The whole homosexuality issue, which comes up with the Yom Kippur Torah reading (why more than adultery or relations during niddah?), is a difficult thing to deal with. It has come up on Hirhurim; I thought I’d put together some review and my thoughts.
Commenter (Chakira) made the point that it seems sadistic of God to create beings whose essence is forbidden by the Torah. Another commenter, Gandalin pointed out that this was affected by Freud’s position (in Civilization and its Discontents) that “we should accept only those Divine "commandments" which are in accord with what you perceive as our underlying composition.”
I pointed out, rather:
that even the Freudian interpretation doesn't seem to correspond to the Torah's reality, at least as understood by a number of admitted homosexuals of my acquaintance. It's not the total suppression of gay activity, it's the d'oraita suppression of one specific act.
In that, it parallels exactly every other activity that is regulated by the Torah - some forms are permitted (your wife), others are prohibited (your wife's sister). So too here, the argument is made that the Torah forbids one act, but that other acts are at most forbidden rabbinically, and if one is (Freudially?) created with such urges, then the existential nature of the desire overrides the rabbinic prohibitions for them. Homosexual activity for those who are otherwise attracted to women (that would necessarily include bisexuals), would be right out, both rabbinically and toraitically.
That reasoning addresses acts, not inclinations. Very few mitzvot address inclinations. But we don't see massive public opprobrium of men who say they're attracted to other women.
It seems to me, then, that between the ideas of chezkat kashrut and dan lekaf zechut, we should not assume that homosexuals are breaking any laws, and thus should not reject them davka for having the inclination and daring to talk about it. Chibuk venishuk in public is just as much a problem, halachically, for heterosexuals as homosexuals, but we don't see a lot of social rejection of a married couple who hold hands or embrace in public.
Gil’s response to the sadistic-God was “look at the AIDS baby”. Which is, it seems, not so much a response to homosexuality being forbidden, but to the idea of mamzer (being the parents’ fault). God being by definition Good, the AIDS baby is not God’s fault and God’s fault alone, but the parents’ failure. Or does Gil subscribe to the (outdated) theory that homosexuality is the result of a poor home life, frigid mother, etc.?
Commenter Gandalin calls our attention to R’ Steve Greenberg’s prayer on behalf of Jewish homosexuals for Yom Kippur, at the Social Action website. He decries how Greenberg has fallen into “the cult of victimization.”
But victimization is a big part of Judaism. Even apart from the Holocaust industry, where the Holocaust has been elevated to the center of American Jewish identity for far too many Jews, victimization is a very large part of our identity.
I suppose Greenberg fails in that he stops at the victimization, rather than, as RYBS might have put it, what does the victim status motivate me to *do*?
After all, we do obsess on victimhood - oppressed by Lavan, slaves in Egypt, exiled by God twice, our city, temple and land destroyed, bash our enemies' children as they did to ours, Muslim invasions, Crusader invasions which destroyed the ancient community of Eretz Yisrael, Cossacks, N_zis, lots and lots of others.
But we go through to the other side, and talk about how this is punishment for our sins, so it has to motivate us to do mitzvos. Also, as we have always been victims, we must sympathize with, and support, other victims. Whether as darchei sholom - sympathy, or as mipnei eivah - so as not to be further victimized, our victim status motivates our charitable giving, transforms it from an act of individual generosity (karitas) into an act of righteousness, doing our Divinely-assigned work in the world, restoring balance.
Reading over Greenberg's prayer, he also fails in that he seems to create a "burning-times" myth, of thousands of years of oppression, and thousands of deaths at the hands of, the Torah Jewish community. In reality, the social oppression of homosexuals is quite recent, probably mostly coinciding with the rise of a "gay lifestyle" - shove it in our faces, we react with horror as we did to Reform shoving their non-observance of Shabbos in our faces. If there had been big social opposition to homosexuality, surely it would have appeared in the Gemara and Responsa literature?
Some have noted that Greenberg has departed from Orthodoxy in his halachic reasoning in “Wrestling with God and Man”. Perhaps he has, but he continues to identify with the Orthodox, and the issues he raises, while many of us may not like his answers, do call for being addressed.
It's a difficult issue, in many ways.