Stories of former ex-gays are almost exclusively told from an Evangelical Christian perspective, which makes Jayson Littman’s essay in Heeb magazine so interesting. He is a former ex-gay client of Jews Offering New Alternatives to Healing (JONAH, formerly Jews offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality). He described his entry into JONAH as being a choice between conversion therapy and dying. The idea of coming out as a religious Jew was unthinkable. In JONAH, Littman found like-minded individuals trying to figure out how to live in “No Man’s Land”:
I became close to other men around my age who were on the same journey. We would often sit around and talk. I called the stage we were in “no-man’s land”—there was an obvious literal meaning to that as we weren’t sexually active with men or each other, to the dismay of most who think that’s what happens at these retreats. And we weren’t attracted to women, so we mainly hung out with each other and talked. We decided we didn’t appreciate the term ex-gay. How can we be ex-gay if we were never gay to begin with? We spent hours one afternoon debating what to call our in-between status. We broke down ex-homo to ex-mo and because we said it so many times fast, we realized it sounded like Eskimo. We then further segregated ourselves to Jewskimos, Chriskimos. We never met any Muskimos (Muslim Eskimos) during our journey.
In his ex-gay phase — one in which he eventually came out of — he and fellow ex-gay Jews often attended Christian ex-gay conferences, where he was struck by one immediate difference between Christian culture and Jewish culture:
I learned a lot from my Jewish and Christian brothers on my journey. I realized that many Christians who were attempting to change had an end-goal of celibacy, while the Jews wanted to get married and have children. The obvious difference had everything to do with religious dictates. Celibacy was highly regarded and practiced in the Christian culture, while Jews focused on biblical procreation, also pleasing our families.
Littman’s cheerful essay is devoid of drama and regrets over his experience with ex-gay therapy. Indeed, he credits his coming out to many of the valuable things he learned there. And he observes that Jewish culture, including Orthodox culture, has come a long way over the past decade. Littman today runs He’Bro, a gay Jewish promotion events group in New York, and this Saturday he’s throwing a huge “Jew Years Eve” bash for Rosh Hashanah.