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LGBTQIA Rights

Blurred Lines in Parshat Vayera

As a female-bodied person who wears clothing typically reserved for men and occasionally uses male pronouns, I know the world of bluriness. I walk through it everyday, and I see the way it is threatening to people. I have compassion for Sarah, because I see her in the face of all those who struggle with excellent intentions to locate my gender in their understanding of the world. I know the ways in which it pushes me outside of community, and I see the ways in which sharing my whole self with people allows them to bring me in. It is an experience of deep pain and of greater joy. Of pure laughter and the laughter that comes in response to the sheer absurdity of any given moment in my life. To be sure, it is not only genderqueer or trans* identified people who live in the bluriness or on the edge. People with disabilities, those of lower economic classes, single parents, interfaith members of our community — they also live in the blurriness, on the edge of at least one boundary or another.

And so I read this week’s Torah portion as a caution. As a call to notice, to investigate, to counter moments when a blurred line is making us uncomfortable or when we are too narrowly prescribing a person’s identity.

National Coming Out Day

Today marks National Coming Out Day. In honor of the 25th anniversary of this day of celebration and action, we are sharing a few of our favorite stories of identity, activism, and heroism in the LGBTQ community from our blog.

Elissa Froman, 1983 - 2013

There are so many stories about Elissa Froman.

One of her closest friends, Emily Goodstein, tells of the time she and Froman were walking down a street in Washington, D.C., where they both lived. A homeless man who sat asking for change in front of a restaurant stopped them, addressing Elissa by name. He thanked her for making an appointment for him at a local healthcare clinic.

A favorite one that her mother, Gloria, relates: When Elissa was four years old, she asked, “Are we really alive, or is G-d dreaming us?”

My Thoroughly Jewish Gender

A Jewess isn’t like other women – the word alone makes her stand apart. There’s a slight sense of both shaming and warning in the label, as if it’s her fault that she’s different and she should feel bad about it, and also, you should probably stay away from her—she’s a little different, that one.  “Jewess” has connotations of too much: too loud, too pushy, too big, too different (or, according to OkCupid, “more aggressive). She doesn’t perform her femininity as well as non-Jewish women for these reasons—while she’s still recognizable as a women, she’s a different kind of woman. Because of this, “Jewess,” to me, feels more than a little queer.

Being Visible as a Queer Jew

My LGBTQ Jewish heroes are less well known.  They're couples who I've watched argue over parshiot, joke about the treyf zone in their otherwise kosher home, and plot to have the gayest purim costumes (I believe they decided on a Roman and a his slave!)  They are the people who showed me there was more to Judaism and same sex relationships than a few verses in Leviticus, and introduced me to the five genders within Jewish tradition.  I could keep adding to this list, but the truth of it is that the people on it are my friends and mentors, members of my congregation and chosen family. 

Queer Identity: More Questions than Answers

I didn’t realize it would be so hard to be queer after I got married. Seems like it should have been obvious to me, right? Marry a heterosexual cis-man, turn in queer club card, do not pass go, still collect hundreds of dollars of apparently-straight privilege. Is that how it has to be?

Proud, Yet Ambivalent: Immigration Reform, Pride and the LGBT Community

This year, I can’t help but color my pride with a slight bit of ambivalence as a result of the failure of Senator Patrick Leahy’s amendment to the current Immigration bill, which would have recognized same-sex bi-national couples, affording them the same rights and benefits that opposite-sex couples obtain during the immigration process.

The Faces of Boston Pride

They say there’s nothing like a parade—and they’re right. This weekend I marched in my first ever Pride parade, proudly carrying my JWA bag, a Keshet sign reading “another Jew for LGBTQ equality,” and my camera. The weather called for rain, but I wasn’t about to let that get me down. I packed my raincoat and channeled my inner Barbra, declaring that no one dare rain on my parade.

Claiming our Inheritance at the Boston Dyke March

As a member of the GLBTQ community and a rabbinical student, it is clear to me that the words “there is no need” do not apply to places where Jewish and Queer communities intersect.  There is so much need.  Before these needs can be addressed, they need to be made visible.  GLBTQ Jews need to be seen as vital members of our GLBTQ communities.  We need to be seen and valued as Jews who have vast interests and abilities and life experiences that can, and already do, enrich Jewish life.  We, GLBTQ Jews, also need to stand up and claim Jewish community, Jewish tradition, and Jewish law for ourselves.

“I struggle.”

Growing up, my discomfort derived from the separate-but-equal mentality I found inherent within a mechitza service. Sometimes, the mechitza is a balcony (women in the back, men in the front). Sometimes, the Torah and the service-leader are only on the men’s side. Even in the more forward-thinking mechitza services that I’ve attended, there are still areas in which women may not lead. As an outspoken queer feminist, mechitzas make me uncomfortable... to say the least.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "LGBTQIA Rights." (Viewed on September 19, 2014) <http://jwa.org/topics/lgbtqia-rights>.

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