the Gemara also references it), all sexual acts are inherently disgusting and illogical.

          The reason they have parades is not to promote the behavior or to say they are correct to engage in homosexual acts, but to send a message that it’s not correct to kill or otherwise discriminate against homosexuals. Sadly, people are killed for their private sexuality. Sometimes heterosexuals are killed because people _think_ they are homosexuals!

          Your last paragraph has nothing to do with my comment.

          • Phil December 17, 2009, 8:37 AM

            Drum Intellect,

            Nice try. Incest doesn’t have to involve children for people to find it disgusting.
            Adultery can be practiced wihtout hiding or being hurtful (swingers), but it is still halachically punishable by death. As for bestiality, OK there is no “consent”, but then again you’re dealing with animals that don’t have emotinal feelings.

            I choose to compare homos to other s*xual deviants, let’s take shit eaters as an example. Even though they aren’t hurting anyone and are consenting adults, I think you’d very likely find it sick if your significant other wants you to indulge in each other’s doodoo.

            As for their stupid parades, what makes their cause any more special than the other 50 million causes out there? How about a parade for those that enjoy their neighbors wife, or can’t refrain from doing their wives during Niddah? Once we’re at it, let’s have one for Shabbos desecraters, pedophiles and thieves as well.

            • DrumIntellect December 17, 2009, 10:02 AM

              Phil,
              You’ve shifted the discussion from it’s origins. If you want to say that homosexual sex is “disgusting” or is sometimes “hurtful” or might be “punishable by death”, you are welcome to say that and there is some basis for those statements. (I will contend that all sex is inherently disgusting.)

              The discussion started out with the question of why is there desire to “justify” homosexuality and otherwise make it “kosher”.

              Whether my SO’s fetishes would thrill me or disgust me doesn’t seem relevant to me.

              As for your parade question, your comparison is faulty. Surely you will not deny that homosexuals (and heterosexuals that “appear” to be homosexuals) are targeted, beaten, and (sometimes) murdered for their (perceived) sexual orientation. Are adulterers similarly targeted? When was the last time a women was chased across 3 lanes of traffic only to be hit by a passing car because she had sex with her husband while menstruating? The same is true for the other examples that you gave.

              (BTW, you pedophile example is inappropriate.)

              • Phil December 17, 2009, 9:37 PM

                Drumintellect,

                You were the one that shifted it away from it’s context, namely the halachic one, see my previous response to you.

                No one can say it’s OK according to Judaism. There is no heter for people that can’t control themselves, or those that feel it’s genetic and got made them that way so the “have no choice”. It’s that simple.

                Yeah, you might have some reform rabbis allowing it, but they also allow interfaith weddings and drive to temple on Shabbos, so they are invalid authorities when it comes to halacha.

                As for homos being beaten, what about anti semitism? How many millions were beaten, robbed, raped and murdered simply because they are Jewish? Does that mean that Jews should now dress like Charlton Heston in the Ten commandments and march up and down on Broadway blowing whistles and waving flags?

                It is absurd to think that flaunting perversity in the face of the public why wearing flamboyent costumes will drum up any favor from anyone. Do feel bad or sympathizes with hamas or hizbulla when they parade around in ski masks?

                • DrumIntellect December 18, 2009, 9:32 PM

                  There’s nothing in the first 3 paragraphs that requires a new response.
                  The fourth paragraph is true. There are “Israeli Day/Jewish Pride” Parades. (Though I have no idea why you feel a Jewish Pride parade has to involve Charlton Heston.)

                  I think parades are useful for sending the message that “homosexuals exist and will exist”. That message is an important one, because without it people will not accept that homosexuals are people (who deserve respect) also. Respect for homosexuals has increased in the USA since i was child. What do you attribute that to, aside from public awareness (from parades, television shows and other media outlets)?

                  Do I think they should wear the costumes and make out in the streets? No. Not really. But then I don’t think the Labor Day Parade in Crown Heights should involve the costumes and the making out in the streets. Truth is, it’s not illegal. So, there’s no way to impose our personal modesty on others. (Hell, in NY anyone can walk around without a shirt without fear of criminal charges for indecent exposure.)

                  I don’t know that hamas and other terrorist organizations march for sympathy. If they march, it’s probably to instill fear.

    • DrumIntellect December 24, 2009, 8:43 AM

      Watch this video: http://www.vimeo.com/8356037
      Your heart will at least sympathize with frum homosexuals

      • Phil December 25, 2009, 12:22 AM

        I sympathize with this particular guy to an extent. However, I invite you to try the following:

        Watch the video, and imagine this guy talking about another perversion, i.e. adultery, bestiality, sh*t eating, etc. Do you still feel the same compassion?

        Now think to yourself, why is the guy in the clip angry/hurt by the bestiality sign he holds up? Maybe we should feel just as bad for the 14 year old that like getting it on with his pet dog or cat. Why or how is he any different? Won’t he be persecuted even more if he brough the dog out of the closet with him with a bleeding bum?

        • DrumIntellect December 25, 2009, 7:50 AM

          Phil, I want to thank you for watching the video.

          You asked, “Watch the video, and imagine this guy talking about another perversion, i.e. adultery, bestiality, sh*t eating, etc. Do you still feel the same compassion?”
          If I knew that a ten year old child of otherwise “normal” parents, raised in a “normal” atmosphere only found animals to be sexually appealing and they struggled with their complete lack of sexual interest in humans of the opposite gender, as the individual in this video did, the answer is definitely yes.
          Do you know of anyone who enjoys eating excrement? If you do, or if they exist, do they struggle with suicide (before even becoming teenagers) the way homosexuals often do?

          Let’s turn it around the other way. If we lived in a world that was made up of a majority of homosexuals, but you grew up in with your natural inclination towards women, wouldn’t you see your desire to be natural and normal rather then a “perversion”?

          The onus isn’t on me to prove that a homosexual’s desire is natural, that’s been proven enough times already. The onus is on Orthodoxy, Rabbis, and the Torah to find a way to ethically and morally deal with this issue and, ultimately, these people.
          (I’m not only putting the responsibility on Jewish people, I agree that this is a global issue.)

          • Phil December 25, 2009, 8:44 PM

            Drum,

            The Torah isn’t about political correctness. Yes, we should feel bad for these unfortunate individuals that were “wired backwards”, and no we should beat them or harass them for having the thoughts and tendencies the guy in the video described.

            But the Torah forbids them to act on their desires under the death penalty, and the rabbis forbid anything else that doesn’t actually qualify as sodomy.

            I can very easily see why the rabbi kicked him out or a religious camp. What if he tried to kiss or fondle other bunkmates? How would their parents react? How would it look for the rabbi and his camp when that kind of story got out (remember this was 25 years ago)?

            Bsides the danger to others, what about the danger to himself? I know that if anyone had attemeted to hit on me in my yeshiva days I probably would have killed him (I was reckless).

  • Phil December 20, 2009, 9:35 AM

    Homos existed long before parades, so did Jews. People parading around for rights and recognition is a relatively new phenomenon, and Israel day parades have only been around for 60 years.

    Difference is, that once upon a time, people had the decency not to flaunt perversity in everyones faces. People kept their actions where they belonged (in the bedroom), and not out in the open on the streets and in the media.

    For some stupid reason, these deviants feel they need to march and sing about their twisted lifestyles. I never felt the need to march around as a hetero married man or as an observant Jew. I recognize who I am, an that’s good enough for me. If these sickos are insecure about themsleves to the point that they have to shout about their perversity in the streets, they are probably better off in a shrinks office.

  • Cheyenne September 16, 2010, 3:14 AM

    Thanks for such nice and wonderful post. Every time like to read you.

  • Daniel Rosen May 23, 2013, 1:33 PM

    This is so idiotic. A person who is Gay (and proud of it) cannot by definition be considered Orthodox any more than any other sinner who is proud of it. Its an oxymoron. It would be like someone saying they are Orthodox even though the dont believe in the Torah and Halacha (the Torah and Halacha clearly consider being Gay to be a severe sin and a perverted lifestyle which a person has the freewill to overcome just like any other sin in the Torah). Lesbianism is clearly forbidden by Talmudic Law and is considered a sick perversion.

Leave a Comment