Keshet is a national organization that works for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life. The organization equips Jewish leaders with tools to build LGBTQ-affirming communities, creates spaces for queer Jewish teens to feel valued and develop their own leadership skills, and mobilizes the Jewish community to fight for LGBTQ justice. Keshet’s blog spotlights this work, as well as the voices of LGBTQ Jews, our families, and allies.
As October moves on into November, we move from LGBT Month into Trans Awareness Month, culminating in Transgender Day of Remembrance. (You can find much more about Trans Day of Remembrance in our Jewish Guide to Marking Transgender Day of Remembrance.) Check out this series of videos of transgender Jews and allies created as part of the “I AM: Trans People Speak” project. We’re grateful to Keshet members Alex, David, Stacy, Stephanie, and Suzie for sharing their lives with us and to the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition for this project.
“Eventually, [my job] became unbearable because the senior staff were making my life miserable because I was open about being transgender. So even somebody like myself, with all these credentials and all this training and all this experience — still gets discriminated against. I can’t reach my full potential, because of other people’s discrimination against me. [Judaism] connects me throughout the generations, with people all over the world. …Being Jewish has helped me in dealing with being transgender.”
“I don’t live my life compartmentalized, so my community is the Jewish community, my community is the queer community, my community is the overlap of those two, so who I am is the sum of all of those parts.
I try to be an ally to the trans community in part because as a gay man, I think it’s easy to think that I need the whole world to be my ally, and to forget that I have certain privileges I can use to make the world better for everyone in the queer community. … Something I hear in a lot of Jewish communities is that we’re totally willing to be inclusive and welcoming of trans people, but we don’t have any in our community, so we don’t want to put in the effort. …If you really want to be welcoming, you have to be ready when someone walks through the door.”
“I’m Jewish, I was born Jewish, I was raised in a Jewish home, a kosher home, a fairly religious home. It’s been part of me my entire life, it’s just who I am, and I don’t want to give up on that just because I transitioned, and I shouldn’t have to. …I want my religious community to accept me for who I really am, accept me for the woman that I really am.”
“I moved here to Boston about a year ago, and I found that I needed a new spirituality, a new religion… I started to look around, and found that a lot of my activist heroes and heroines, especially, a lot of them were Jewish, and I kind of followed them back to Reform Judaism, and that really intrigued me. … My first day that I walked through the doors, I remember asking the rabbi, “How soon can I convert?” … As I’m converting, I’m finding a whole host of things. I’m finding a sense of community, … I’m finding a sense of empowerment, a sense of self, that makes me really happy to be who I am, proud to be who I am.”
“To me, genderqueer is waking up in the morning and not assigning yourself to a male or female gender. It’s both an ambiguity of gender, a freedom to play with different things, to experiment with your gender presentation and identity, and it’s also a bit of a confusion, and an uncertainty with where your gender is going to fall. … As a Jewish educator, I am passionate about creating spaces for trans and queer Jews, if that’s in prayer, or educational spaces, or community. I think that right now, Jewish community is not a safe space, and there’s a lot of work we need to do. I am really looking forward to the day when a Jewish community does not need to create a safe space, it is a safe space; that Judaism in itself is a safe space for queer and gender-variant folks.”
Pronounced: KOH-sher, Origin: Hebrew, adhering to kashrut, the traditional Jewish dietary laws.