I recently spoke to a group of high school students at the synagogue I’d attended growing up, and where I had my Bar Mitzvah. The workshop went really well, and the students seemed receptive and open to what I was saying. I’m speaking next week to a group of seventh grade students, which should be fun, too.
After the workshop, I had a conversation with the friend of mine, Dinah, who runs the youth programming. We were discussing our queer identities, and how those do and don’t mesh with our Jewish identities. I brought up a conversation I’d had over the weekend, in which, while discussing Israel, someone Jewish (Sam) said, “Israel is the only place I’ve ever visited where I haven’t been a minority.”
Dinah agreed with Sam’s sentiment, and said one way she’s explained the importance of Israel to queer friends is in a context many queer people understand. As she put it, “Israel is the gender-neutral bathroom of my people.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about that concept, but I’m not sure it rings true for me.
Continue reading '“Israel is the gender-neutral bathroom of my people”'»
Hello again! I’m back from Minneapolis, and done (for the moment) with posting ridiculous photos from my trip. Last week, before I left, I participated in a panel discussion organized by the National Council of Jewish Women, as part of their Chicago chapter’s effort to build bridges between Jewish and LGBT communities. I was speaking as a “transgender activist,” which sort of amused me, and spoke alongside Lisa, a representative from the Center on Halsted and the Rabbi of Or Chadash.
The conversation was really interesting, and I’ll get to the meat of it later in this post. First, I want to talk about an interesting and thorny topic that came up during the discussion section of the evening. I claimed that, to truly integrate and embrace the LGBT community, Judaism needs to move away from inherently gendered ceremonies such as Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. That, even if the ceremonies are ‘equal’ (which is effectively true in liberal Judaism today, even if that wasn’t always the case) the idea of ‘separate but equal’ for boys and girls is a bad precedent to set at the threshold to adulthood.
I know this is going to be a tough pill to swallow for many Jews, and I said as much at the panel discussion. The idea of a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is ingrained in the idea of those ceremonies. But it’s flawed, problematic, and oppressive, particularly for trans Jews.
Continue reading 'Ba(r/t) Mitzvah'»
I was raised as a relatively secular Jew, and identify alternatingly as agnostic, a secular Jew, and a Humanistic Jew, depending on my spiritual feelings at the moment. (Usually one of the first two, occasionally as the third.) As such, I don’t hold a huge amount of personal stake in what the religious Jewish community feels about trans issues. That is, while I do feel some emotional connection to the Jewish community (how big is as varrying as how I describe my religious identity) how Jewish religious scholars feel about same-sex and trans issues won’t make me change my attitudes on transitioning or same-sex relationships any more than Christian or Muslim scholars would change my mind.
Nevertheless, it’s nice to see TransTorah, a resource which “helps people of all genders to fully access and transform Jewish tradition, and helps Jewish communities to be welcoming sanctuaries for people of all genders.” A friend of mine emailed me the page, and I’ve been exploring it’s (somewhat sparse) resources. I particularly like the Blessings for Transitioning Genders, and will file it away with my secular Chanukah blessing…