People with expansive gender identities have been part of the Jewish community for as long as Jewish legal tradition has existed, evident in the documentation of discussions among ancient rabbis regarding the role of androgynous and intersex individuals in Jewish communal life (Sienna, A Rainbow Thread, 29-32). This insight, along with the belief that each person is uniquely made in the divine image, highlight our responsibility to fight for the rights of and protection for the LGBTQ+ community.
More than ever before, Americans support legal protections and rights for LGBTQ+ individuals. Polls indicate that there is a trend of widespread understanding and acceptance of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. However, polling also indicates that acceptance of trans people in the United States is lagging behind. With this in mind, cis people must work to become allies for trans members of our communities.
This is important because, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the 2023 state legislative session was the worst year on record for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. So far, there have been:
- More than 525 bills introduced across 41 states.
- Over 220 of these bills explicitly target transgender people.
- Over 76 bills have been signed into law as of June 5, 2023 — more than any year on record, and more than double last year.
For example, legislation is advancing or has passed in Alabama, Louisiana, and Ohio to restrict the ways in which trans folks access necessary social and medical support. As Jews, we are appalled by these states’ actions and want to help you identify ways in which you can take action.
Of course, we find it equally important to celebrate legislative wins when they occur. In Michigan, lawmakers introduced a bill that would prohibit the dangerous practice of conversion therapy. And in Louisiana, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted to involuntarily defer HB 648, a dangerous attack on age-appropriate, best-practice health care for transgender youth.
This is just a snippet of what is going on around the country with regards to LGBTQ+ rights. If you are interested in learning more, you can find helpful resources from the following organizations:
- Keshet for LGBT Equality in Jewish Life mobilizes Jewish communities at the state level to fight for LGBTQ+ equality and against the right wing’s coordinated attacks on LGBTQ+ people.
- Transgender Law Center works to change law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression.
- Equality Florida – the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBTQ community.
We also must remember that educating ourselves is not enough. One of the most straightforward ways we can make our communities more inclusive to LGBTQ+ people is by removing financial barriers through mutual aid. Below are a few causes whose missions speak to us.
- SVARA is a Traditionally Radical Yeshiva that empowers queer and trans people to expand Torah and tradition through the spiritual practice of Talmud study.
- Queer Jewish Farmers cultivates empowerment, community, and a welcoming Jewish space.
For the Gworls is a Black, trans-led collective that curates parties to fundraise money to help Black transgender people pay for rent, gender-affirming surgeries, medicines/doctor’s visits, and travel assistance.
Hannah Pomerantz is a Jewish Center for Justice Summer Fellow and rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.