The week before I wrote this poem I was having a discussion with my mother about how I presented my gender online. She was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to make it as an agender person in the workforce and the world. When the weekend began, I went to the West Coast LGBTQ and Ally Teen Shabbaton, where I was finally able to be in a space with multiple nonbinary and transgender Jewish teens. In previous instances when I was in spaces where I could state my pronouns, I had always put “she/her” and “ze/hir” because I felt that even though I identified with it ze/hir pronouns more, other people did not see them as valid. At the Shabbaton I was also able to meet Rabbi Becky Silverstein who suggested to me that I try just introducing myself with just the ze/hir pronoun, which seemed like a revolutionary concept to me. When I tried doing so, I began to feel more like myself. Though it’s a slow process, I am trying to live more authentically in whatever ways I can.
This Sunday, May 22, Harvey Milk would have been 86 years old. Although his life was cut short, his pioneering work as a visible advocate for gay rights lives on. On his birthday, now known as Harvey Milk Day, we celebrate his work, life, and lasting legacy. At Keshet, we’re honoring his life and achievements by reprinting this excerpt from A Letter to Harvey Milk by Lesléa Newman, first published in 1988, ten years after Milk’s assassination. The story is told from the perspective of Harry, a Holocaust survivor in San Francisco taking a writing class at the local senior center. In this excerpt, Harry is responding to a prompt to “write a letter to somebody from our past, someone who’s no longer with us.”
In August, I’m going to drive across the country interviewing trans adults who live in rural areas, towns, and small cities about their experiences with happiness, hope, and resilience. (And by “trans,” I mean anyone who is transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, non-binary, and/or in any way not cisgender.) In the functional sense, I’m doing this project to create an inter-genre book built out of oral stories, photographs, and art and writing that interviewees create. There will be community-building aspects to the project, such as a letter-writing initiative where I bring letters from one interviewee to the next, connecting trans people across the country. The trip itself will be documented on a blog, and maybe an Instagram if I can get my best friend’s younger sister to teach me how that works.
Keshet recently sat down with James Miller, the Executive Director of the LGBT Center of Raleigh. North Carolina has recently been at the center of debates surrounding “bathroom bills.” James took a few minutes out of his busy schedule (OUTraleigh is just around the corner) to chat with us about his world as a Southern, Jewish, gay man.