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.
Keshet recently sat down with Emma Canter, a 15 year-old from Chicago. Emma runs the Instagram account f.em.inist and recently attended her first Keshet LGBTQ & Ally Teen Shabbaton. Pictured above is Emma reacting to the news that her account hit 10,000 followers.
Tell us a little about yourself:
My name is Emma, I’m 15, and I live in Chicago. My passions include cuddling, watching Netflix, social media, social justice, and feminism.
You attended the Keshet LGBTQ & Ally Teen Shabbaton on the East Coast, and now you’re joining us on the West Coast. What was your experience like at the Shabbaton?
I’ve been looking for a queer Jewish community for a long time, and when I heard about the Shabbaton (a gathering that spans Shabbat) through Facebook, I signed up as soon as possible.
I fell in love with the Shabbaton experience, and I made so many friends and learned so many new things. It’s amazing how close people can get in just one weekend. During goodbyes (I cried. A lot.), we were all saying how much we wished the Shabbaton could last forever. As soon as I got home to Chicago, I started convincing my parents to let me go to West Coast. For me, another Shabbaton means another wonderfully queer Shabbat with all new (and some familiar) queer friends. (Editor’s note: Interested in joining Emma in California? Registration for the Keshet LGBTQ & Ally Teen Shabbaton is open through April 28th! Register today!)
Your instagram account, f.em.inist, has over 12,500 followers. (Wow!) What inspired you to start the account? What have you learned?
When I first started f.em.inist (in 2012, I think), it was mainly a safe space for me to rant about the middle schoolers who picked on me because I was always making comments about how something was racist or sexist or homophobic.
One day, little 12-year-old me said something on my account (I have no recollection what it was) that inspired some big 1,000-follower account to start up a conversation with me, and they used fancy terms I didn’t know, like intersectionality and transphobia. Eventually, my account evolved from being a rant account to a place where I researched and taught myself and others about social justice issues… I guess the rest just happened naturally! It has become a huge part of my life. There are pictures on Facebook of me grinning (before I started crying happy tears) when I reached 10k.
I’d say the main thing I’ve learned by running f.em.inist is that each person’s voice matters. I’ve had preteens and college students alike Direct Message me late at night when they had no one to talk to (one of these people messaged me a few months later telling me that I saved her life). People ask me questions about sex that they are too scared to Google or ask their parents. They ask me about sexuality and gender, and I help them the best I can. It doesn’t matter if you’re running an Instagram account or running a big-time campaign or celebrating at Pride. Your voice makes a difference.
What do you wish your community knew about you, and teens in general? Any words of wisdom for the Keshet reader?
I’m pretty much an open book to my community around my sexuality and political opinions (maybe too open, honestly). Although, I do wish that adults in my community and all communities would stop treating teenagers and young adults like we don’t know anything. My generation has grown up with media everywhere we look, and because of this we’ve been exposed to many injustices. Teens everywhere are changing the world. We want to change the world. After all, it’s going to be our world soon enough.
Words of wisdom (although I don’t know how wise I truly am) to teen readers: Take your selfies and dye your hair and live in the moment. Take a mental health day from school and read the book that’s been on your shelf since 7th grade. Listen to death metal or overplayed pop songs and be whoever you are, whoever you want to be. Don’t let the older generations shame you; after all, they’re the ones who raised us!
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Join us for a weekend of fun, community, and learning for and by Jewish LGBTQ and ally teens! Meet new friends, learn about LGBTQ organizing and identities, and celebrate Shabbat with a warm, vibrant community of LGBTQ and ally teens and educators. Click here to find out more about the Keshet LGBTQ & Ally Teen Shabbaton!
Pronounced: shuh-BAHT or shah-BAHT, Origin: Hebrew, the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.