Jewish paper’s ‘gay cure’ column provokes anger

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A column in the regional Jewish Telegraph newspaper has provoked a backlash from Jewish figures who have criticised “malevolence” towards gay Jews in the piece.

Doreen Wachmann’s column today explores her “reservations” about the “desirability” of living an openly gay lifestyle.

At one point, Wachmann refers to a particular doctor’s experience treating “desire for sex with the dead” before mentioning the “Orthodox Jewish, Muslim and fundamentalist patients, who come to him because they know he will respect their religious beliefs and help them heal their homosexual tendencies if that is their choice.”

She continues: “The choice of whether someone wants to be cured of any condition should be the patient’s.

“Not that I’m saying that gay “cures” always work.

“I am sure they don’t, just as all cures do not work and just as most medication and medical procedures have potentially damaging side-effects. But patients are still encouraged to try them.”

The columnist goes on to ask why, when abortion and euthanasia “are being almost encouraged”, religious people do not have the “right to try to see whether their homosexuality can be cured”.

Rabbi Mark Solomon, Manchester Liberal Jewish Community said: “Doreen Wachmann’s article “Gays should be able to see if they can be ‘cured’” displays a shocking ignorance and malevolence towards gay Jews.

“Gay people have been systematically stigmatised, marginalised and persecuted for many centuries, and are still subject to imprisonment, violence and death in many parts of the world. In the West our hard-won freedom to express our loving sexual nature, as gay, lesbian or bi people, is still brand new, vulnerable and precious.

“The consensus of all respectable medical and psychological opinion not fettered by fundamentalist religious dogma is that same-sex attraction is utterly natural and deeply ingrained in the personality, not a disease or pathology of any kind.

“The language of “cure” simply does not apply, and any suggestion that it does reeks of bigotry.”

“To suggest that the popular consensus supporting gay rights is somehow fascist, in the third sentence of her article, is like saying that Jews who fight for their rights are victimising the anti-Semites. It is the classic persecutors’ technique of blaming the victim.

“Gay people who have been subjected to so-called “reparative therapy” overwhelmingly testify that it is humiliating, abusive and ultimately useless. Left-handed people were once forced to act right-handed – this might produce some temporary unnatural behaviour modification, but at the cost of the individual’s thriving and integrity.

“Of course no-one should be forced to come out, or declare themselves gay if they are really bisexual – these are deeply personal decisions that should be made freely, perhaps with the help of sympathetic and non-judgemental counselling. But that is worlds away from telling a person who is insecure about their sexual identity that there is something sick about them that could be cured.

“It is Jewish tradition that was infected, millennia ago, with the sickness of homophobia. It is the Doreen Wachmanns of this world who are in need of curing.”

Ronete Cohen, Jewish bisexual Advice Columnist, psychologist, and psychotherapist of the London based Rainbow Couch practice said: “Therapists don’t serve some hidden agenda. We take care of the person and help them find the best way to live a better life.

“No one is forced to come out of the closet. The biggest cause of distress for LGBT people is rejection by those around them. How does further rejection by trying to “cure” them – thereby suggesting an illness – help? Therapists are obliged not to knowingly damage or administer treatment that doesn’t work.

“Research shows that, contrary to claims by advocates of gay “cures”, treatment doesn’t change sexual orientation, but can potentially harm (there have been suicides in “Ex-Gay” programs). Those who claim to have become heterosexual will often later admit that they were never cured and were living a lie, including leaders and founders of the Ex-Gay movement. This “cure” is based on pseudo science and faulty reasoning. It harms. Ms Bachmann should get her facts right.”

Noam Fischer, a 32 year old Jewish gay health professional in the NHS London said: “I think Orhtodox Jews should realise that homosexuality is not an illness. Perhaps their particular view from within Judaism (though by no means largely shared by other Jews) doesn’t agree with homosexuality, but it is not an illness.

“There are female Rabbis and that is against their views, is there a cure for that?”