Author and transgender activist Abby Stein grew up in a tight-knit, insular Hasidic community in Brooklyn; she calls it one of the most gender-segregated societies in America. From early childhood, she knew she was a girl, but for her entire life, her community celebrated the fact that she was a boy. In this episode of Can We Talk?, Stein describes her upbringing, her discovery of non-binary genders in Jewish mysticism, and how she parted ways with her community. This is the final episode in our three-part fall author interview series.
Rich once said, “In a time of frontal assaults both on language and on human solidarity, poetry can remind us of all we are in danger of losing–disturb us, embolden us out of resignation.” In other words, poetry has the power to express the things that unite us all as humans and can inspire us to work together toward a common goal.
“Madonna, Rihanna, Ilana!” That’s just one of the many unique jingles enthusiastically sung by none other than the ultimate feminist, Jewess, and queen: Ilana Wexler. Wexler, the fictional character from Comedy Central’s hit series Broad City, embodies every aspect of what it means to be a badass, world-changing, intersectional feminist.
Beck’s acknowledgment that Jewish lesbians had a unique struggle for acceptance and belonging in the feminist, lesbian, and Jewish communities was a radical move. She fought for more recognition and validation by feminist activists and lesbian activists, who she felt did not take her work seriously.
I want to be in a world where all those around me get to not just exist, but fully live. I want to raise my children in an environment that allows folks to breathe deeply, function without fear, and be who they truly are. But it takes more than just wanting.
Every Tuesday in the cramped living room of the Beacon Hill Friends House, I transform into someone who’s not only their equal but their mentor, their advisor, their trainer, and their coach. Every Tuesday, I’m not some powerless queer kid scared at the state of the world, but a powerful Jewish organizer with the ability to engage dozens of people in our movement.
Religion isn’t always easy. I often like to pretend it is—buzzwords like “interfaith” and “pluralism” pervade my discussions about faith. But every now and again, I’m reminded that the history of my faith is not easy. Judaism was, in fact, built on questions. How do I find support as a woman from a faith founded on patriarchal texts? How do I reconcile ancient laws with a modern identity of queerness?
Enid Shapiro lived tikkun olam. She was an early feminist, a devoted Jew, an unceasing learner, and she made a difference in countless people’s lives through her devotion to repair the world and her commitment to kindness and care that came from a place of profound integrity.