On Galus Australis Malki Rose talks about the Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Reference Group. I have written about this ‘reference group’ a number of times.
I refer to a section of Malki’s article on Galus, followed here by some correspondence between Geoffrey Zygier of the JCCV and myself, and finally ask a question of Malki.
Mr Searle said that the GLBT reference group, comprising of a mix of individuals who had approached him with their concerns, also seeks to gauge the mental health concerns and risks, which young GLBT Jews may be facing.
Thus far, the reference group, which includes a qualified psychologist, has noted that there are relatively few instances of discrimination or vilification being perpetrated against GLBT Jews by ‘straight’ Jews.
Perhaps it is possible that smaller numbers of openly gay Jews equates to less instances of vilification or discrimination?
In speaking with Mr Searle, I suggested that some of the discrimination and exclusionary behaviour may also be too subtle to measure and also far more prevalent in the Orthodox community where the Halachic concerns play a stronger role in the community’s treatment or subtle exclusion of GLBT Jews.
Many GLBT Jews, having been excluded by the Jewish community as deviant or ‘people best avoided’, become disenfranchised and abandon the Jewish Community, seeking solace in the potentially more accepting embrace of the non-Jewish GLBT community, whose inclusiveness seems much more all encompassing.
On the surface this sounds really good, but there’s a very big trick being played by John Searle. The JCCV released a statement for Mental Health Week on October 4 2010. As I did in 2009, I asked the JCCV to make mention in this statement of the mental health issues that same-sex attracted Jews face. Of course, the JCCV obliged in making some mention of the issue, but also as in 2009, this year they again deflected the problem from the real issue affecting closeted same-sex attracted people in the Jewish community to the diversionary issue of Jews in the GLBT community.
I wrote to Geoffrey Zygier about this, as he was the contact for the media release, expressing my concern over the language used:
From: Michael Barnett
Sent: Tuesday, 5 October 2010 1:37 PM
To: Geoffrey Zygier
Subject: In response to the JCCV Media Release: Assistance for those in Need
I refer to the JCCV media release “Assistance for those in Need” issued yesterday.
You state “There are also particular concerns about mental health issues faced by members of the GLBT communities.”
As I have previously advised the JCCV, and as Professor Anne Mitchell would have advised the JCCV GLBT Reference Group earlier this year, the problems that same-sex attracted people experience that lead or contribute to mental health issues, self harm and suicide are frequently happening to people who do not identify with the GLBT community. To state otherwise is misleading.
Urgent attention needs to be paid to people in the Jewish community who are struggling with their sexuality or who are in the closet. It is the intolerance of homosexuality that is the problem, not because people are same-sex attracted.
I strongly urge the JCCV to acknowledge this situation, and stop inferring the problem is only or mainly with people in the GLBT community.
I would appreciate a response on this matter and would be happy to have a discussion with you if you require further clarification.
I received this response:
From: Geoffrey Zygier
Date: 8 October 2010 14:53
Subject: RE: In response to the JCCV Media Release: Assistance for those in Need
To: Michael Barnett
I accept what you say and the statement was not meant to infer otherwise. On reflection it could have been phrased more clearly.
Geoffrey Zygier I Executive Director I Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV)
The Voice of Victorian Jewry
306 Hawthorn Road South Caulfield VIC AUST 3162
03 9272 5579 I 0413 731545
I then sent the following email, which currently remains unanswered:
From: Michael Barnett
Date: 8 October 2010 15:24
Subject: Re: In response to the JCCV Media Release: Assistance for those in Need
To: Geoffrey Zygier
Thank you for this Geoffrey. Would you consider issuing an amended media release, with an appropriate revision of this statement?
Perhaps: “There are also particular concerns about mental health issues faced by members of the Jewish community who are same-sex attracted or who have a gender identity disorder.”
I believe it would be a really positive way to move forward, especially considering the serious nature of the issue.
Yet as Malki writes above, John Searle is talking about GLBT people being excluded or ill-treated by others in the Jewish community. This is not the real problem, if it is even a problem. If the truth be known, it is actually a diversion, set up to show the JCCV’s funding source that it is doing something to include GLBT people in the community.
Searle refuses to engage on the topic that is the most serious, the one where people who are same-sex attracted, who do not identify as GLBT, are not even able to talk about their situation and live in fear of expressing their true sexual orientation.
I ask Malki to explain why she is supporting this action to address a ‘bogus’ issue and is not challenging the JCCV on why they are side-stepping the real issue? I understand that “something is better than nothing”, but this “something” is extremely patronising.