Commonly Asked Questions to Orthodox Rabbis and Helpful Responses
Over the years, JQY representatives have spoken at various panels and have held many private conversations with Orthodox Rabbis and community leaders. Below are common questions, criticisms, and concerns asked by Orthodox individuals, accompanied by the responses of supportive Orthodox Rabbis. We have compiled this list as a resource, in order to describe the common questions, criticisms, and concerns that our members have heard from friends, family and community members.
If you have any questions regarding any items on this page, or if you would like to be connected to a supportive rabbi or religious leader, click here.
Ask a Rabbi
Why do LGBTQ people need to “come out”? Straight Jews don’t seem to need to come out about their sexuality or gender?
- Straight people don’t need to “come out” because there is an assumption in our community that everyone is default heterosexual and cisgender, However, if one were to mistakenly assume that a straight person were queer, you can bet that the individual (no matter how Orthodox) would “come out” as straight pretty quickly.
- Straight people actually come out all the time in our communities. They come out when they introduce their partners, invite people to their life cycle events, and talk about their hopes and dreams
- Coming out empowers a person to find helpful support resources as well as others like them
- Research consistently shows that LGBTQ youth who come out have higher self esteem and avoid a variety of negative psychological adjustment issues including depression, isolation, self harm, risky behavior and compulsive sexual activity.
Isn’t “coming out” and “pride” essentially immodest and incompatible with the Orthodox Jewish values of Tzniut? Shabbat violators may be tolerated but not if they advertise their sins publicly?
- Orientation is about identity and living authentically, not about personal sexual experiences. Watch this video to learn more about what LGBTQ identity is.
- Pride is about cultivating a healthy sense of self-esteem, not about advertising private information or displaying arrogance.
- When someone comes out, one cannot assume that they are telling you that they are or plan to be sexually active. On the contrary, it is harmful to sexualize LGBTQ youth by assuming that they are referring to sexual activity instead of identity. The laws of modesty apply to LGBTQ and straight people alike.
- Being openly LGBTQ is not at all comparable to publicly violating the Shabbat, because simply “being” gay is neither a sin nor a public “action”. The analogy to Shabbat would only hold for an individual who chooses to have sex in public. Comparing “out” LGBTQ people to Shabbat violators essentially accuses LGBTQ people of public displays of sex and is highly insulting.
If one believes that “homosexual sex” is halachically prohibited, wouldn’t public support for LGBTQ people in Orthodoxy lead some to engage in more sinful activities?
- The overwhelming consensus of scientific peer-reviewed research actually demonstrates that coming out and positive LGBTQ identity formation LOWER risky and compulsive sexual behaviors.
- Research also finds that being closeted and being surrounded by negative attitudes about queer identity are linked to more risky and compulsory sexual behavior.
- Consequently, scientific consensus suggests that encouraging LGBTQ youth to stay closeted, and sending negative messages about queerness INCREASES risky and compulsive sexual behavior. Coming out DECREASES these risks.
- Even if one believes that male anal sex is sinful, supporting LGBTQ people would likely minimize- not encourage- further sin.
I believe that everyone has their nisayon (challenge) in life, and that Hashem (God) does not give us anything we cannot overcome. Doesn’t this mean that same sex attraction or gender nonconformity can be overcome?
- For every person, there are things in reality that can be changed and things that can not. Accepting this is what growing up is about. The promise that we can overcome adversity does not mean that our challenges will go away, but that we can each learn to find meaning, value, and purpose through living our unique lives.
- The major medical and mental health professional organizations agree that sexuality and gender identity are not things that can be changed through psychotherapy or other methods. Over 100 years of scientific research affirms this.
- A nisayon is intended to bring a person closer to God, not to make you miserable. Your nisayon is not to change who you are, but to find a way to make the most out of who you are and be your best possible self.
Since male anal sex is called a toevah (abomination) in the Torah, doesn’t it mean that it is an ethical evil that goes against Jewish hashkafa (morality)?
- “Toeva” is a commonly misunderstood word. In the Torah (bible) eating shellfish and wearing shatnez (cloth containing wool and linen) are also called a “toevah". However, one would be hard-pressed to label wearing a combination of linen and wool, or eating shrimp, as unethical or immoral.
- It’s important to understand that while according to many interpretations, male homosexual behavior may be a biblical prohibition, there is no reason to think that it is immoral, dirty, or harmful.
- We simply do not know why some things are prohibited in the Torah. It is this mystery that allows us to be humble and non-judgmental when it comes to biblical adherence and understanding.
Will sending a positive message about LGBTQ people in the Jewish Community lead those “on the fence” to choose to live an LGBTQ “lifestyle”?
- Whether sexuality is genetic, hormonal, or developmental, no one has ever turned LGBTQ because people were kind to them, or turned straight because people were unaccepting. That is simply not the way sexuality or gender work.
- Silence about LGBTQ people doesn’t prevent anyone from becoming queer, but it can increase the shame and internal suffering that LGBTQ people experience.
- Sensitivity, kindness, and welcoming are the Torah way and can be lifesaving for individuals who are suffering in silence.
Judaism only seems to recognize Male and Female in the Torah, so aren’t the concepts of non-binary and transgender against Jewish values?
- In the bible, G-d is said to have created Zachar and Nekeyva (Feminine and Masculine energies). According to Kabballah, these are different energies that all beings have access to.
- This is how we can go from a gender dichotomy to a non-binary spectrum. If everyone has different amounts of Zachar and Nekeyva, then there are actually infinite diverse possibilities of gender.
- The Torah itself describes 6 different gender labels, Zachar, Nekeyva, Andregonis, TomTom, Saaris, and Aylanis.
- Biblical and Halachic language about gender and sexuality are often physical descriptions, not identities. It is helpful not to confuse technical objectifying language with the way we refer to people.