Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Interview with Zev Brener recap and thoughts

As many of you know, I was interviewed by talk show host Zev Brener about my recent article in the Jewish Press, I hope you were able to listen in, but don't worry,if you couldn't, I will post an audio clip of it sometime in the next 24 hours.

The conversation with Zev, the interview, went rather well in my opinion. I think i stayed focused on the issues i was brought on the show to talk about, the issue of gay teen suicides within the Jewish community, the abuse that's done at the hands of organizations like JONAH that claim to "change" or "cure" homosexual. My story and message was that when I was at JONAH, I experienced something that goes way past the category of abuse, and was sexual abuse at it's best.

Some people called in with pretty tense tones, one man who identified himself as Rabbi Litner from Monsey asked me in a very accusatory tone how I can March in a gay pride parade that he has pictures of me doing so. I did my best to communicate that marching at a pride parade isn't about flaunting or celebrating anything that anti halacha, we are celebrating who we are as gay people; and having living so ashamed about who I was as a gay person for so long, walking in the pride parade, free proud, and happy, helped heal those wounds that were inflicted upon me by my community that adamantly rejected me. After some back and forth I reminded my host that the reason i was on the show tonight was not to discuss pride parades, but rather the more sensitive, intricate details of what it was like to grow up frum and gay.

The next caller, to my delight and the audience's surprise, my mother called in. In brief she said that she doesn't believe anyone should be bullied for who they are, and that the abuse that I faced only made my life harder and me feel less desirable. She even took it a step further and admitted to my father and siblings throwing me out of the house and she stood by and didn't stop it; this was something I never really spoke publicly about, because of the place that I'm in with my family now, I prefer not to pour salt on old wounds. But my mother admitted that this was one of her greatest regrets ever, and that if she could undo it now she would. That was comforting to hear, because yes, when I was thrown out of my parents' house for being gay, I felt so alone and so abandoned. But her message stood strong and bold: "He is my son, I love him, he comes from me, and I make her so proud.

God bless my mother, and father (who wasn't interested in going public for his own personal reasons), for their amazing love and support during this battle that I'm fighting, the battle for basic human rights and dignity within our communities.

One of the last callers was a self proclaimed therapist that tried inferring that the practice that I endured through the hands of JONAH (being asked to disrobe and fondle myself as part of repairing my masculinity), was actually a legitimate one being practiced by psychologists today. I cautioned her on the use of these practices and reminded her that in my case I was alone in the room with an UNLICENSED self identified "ex gay" man, and he manipulated me into taking my clothes off. She proceeded to ask had I done this in the privacy of my own home as part of a body healing process for people with body image wounds, if i thought that it might have helped me. I told her that I never had any body image wounds, and this practiced wasn't done in the privacy of my own home, it occured on JONAH's premises under the asuspices of their director Arthur Goldberg.

The last caller who identified herself as Nechama called to ask if I was sexually abused as a child; during my mother's dialouge with Zev, my mother stated that parents should be very cautious with their children, parents should watch their children, and she believes that a lot of children who were molested become gay as a result of that. I personally disagree with most of my mom's viewpoint in this case, but it didn't matter for when this "yenta" :) asked me a question that was so personal in nature that I chose to decline and not answer. The abuse that I'm talking about, the abuse that I'm trying to bring awareness to is one that takes place on the very doorstep of religious communities: throwing children out because their gay, harassing innocent children because they might "seem" gay, and most importantly the abuse that I faced at the hand of JONAH's life coach Alan Downing.

There were a couple of other calls that I wont mention now, all I can say is that some of the calls were by people who seemed to try and accuse me about my acts or the things I do behind closed doors. It got to one point where he started screaming religious text which is translated by some that gay is equivalent to hell.

All in all I believe the interview was very successful, I managed to communicate my points clearly and articulate them in a way that was understandable to every listener, and my message of hope and love towards the younger LGBT people out there within all communities that it gets better prevailed tonight. I can't wait to wake up tomorrow (rather later today) and enjoy life at it's best, because this, this is my now.

With love,

Chaim Levin

4 comments:

  1. Acknowledging/accepting people who are gay as valuable human beings and condoning gay s*x are not mutually exclusive. Duhhhh

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  2. You are very brave. I'm not of the Hebrew faith, but have a long background as a practicing Christian and minister. I came out publicly after fighting my orientation for about forty years. The change was not simply in the way I regarded myself, but included the way in which I related to the world and everything in it. I know that it can be extremely difficult for a deeply religious person of any tradition to make such a change. But it's worse to continue to fight with oneself. L'chaim.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. As always - you were so well spoken! I was struck by your mom's conviction in her misconception that homosexuality is a result of sexual abuse.(How does she account for the heterosexuality in abuse victims?) You would know better than me whether her words reflect the community's, but still. Anyway, I'm not sure if you follow Rabbi Jeffrey Fallick's blog, but he recently wrote a post on the evolutionary basis for homosexuality. Just wanted to pass along the link in case you are interested:
    http://www.theatheistrabbi.com/2012/02/sex.html

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