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.
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.
On a less practical level though, I’m doing this because the first time I was near an out trans adult, I was 20, and I can still feel and smell and taste the stale air in that conference room. I can’t believe this didn’t happen until I was 20, and I also know that I’m incredibly lucky that it happened at 20 and not 30, or 50, or 80. I’m doing this because I live in New York now, and I love it, but if my friends weren’t all here, I’d leave right away. I want to live in the woods in North Carolina or Tennessee. Whenever I tell cisgender people that this is what I want, they are skeptical that I think it’s possible to be happy and trans outside of a major city. I’m doing this because, as an almost ridiculously hopeful person, I believe deeply that I have many decades of happiness ahead of me, but the only ideas I have of what that could be like are stories I’ve invented in that dreamy-only-child way. I want to know that this happiness I’ve promised myself is tangible.
I’m specifically interested in speaking with trans people of faith because only after coming out did I develop any interest in forming any sort of relationship with spirituality or with religion. The first time I really felt part of a wider queer or trans community was at a Trans Day of Remembrance service at a temple in New York. For me, ideas of God and of transness are intricately bound up. I want to facilitate other people sharing stories about the ways that God and religion and faith do and don’t relate to their transness; I think these are stories are part of this larger narrative of the potential for happiness.
I’m looking to interview trans people over 30 who live in rural areas, towns, and small cities and feel often good about the lives that they’ve built. The interviewing portion of the project will begin in early August and go through late September or late October, depending on interest. If you think you might be interested in being interviewed or if you have any questions whatsoever, please get in touch! If this isn’t you, but sounds like someone you know, please pass it on to them. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, and I look forward to getting to meet some of you on this interviewing journey!
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