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.
If you’re in Boston, please join us for Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 23rd at 2:30pm in John F Kennedy Park. After, we will join the wider Boston community in the 16th Annual Boston Transgender Day of Remembrance.
As the Boston Community Organizer at Keshet, I’ve been working with community members on a Jewish observance of Transgender Day of Remembrance. A few weeks ago I sat down for an early morning meeting with Simcha, the Community Organizer at Boston Workmen’s Circle who is also gender queer.
Over the steam of my small cup of coffee the question “why are you so passionate about transgender justice work?” floated in my direction. It was a question I had been mulling for quite some time, but I had never quite found the answer.
I began to offer up some semblance of an answer: “Well, it all started in college. I had a lot of transgender friends. I witnessed what they had to deal with, and it wasn’t fair.”
I knew that wasn’t quite the answer, after all those words were about my friends and not about my stake in this work.
I pushed myself to find the real answer. Why am I so passionate about transgender justice work?
Fighting for transgender rights is fighting for the right to move beyond the boxes of “man” and “woman.”
I fight for folks who do not fit in either box or want to be in a different box. And, in doing that work I had to think about my own gender and what box I fit into. Here are a few of my boxes:
- I enjoy cooking.
- I don’t walk home alone in the dark.
- I bless Shabbat candles.
- I speak up in board meetings.
- I don’t pretend I never fart.
- I’ve wrapped Tefillin.
I don’t fit squarely into the “woman” box, and yet, I feel every bit like a woman. My blessing of Shabbat candles, a mitzvah typically reserved for women, does not at all feel at odds with when I wrapped Tefillin, a mitzvah typically reserved for men.
And, that’s when it struck me.
Doing transgender justice work was for me. When I fight for those who very obviously transgress the lines of gender, I am also fight to expand the walls of my very box. Trans* work is gender work and gender work is for all of us.
This year we mark Transgender Day of Remembrance in Boston on Sunday, November 23. I invite you to come do gender work for the community, but just as importantly for yourself.
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Pronounced: MITZ-vuh or meetz-VAH, Origin: Hebrew, commandment, also used to mean good deed.
Pronounced: shuh-BAHT or shah-BAHT, Origin: Hebrew, the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.