A Response To Elliot Resnick and the Jewish Press
Chaim Levin (Dovid) • Special to FailedMessiah.com
I would like to state a few simple facts that are true for myself while growing up as gay orthodox jew.
1) The sweet frum boy that the author refers to in his article is me, Chaim Levin.
2) Elliiot (Gamliel as I knew him in camp) Resnick, the author of this article never contacted me to let me know that he would be writing this piece which particularly pertains to me. Even though he changed my name, I believe I had the right to share with him my side of the story before he publicly reprimanded me for talking "shamelessly" about my struggle of growing orthodox and gay. As he stated in the article he was a staff memeber at a Chabad camp in Parksville, New York that I attended in 1999 and he was my waiter. I believed we shared a pretty close connection, as I found myself able to talk to him about more personal things even at that young age of 10, because I felt that Elliot was unique and was able to understand me back then. With that being said, I haven't seen him or spoken to him in years, and he knows nothing of my life today, other than the few minutes that he heard me speak in the "it gets better video" on youtube.
3) When I say the three words "I am gay", my intent is not to shove anything down anyone's throat. I know that when I tell people that I, Chaim, who grew up in the trenches of Crown Heights within the four walls of the chabad community, am making light of a reality that most people never believed existed; an openly gay formerly Lubavitch 22 year old that attended all the top mainstream yeshivos known to Chabad. The point that I'm making is that we exist in your communities, we come from the same place that you do, and were no different than you either. By coming out publicly, something I do almost daily with zero shame, I believe and I know that I am making a difference for those who will come out in the future within these close-knit communities, and with that I hope these innocent people won't be treated as horribly as I was treated by my community.
4) By coming out publicly I am sending a message to all those out there that are still so ashamed about the fact that they're gay, the ones that are still hiding alone in isolation, I'm telling them that they're perfect the way they are. No one should suffer in silence because of something that they didn't choose, especially for being gay, because there's no shame in loving someone be they male or female. And when these people receive positive encouragement from people like myself who have been in the painful place closeted youth are in now, it can empower them and give them hope for a better future. When I was 17 and in the closet there weren't any videos like there are today, I was so conflicted and so isolated, and most of all I was ashamed.
5) Had Elliot Resnick spoken to me before he wrote this article, I am sure that he would've been surprised to learn that before I came out, I spent 2 years undergoing "experimental" "psedo-scientic" techniques through a group called JONAH to change my sexuality. I wanted desperately to live a torah filled life like the rest of my family members as well as community members. The "therapy" that I was subjected to for the sake of change involved what I believe to be sexual abuse, shame, and repression. Groups like JONAH target young people who are in the position that I once was; naive and afraid. By telling young people that they can change if they only tried hard enough, it leaves us feeling broken and shamed for not succeeding in changing despite the many hours and money spent on trying to change.
6) I never chose to be gay, no one does, for who in their right mind would "choose" to face the risk of losing their family, community, and friends because their community may reject them. This was the case for me, I was rejected by my family, my peers, and people who I believed loved me unconditionally as a Jew, friend, and family member simply for being who I was. Today most people in my life are more accepting of who I am, but that only came after years of tiring work that I did in order to let the message be heard: that gay people aren't evil, sick, or dangerous. I am grateful to my parents for coming the long way that the did to accept me as their son regardless of who I am, and although most of my siblings don't accept me, and many people in Crown Heights walk by me on the streets today as if I were the enemy, I walk with my head held high, I have no regrets.
7) Being that my torah portion that I read for my bar mitzvah was achrei mos kedoshim, I am very well aware of what is written there in regards to homosexuality, with that said though, when I tell someone that I am gay, I am NOT telling them about what I do privately behind closed doors. As far as I'm concerned Leviticus 18-22 does NOT say that you're not allowed to BE gay. And on the same token, one doesn't ask his friends or parents if they keep the laws of family purity, it's no one's place to decide or judge me based on the torah for simply being gay. It's more of an excuse to be homophobic rather then understanding what it's really like for someone who is in the conflicted position of where I once was, suffering in silence, all alone.
8) To clarify, this video was created as a response to the high rate of suicide among LGBT youth. This video wasn't about complaining, boasting shamelessly, or anything like that. It was a simple message to people all over the world who are suffering. Would Elliot Resnick rather see more youth struggling and committing suicide? That isn't a very torah kind of outlook. As I mentioned earlier about my bar mitzvah parsha, that torah portion speaks about many things, including loving your fellow Jew as you would love yourself. Sadly, Elliot's article was the opposite of love, it was an attempt to silence and shame people like me. I hope he can live with conscience for attempting to bash a project aimed at saving lives; he need not ask me forgiveness, but rather to all the suffering youth who may have come across his article this past weekend leaving them feeling more confused, more ashamed, with no hope of a future for them in their respective communities, just because they are gay.
To all the struggling people out there, the closeted ones, the married ones, the young ones who are afraid of losing their communities and families by coming out, remember this: You are perfect the way you are. No one can tell you to be something your not or force you to change something that is unchangeable. Don't be afraid of losing people who reject you simply for who you are, for they aren't real then. Our community is open and welcoming and you will never be alone. All you need to do is take the first step down the long road to healing, but I promise you, it will get better.