As I write to you from Germany, I’m reflecting on one of the lessons we draw from our own experience; that we all benefit and thrive in a free society where all are protected, and that it is vital for us to speak out against all forms of fear and discrimination. I look forward to sharing my learnings and observations when I return, but for today, as we recognize Transgender Day of Remembrance, we must continue to fight for and with those who are persecuted. As Keshet’s Boston Regional Director, Joanna Ware, said, “As Jews, we know all too well the cost of being marked as other. We know the collective pain of injustice and loss, and we know the necessity of marking and remembering that pain and mourning, in order to move forward into the more just, whole world we are all partners in creating.”
At their Biennial earlier this month, The Union for Reform Judaism passed a sweeping resolution affirming the rights of transgender people, citing its “commitment to defend any individual from the discrimination that arises from ignorance, fear, insensitivity, or hatred.” The resolution went on to assert that “ Knowing that members of the transgender and gender non-conforming communities are often singled out for discrimination and even violence, we are reminded of the Torah’s injunction, “Do not stand idly while your neighbor bleeds.”
One of those people is Alex, of Brookline, MA.
“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.”
Last week, JCRC urged the Massachusetts House and Senate to extend non-discrimination protections in public places to transgender individuals. Of the many reasons I am proud to be a resident of this Commonwealth, is our proud history of leading the nation when it comes to extending civil rights protections, in particular for the LGBT community. It is troubling that four years ago a compromise was made that still left some freedoms unprotected, including accessing facilities based on one’s gender identity. We are proud of the broad spectrum of advocacy organizations, business leaders, and the entire membership of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation who are standing up to ensure that happens – because, for each day without these protections, transgender people face discrimination and humiliation, and are at greater risk of being victims of transphobic violence.
It is clear that times are changing and that history is shifting direction, as we reflected in the Union of Reform Judaism recent resolution. But, we are far from done in our work to ensure full inclusion. We still need more education and understanding. Together we must aspire to be a community that embraces people of all gender identities.
Even when all transgender people are truly free, we must never forget the pain and sacrifices of those who gave so much – including losing their lives, due to violence rooted in ignorance that continues even today in our country. This is why, in addition to our advocacy, we honor beloved members of OUR transgender community this weekend and commit ourselves to pursuing justice in their honor. May their memory truly be a blessing upon the freedoms of those of us who walk in their path.
With that, I will offer some resources so that we may learn together:
- Keshet’s Transgender Day of Remembrance Resource Guide
- Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition
- Jewish LGBT Network
- Gay Straight Alliance Network
- National Center for Transgender Equality
- Day of Remembrance Events in Massachusetts