STATEMENT BY JAY MICHAELSON, DIRECTOR OF NEHIRIM (A NATIONAL JEWISH GAY & LESBIAN ORGANIZATION), FROM PRESS CONFERENCE ON CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT DECISION ON HOMOSEXUALITY
Good afternoon. My name is Jay Michaelson, and I am a gay religious Jew. I observe the traditional sabbath laws, I keep kosher, and I share my life with my partner, who is a rabbinical student at Hebrew College in Boston. I am gratified that, today, the Conservative movement’s law committee has recognized what those of us who are gay or lesbian, or who have gay or lesbian relatives, have known for a long time: that homosexuality is a trait, not a choice; and that a God who loves God’s children could not possibly want them to hate themselves, to lie to everyone they know, and to destroy a fundamental part of themselves, the natural, God-given gift of sexuality.
“The closet” is a rather cozy metaphor to describe what lying about your sexuality really is. I should know — I lied about mine for fifteen years: to myself, to my girlfriends, to my family, and to everyone else. And I can tell you: it’s not a closet — it’s a tomb. Sexuality isn’t a preference, it isn’t a choice, like choosing vanilla ice cream instead of chocolate. It’s part of who you are — and shutting it down shuts down the heart.
My relationship to God, to holiness, is among the most important things in my life. And I can tell you firsthand that lying and Godliness do not go together. The more any of us denies this basic truth about sexuality — that it is natural, inborn, and God-given — the more repression, the more scandals, the more fear, the more hatred of self and others.
Yet today we breathe a bit of fresh air. Because our age-old traditions are wiser than passing prejudices. Because they take account of new information, like what we now know to be scientifically true about sexuality. And because, slowly, deliberately, perhaps even haltingly, the Jewish halachic system sometimes works.
Today’s decision does not mean that the sky will fall. All the rabbis in that closed room did today was say “There’s a verse that could mean a lot of things, or it could mean the one thing it says. We think it means just one thing.” And we think that not for expediency, not for political correctness — but because it is inconceivable that a loving God creates gays and lesbians only to have them mutilate the gifts that God has given.