Facebook event here.
Ethical Eggs is the second piece I’ve had published on The Stirrer.
Recently it came to my attention, by way of a Sydney-based Jewish gay mailing list, that an observant Orthodox Jewish couple (married and nominally heterosexual) were unable to conceive conventionally due to a medical condition. However they were advised that conception could be achieved with the assistance of a donated egg.
To accommodate their strict religious requirements the egg donor ideally must be Jewish and must be, and remain, unmarried. The writer of the post felt that if the egg donor were to be a lesbian, this would rule out the likelihood that she would ever marry (a man), thereby meeting the aforementioned prerequisite that the donor be now, and remain, unmarried.
By the time I had digested the gist of this somewhat unusual request I was starting to feel a little uneasy. Not that someone should donate an egg. In itself that was fine. What bothered me initially is that it was considered acceptable to use a lesbian woman as an egg donor simply because she would effectively be guaranteed never to get married (under Jewish law).
In 2012 in Australia this is a correct assumption. Lesbian couples cannot currently marry in Australia, and if they get married overseas their marriages are not legally recognised here. In any case, Orthodox Judaism does not currently recognise same-sex marriages anywhere in the world, so even if they could get married under a civil jurisdiction, they would not be considered married under Orthodox Jewish law.
What this doesn’t take into account is that at some time in the future lesbian couples may be able to get civilly married in Australia. Given this possibility, it raises questions as to whether said lesbian egg donor, unmarried at the time of donation, would still be considered unmarried in the eyes of the Jewish law if she were to tie the knot with a same-sex partner under civil law. Whilst this is not a concern of mine, it may need to be a consideration for the prospective parents.
What is of greater concern to me is the welfare of any child born from the gift of an egg to this couple by an unmarried lesbian donor. Specifically, I would be concerned that this child might be raised in a manner that did not take into account that it may grow up to be same-sex attracted. Given that Orthodox Jewish couples of strong religious observance do not typically consider homosexuality acceptable, the likelihood of such an inflexible upbringing is high.
Should the child turn out to be other than heterosexual, and assuming it was nonetheless expected to conform to heterosexual norms, there is an increased chance of negative mental health outcomes, self-harm and even suicide. Current Australian scientific research1 shows that these scenarios are prevalent in religious environments intolerant of homosexuality.
The ethical dilemma for the egg donor, as I see it, is whether she should donate an egg to a couple, with the full knowledge that any child born of her egg and raised by this couple will potentially suffer due to the religious attitudes of the parents, if it turns out to be same-sex attracted.
How would the egg donor feel if this child experienced a life of misery because it was forced to conform to heterosexual norms? Would that be an acceptable outcome to the donor?
Ultimately this decision is one for the egg donor to make. Being party to the creation of life is not a responsibility to be taken lightly, and hopefully the donor would take this situation into account, along with any other considerations she may have. Needless to say, all parties would want the best outcome for the child. I just hope all parties understand the consequences of their actions and attitudes.
Check out “Queer Jewish Crisis“, my first contribution on The Stirrer.
Queer Jewish Crisis
I recently attended a talk by Keshet Australia aimed at getting its message out to the Jewish community. The local Keshet, based on its USA counterpart, advertises itself as “a Jewish GLBTIGQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Transgender, Intersex and Gender Queer) movement to better educate Australian Schools on how to educate a Jewish child on GLBTIGQ.”
At this talk a flyer was distributed, the opening paragraphs of which described a crisis of Queer departure from the Jewish community and how Keshet is placed to address it. As a seasoned activist this crisis was news to me, with my priorities centring on reduction of isolation, self-harm and suicide.
Another almost ignored real crisis is the rate of self-harm and suicide in the Melbourne Jewish community. Rough figures were published in 2011 claiming approximately two people a month attempt suicide or self-harm. Taken together with the alarming rate of suicide amongst same-sex attracted people and this issue should be given elevated priority.
My experience of coming out as gay in the Jewish community was one of compassion at best and indifference at worst. I was not strongly religiously observant, but I continued to attend an Orthodox synagogue for some years and my friends and family accepted me and continued to include me and connect with me as they had always done. In fact, for a number of years after coming out my Jewish “identity” actually strengthened.
Individual experiences will no doubt differ to mine, depending on the attitudes of the person’s family, friends and religious community.
I have made a number of observations about what happens when people self-identify as other than heterosexual. If their religious context is accepting, they will open up to their peers and live a full life merging their sexuality and their cultural context. If their religious context is intolerant they will more than likely find a context to express their sexuality at a safe distance from their cultural community, keeping both alive but separate. I have not yet experienced many who give up their entire religious community simply to allow unhindered sexual self-expression.
And so I challenge this perceived “crisis”. I feel it is a phenomenon that is alarmist, unfounded and exaggerated.
If a person departs their Jewish identity due to peer intolerance when they “come out”, it may potentially induce a situational crisis for their friends and family due to a sense of confusion, bewilderment, loss and even grief. But keeping a sense of perspective, these situations are not ubiquitous or universal.
There may be legitimate grounds for concern over people leaving the Jewish community but the reasons for this are potentially varied and complex. One mid-20’s community-minded gay woman recently told me that her university and career choices took her away from much of the Jewish surrounds that she was immersed in during her secondary school years.
Disengagement from the Jewish community may occur for ideological reasons, lack of need for a connection, or prioritising a connection with a different community. All reasons are legitimate.
People leaving the Jewish community is not a crisis or even a problem if they make these choices voluntarily, free from duress.
If a situation arises that drives many away from a community, the crisis should be identified as the underlying reason why people are leaving rather than the fact that people are leaving. We invariably seek the path of least conflict.
As to Keshet’s claim on their flyer “We need to keep Jews, Jewish”, I disagree. We need to keep people in the Jewish community happy and alive.
 GLBTIQ / same-sex attracted / gender diverse, etc
(Kudos to BG for bringing this story to my attention)
Christian lobby calls for gays in plain packaging
September 6, 2012 – 8:50PM
Paul Oisborne And Lisa Martian
The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) says that homosexuals should cover themselves up in plain clothing to discourage young people from taking up same-sex behaviour.
ACL spokesman, Mr Jim Wallace, has defended his comments from earlier this week in which he said homosexuality was more dangerous than smoking, adding that “plain packaging should now apply to same-sex couples just as it does to cigarettes”.
“Many homosexuals wear alluring, bright and attractive clothes which some impressionable young people might be attracted to,” Mr Wallace said.
“Under the circumstances, I think a sensible health approach is for gays to cover themselves up in plain ways so as not to be a temptation.”
When asked if gays should simply wear burkas, Mr Wallace said he did not approve of full Islamic dress for homosexuals, unless they were in fact Muslim, but which he admitted would be unlikely.
“Look, all I’m saying is that cigarettes kill people and so do homosexuals. But I am not homophobic.”
Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday withdrew from speaking at the ACL conference in Canberra on October 5 and 6, citing “offensive” comments about homosexuality made by Jim Wallace.
Ms Gillard had originally said that attending the conference did not mean that she endorsed all of the views being presented.
“I speak to many organisations around Australia and sometimes I support their views and sometimes I don’t, but I can never know which views I support and which I don’t until I am informed by Mr Joe de Bruyn,” she said.
Rainbow Labor, the GLBT support group within the ALP, immediately rushed to issue a media release congratulating Ms Gillard on withdrawing from the conference organised by the Religious Right.
When asked why the group did not condemn Ms Gillard for giving legitimacy to the ACL and its conference by agreeing to attend in the first place, Rainbow Labor spokesperson, Mr Con Distraction, said “oh look, there’s an aeroplane!”
Eight years after the Howard Liberal government introduced the delightfully discriminating Marriage Amendment Act (2004), we’re still rallying for marriage equality.
A fruity message highlighted the discrimination:
Ernie & Bert were planning their wedding in New York (and Colin was planning his wedding to a handsome police officer):
Straights were fighting hate:
There were thousands of people there:
Two gorgeous guys got illegally married to each other:
Today it came to my attention that Prime Minister Julia Gillard is appearing as keynote speaker at the 2012 Australian Christian Lobby National Conference. It also came to my attention that an aligned radical Australian Christian organisation is claiming that “gays reproduce by molesting kids”.
It’s inexcusable for the leader of the nation to remotely associate herself with any organisation that espouses such hateful views
Julia, its time to leave the house.