Guest Blog by Josh —
I am a 35-year-old Orthodox Jew, loving husband, father of five beautiful children, a leader in my community, and a striving Torah Jew—who experiences same-sex attraction. I not only live with same-sex attraction, but I thrive with it. Through my life-long journey to find peace with myself, I have gained extraordinary gifts.
Like most Orthodox Jewish boys, my relationship to Hashem (“Hashem” refers to the name of G-d) defines my world and forges my identity. I cannot disentangle my religious identity from my sense of self and who I am. As I grew into adolescence and found myself deeply attracted to men, and not so much to women, I felt deeply conflicted. But my identity as a Jew and a man connected to Hashem was far more important and engrained than any sexual identity or desire. So what was I to do?
At first I did what most men in our community do. I hid.
I did not share my challenge with anyone. Meanwhile, I was afraid, anxious, and full of self-hatred and loathing. On the outside, I was the perfect Jewish kid: smart in academics, performing all my mitzvos (religious duties), socially adjusted, good looking, and just an all-around a good guy. But, internally, I was in immense pain and loneliness.
Our close-knit Jewish community is beautiful. I have always felt deeply fortunate to grow up surrounded by a loving, spiritual community. Shul and later the beis medrash (places of religious study) were always my second homes. I love that I can travel to virtually any city in the world, walk into any Orthodox Shul, and immediately feel at home among friends.
But this close degree of separation can cause great turmoil for those of us hiding internal challenges. We are afraid of judgment. We are afraid to reveal ourselves and be vulnerable because we know that not everyone is healthy-minded or willing to accept us with open arms. So we hide.
Within my hidden world, the pain festered. I was screaming to be seen, known, understood, and accepted for who I was by my family, my community, and my rabbis. As I got older, it seemed that this deep desire could only find expression in the underworld of pornography and sexual behavior online. I was out of control.
I married young to the woman of my dreams. I was terrified of marriage, but my fears later proved to be unwarranted. My wife is loving, accepting, kind, and a woman of deep faith. A true “Ashes Chayil” (woman of valor). But I was afraid to tell her who I really was, and I felt so deeply unworthy of her love and companionship. If only she knew.
The hiding, the loneliness, the pain, the trauma, the anxiety, and the fear all continued. And, as my own boys reached pre-adolescence, it all came to a head. I could not go on. I needed help.
Over the past two and half years, I have discovered remarkable gifts. Most importantly, I have discovery incredible things about myself: my faith, my resilience, my strength, my courage, and my resolve.
After I revealed myself and my struggle to my wife, to my rabbi, and to a few dear friends, I discovered the gifts of love, compassion, and acceptance. This may surprise you, but I also discovered a gift of deep emotional, spiritual, and intimate relationship with my beautiful wife, untainted by the animalistic drive some other men may experience.
I have also learned the spiritual pleasure of true, deep male friendship and masculine connection. These friendships with the beautiful men I’ve met along the way are perhaps the most impactful gifts of all. I have learned the gift of deep compassion, love, and care, as well as the gift of transforming the lives of others through sharing my vulnerability.
Finally, I have found the gift of a deep emotional relationship with Hashem. I have uncovered the gift of prayer: it may take some time but Hashem is listening and answers our prayers.
I am still attracted to men, and there are times I struggle. I do not believe that will ever go away. “Man was born to struggle” (Job 5:7). Our individual struggles teach us Hashem’s chosen mission for us this earth. But I am at peace in my struggle. My life has never been better.
Our sages teach us that “he who is greater than his friend, his evil inclination is greater.” (Sukkah 52a). I understand this to mean that Hashem gives greater challenges to those whom He trusts can handle them. And I believe G-d sees this challenge of same-sex attraction as one of the most difficult. Those who don’t experience the struggle of same-sex attraction will never understand it completely—how our sexual and emotional desires and attractions hit the core of who we are. The loneliness. The sacrifice.
But, if Hashem has entrusted me with this challenge, what does that say about who He knows me to be? And if he chose you to face this, what does that say about you?
The same-sex attracted men that I have had the good fortune and honor to meet along this journey are some of the most spectacular human beings I’ve ever met. I believe that each of us is a special, lofty soul who has been placed in this world with a unique challenge and mission to fulfill.
Yes, it is hard! But “commensurate to the pain is the reward.” (Avos 5:23).
If you’ve been given this challenge, it means that you are spectacular too.
I will never know the true reasons why Hashem gave me this challenge. I know that after 120 years, when my soul returns to its Maker, I will learn that it was all for the good and for the “tikkun” (healing or growth) of my unique soul. With that belief, I have found peace because I know this came straight from Hashem’s never-ending goodness. Hashem is only good.
“Who is happy? He who is satisfied with his lot.” (Avos 4:1). I have found happiness.
If you want to correspond with Josh, send an email to [email protected] and we will forward it to him.