Importance of transgender people in our communities highlighted in November
By Jayce Koester • J-Pride Program Coordinator
November is a month where we frequently mark the importance of transgender people in our communities and around the world. This includes Trans Day of Remembrance (Nov. 20) and Transgender Awareness Week (Nov. 12-19), not to mention the yahrzeit (the yearly anniversary of a loved one’s death) of beloved national community leader, Leslie Feinberg (z”l).
Transgender Awareness Week is an opportunity to celebrate anyone who knows themselves to be a gender that is different than the gender they were assigned at birth. It could not come at a better time this year – on the heels of an announcement that federal officials will continue to weaken Title IX protections, trying to legislate transgender people out of existence. Throughout the country, transgender people consistently face attacks on our identities, livelihoods, and safety.
Minnesota, unlike many states in the country, does protect gender identity and expression in many forms of employment and housing (albeit not all). Many states do not protect transgender people from being fired due to their gender. Statistics show expression contributes to a 20 percent rate of homelessness for transgender people, compared to 1 percent of the broader population. The government’s recent move to erase transgender folks from federal websites and publications is not new, but is the next step in a long history of pushing the transgender community to the margins.
The transgender community is resourceful. It includes powerhouses like Sylvia Rivera (z”l), Marsha P. Johnson (z”l), Leslie Feinberg (z”l), Kate Bornstein, Miss Major Griffen-Gracy, Tracey Norman, CeCe McDonald, Black Brockington (z”l), and so many others who have fought, and continue to fight, for a more whole world. Within the Jewish community, transgender Jews are reaching never before seen levels of leadership, with rabbis, writers, teachers, and community leaders advocating for a more inclusive and gender expansive future. Next time you’re at your local bookstore or library, check out “Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders” by Joy Ladin; “Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community,” edited by Noach Dzmura; or put in a pre-order for local writer Noam Sienna’s new book, “A Rainbow Thread: Queer Jewish Texts from the First Century to 1969.”
Transgender Jews have always existed, and I feel confident that no matter what happens in the White House, we always will. Take some time this November to check in with your transgender relatives, friends, acquaintances, and loved ones. Check out a new book from the library, or head to the St. Paul JCC to see the They/Them photo exhibit documenting the experiences of non-binary transgender folks. And, of course, stay tuned to J-Pride for upcoming events, programs, and educational opportunities. Want to hold a workshop in your congregation or community organization about LGBTQIA community? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. We cannot wait to work together.
J-Pride’s mission is to engage Minnesota based Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Jews and their allies to come together for social events, community gatherings, celebrations, and educational opportunities. For more information on upcoming events and programming, “like” J-Pride on Facebook.