Fabulously Observant: If not ex-gay, then what?

Those of us who've stopped thinking of ourselves primarily as same-sexers can emphasize the fact that we're 'Deliberately Living Traditionally.'

David Benkoff 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
David Benkoff 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For years, I have been a critic of the 'ex-gay' movement, particularly its Jewish manifestation. Many advocates of 'reorientation therapy' appear to exaggerate ex-gay transformation rates, and so far the non-gay leaders of the Jewish ex-gay movement have been utterly unable to produce success stories who are willing to be interviewed. Alarmingly, Jewish ex-gay organizers sometimes lead Jewish strugglers perilously close to Christian ideas at odds with Judaism. The mainstream press treats the ex-gay movement with anything from curiosity to disdain, and the gay and lesbian community openly mocks and reviles it. Yet most of the people who turn to ex-gay ministries and reorientation therapies are genuine and sincere. Shouldn't they have an alternative to either living a gay lifestyle or striving to remake themselves as ex-gays? Well, I have a suggestion. Instead of gay or ex-gay, those of us who have stopped thinking of ourselves primarily as same-sexers can emphasize the fact that, whether we're celibate or in opposite-sex relationships, we're 'Deliberately Living Traditionally.' The handy acronym Delta corresponds to a Greek letter representing change; it can be a rival to the use of the letter Lambda to represent all things gay. Delta can serve as a new identity and community for people who are making or have made that tough transition. (Perhaps the Hebrew version will be known as 'Dalets.') The 'Delta' idea correctly focuses on how people behave and organize their lives rather than what their sexuality bar codes are. Such an attitude, by the way, is consistent with Torah Judaism. By contrast, the 'ex-gay' approach accepts the gay community view that all of us have an innate sexual orientation, merely adding that those orientations can be changed through 'reparative' or other therapy. By trumpeting that they¹ve changed sexual orientations, ex-gays also open themselves to charges of deception and failure. For example, Jewish writer Wayne Besen's 2003 book attacking the ex-gay movement, Anything But Straight, makes a big deal of ex-gay leaders who later return to the gay community, and of evidence that for many ex-gays, the transition is temporary at best. But for many of us, the trend away from homosexuality is not the wholesale fraud Besen and other gay activists make it out to be. Whether part of an organized movement or not, a number of men and women, mostly quietly, have purposefully left same-sex lifestyles, without regret. Many still have same-sex attractions. But they remain, if you will, Deltas. SOME DELTAS might continue to think of themselves as gay. Some may start to identify as bisexual or straight, and no doubt some will feel they don't fit any neat, pre-set category. I know I don¹t. However, all would be committed to living their lives in accordance with Biblical or traditional mores. People who are unhappy with their homosexuality will almost certainly find it much easier to try 'deliberately living traditionally' than to somehow transform their inner make-up. After a few years of living celibately, or perhaps in an opposite-sex relationship, such people might find their same-sex attractions have decreased or at least become less important to them. This is parallel to the Jewish concept of 'Naaseh v'nishma' ¬ the idea that actions precede what is internal. Also, the Talmud says with regard to King David that the libido is hungry when satiated and satisfied when restrained. Of course, some gays and lesbians will accuse Deltas of 'not being true to themselves.' But who decided that our libidos and hearts represent our true selves, even when they're in conflict with our minds, consciences, and spirits? Shouldn't each of us get to decide who we truly are? Indeed, whereas the gay community celebrates National Coming Out Day, and some ex-gays have commemorated National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day, the Delta community could mark National Choose Sexual Behaviors and Family Structures Consistent With Your Values Day (We can work out the acronym later). I believe 'Delta' can attract those who want more traditional sex lives but don't find the ex-gay idea true to their own aspirations and experiences. Within the Jewish community, the Delta phenomenon would resonate with age-old attitudes toward homosexuality. From the Torah's perspective, ex-gay is as foreign a concept as gay, since Jewish law knows no sexual orientations. However, our tradition embraces the idea of 'teshuvah' - repentance - and that is primarily what being a Delta is all about. Author's Note: People of any faith interested in joining a confidential Delta Listserv should contact the author at DavidBenkof@aol.com.