Posted by Tera Greene
10 years ago, I stood before my fellow graduating classmates of the year 2000 and delivered another speech as I’d done at every graduation prior. Though I think my best commencement participation was in the 6th grade when I debuted my “Melody Americana” - wherein I played the National Anthem, The Flight of the Bumble Bee (abridged), and a transposed version of the theme song from Jeopardy on my flute, shoulder pads and all - my high school graduation felt different. I felt like I wasn’t just going on to another year of school, but heading toward a future that would solidify only with my eagerness to see it unfold.
Now that I am about to reconvene with those “kids” from ten years ago, I can’t help to be reflective. By sitting back and rethinking just how much I’ve accomplished in ten years, I am truly humbled. Though I am 26 and didn’t reach my goal of billionaire status at this age, and I completely did not pursue marine biology and medicine as a profession, I have so much to be thankful for, especially without having had an agent or manager in my profession of the Arts and Entertainment. As a DJ, I’ve headlined for and played on stage with Grammy and Emmy-award winning talent. I’ve composed an original hour-long collection of songs for a dance opera. Not to mention I have shot my own music videos as a singer-songwriter with my acoustic guitar, I have remixed music for Israel’s birthday, and I have produced and been a music supervisor on so many projects. I have also performed as a poet and performance artist and have been invited to speak to classes from K through College. I have even strutted on catwalks in New York and Los Angeles (heels and no heels). I’ve been on MTV with a mohawk, singing Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All” in perfect pitch, been on CNN proudly voicing my rights to be queer and more recently, I have been on Entertainment Tonight interviewing a high-profile celebrity with the Michael Jackson Tribute Portrait project.
Through it all, there’s film. I should re-phrase… there are “movies”. I love TV, sitcoms and dramas alike, but movies - oh, sweet flicks - they have shaped me over the last ten years and longer. So, as I reflect this summer, I will also be taking time to enjoy some movies, especially at this year’s Outfest Film Festival. As a 6th season Senior Volunteer in the Outfest family of festivals, I have worked hard over the years serving on the host committees, helping with outreach, performing on stage and most-notably, as a licensed bartender. I even screened my own comedic short at Outfest in 2009. This year, though, I am making a point to actually see flicks. Here’s what I’ll be watching, along with a few other films I recommend that have nothing to do with the Outfest programming. Full film guide can be seen here.
(I didn’t realize it, but the majority of the themes deal with high school, coming of age or schooling in the training sense. Interesting.)
√ The Lottery (A film by Madeleine Sackler) - Tagline: “You Could Win An Education”. My only connection to Harlem is that I danced at the Dance Theatre of Harlem back in the day; and unlike the students in this film, I’ve always had the opportunity for the best education and the best and highest coursework. But, the reality is that a lot of students don’t have bright opportunities, and enough is enough already. Great film to see. I just caught it in LA, but it’s next stops are in DC June 25-July 1 and then in Denver July 9- 16. Get involved!
If you’re not in Denver those dates in July, then you must be attending the 28th Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival July 8th - 18th (chai!), right?
√ July 10th - A Conversation with Jane Lynch - DGA 1 - 130 PM. GLEE. High School. Totally. And Ms. Lynch will be receiving the 14th Annual Outfest Achievement Award this year. I hope she wears a track suit.
√ July 11th - A Small Act (Dir/Scr: Jennifer Arnold, USA) - DGA 2 - 1130 AM. FREE. A story of a Holocaust survivor who anonymously gave $15 to sponsor a little boy in Kenya… who then went on to graduate from Harvard and became a human rights lawyer. Enough said.
√ July 11th - Clueless (Dir/Scr: Amy Heckerling) - DGA 2 - 445 PM. Part of the Legacy Screening Series. I can write on and on about why Clueless is one of my favorites of all time, but let’s just say my love for the tailored and flamboyant look has a lot to do with watching D, a bonafide BAP, and Cher, a bonafide JAP, over and over and over…
√ July 11th - Fit (Dir/Scr: Rikki Beadle-Blair, UK) - DGA 1 - 7 PM. Teens in a Drama and Dance class and how they deal with their identity through it all.
√ July 13th - Gay Days (Hazman Havarod) (Dir/Scr: Yair Qedar, Israel) - Laemmle Sunset 5 - 715 PM. A very political look at the cultural revolution of Israel’s gay community as it came of age in the 1980s.
√ July 14th - A Marine Story (Dir/Scr: Ned Farr, USA) - DGA 1 - 7 PM. Women Marines. Boot camp. I mean, if you saw the Gymnast, then you know this should be fun.
There’s also a film on the circuit called Eyes Wide Open (original title Einayim Petukhoth), though it is not a part of Outfest this year (but Cannes ain’t half bad).
Here’s to 10 years of rocking out. Where will I be in the next 10 years? I’ll be even more awesome, with a partner by my side and at least one lil’ wee babe in a front pouch whom we’ll love so dearly. For now, I’ll just focus on being 26 years of age and furthering my magical career.
As a little treat, here’s the the comedic short I co-produced and screened at Outfest last year, called Queerer Than Thou. To date, it has queerly screened at over 50 major and independent film festivals and college campuses around the world, including at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, CA, and has won one audience award. Enjoy the show!
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June 18, 2010 | 3:49 pm
Posted by Naomi Goldberg
Did you know that in 29 states you can be fired just for being gay, lesbian, or bisexual? (Click here to see what your state says). And if you’re transgender, you can be fired in 38 states?
Surprising, right!?!?! Laws prohibiting such discrimination in the workplace have been in place for decades for racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and women. And yet, simply for having a photo on your desk of you and your spouse, you can be fired in the majority of states.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 has been introduced in the House and Senate, which would make it illegal to discrimination against someone on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in the employment context. This is overdue. A recent study found that complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation filed by employees in states with laws protecting such employees are filed at similar rates to those filed by women alleging sex discrimination. Yeah, you heard that right – gay, lesbian, and bisexual people file complaints that the same rate as women. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 has fallen victim to our inefficient and paralyzed Congress, so it hasn’t been voted on. President Obama, meanwhile, has said that he would sign the bill if it reached his desk.
And yet, there is good news, especially for those of us who work in the Jewish community. Today, one of the leading funders of Jewish organizations, the Schusterman Family Foundation made a striking pronouncement. Lynn Schusterman, the chief of the Foundation, stated “We will only consider funding organizations that have non-discrimination policies covering both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.” For more on her statement, check out this op-ed in today’s JTA.
Wow. You heard that correctly, one of the largest contributors to Jewish organizations, funding things from Birthright to Hillel to BBYO, has made nondiscrimination policies a requirement to receive funding. This is a huge step forward in the Jewish community in terms of making it a priority that all people are treated equally in the workplace.
June 17, 2010 | 11:46 am
Posted by Janelle Eagle
As a freelance filmmaker, photographer, and producer, I never know where my next gig is going to come from. I was pleasantly surprised and very grateful when I was recently hired by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles for a temporary position as the producer of what they referred to as “an anti-hunger event.” I walked into the position having a pretty limited knowledge of hunger issues in Los Angeles, but my professional experience and Virgo-style organizational skills ended up being a great match for such an incredible project.
The Jewish Federation has been working for sometime in Los Angeles to combat the hunger epidemic that plagues our city. In Los Angeles, 1 in 4 children in a household is struggling with hunger. Many have no access to fresh produce and are surrounded by an abundance of fast food. All of this I learned while on the job… I was completely oblivious before. How did I not know that it was such a rampant problem in my very own proverbial back yard?
What started as an unformed idea became 19 different events happening simultaneously on one day, June 13, all around Los Angeles. The Jewish Federation chose the date (6/13) because there are 613 mitzvot or commandments in the Torah. The goal was to have 613 individual acts to end hunger be completed as a community on June 13th. They dubbed this, the “613 Community Challenge.”
After weeks of planning, I am incredibly proud of the team that I worked with. This past Sunday:
- We fed battered and bruised women and children at the Downtown Women’s Center.
- We gleaned produce from 5 farmer’s markets, resulting in a donation of over 2000 pounds of fresh produce to 4 needy charities serving the homeless.
- We painted murals at Tomchei Shabbos, a facility used to provide services to vulnerable Orthodox Jews.
- We planted gardens in East LA and the Florence/Firestone Community of South Central.
- We signed postcards to Senators Boxer & Feinstein encouraging them to renew the Child Nutrition Act
I was particularly proud of the fact that many of the Federation’s LGBT employees were active in creating and producing these events. One of the events, called Food on Foot, actually took place at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center. This fantastic integration of community is exactly the vision that so many of us within the LGBTQ Jewish Community have. We want to be part of the greater Jewish Community in a meaningful way. What a joy to stand side by side as a community to help end hunger in Los Angeles.
Here’s a video about the day, specifically highlighting the event that took place at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center!
June 15, 2010 | 5:28 pm
Posted by Naomi Goldberg
Next week, over 100 local and national Jewish lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organizations are getting together for the first time. And where, else, but in Berkeley! The 2010 LGBT Jewish Movement-Building Convening is the first meeting of its kind. And part of what makes it so unique is that it is being funded by some of the biggest, mainstream Jewish funders in the United States – the Schusterman Foundation, the Goldman Fund, and the Haas Fund– best known for funding Hillel, Birthright, Moishe House, the Foundation for Jewish Camping, and others.
So, what gives? Well, it appears that there are three national Jewish LGBT organizations whose missions focus on Jewish LGBT people – Keshet, Jewish Mosaic, and Nehirim. There has been no real coordination of efforts or even decisions about goals or priorities for the Jewish LGBT movement. In part, each of these organizations started with more regional foci and have recently grown and expanded to include more national programs. Add to the mix local Jewish LGBT temples, groups, and organizations, and you end up with a confusing and often inefficient network of organizations. Even from Los Angeles, where I call home, there are representatives from EIGHT organizations attending the Convening. Lots of organizations want to help temples and synagogues be more inclusive. Lots of organizations want to help the Conservative and Reform movements navigate the waters of LGBT inclusion in liturgy, life cycle events, and stances on hot button political issues. In some ways, it is remarkable that in the 32 years since Harvey Milk, a Jewish gay man living in San Francisco, was killed for being gay and 38 years since the first temple for lesbian and gay Jews, Beth Chayim Chadashim, opened its doors, the Jewish community has so many organizations doing this kind of work.
On the agenda for the Convening are sessions examining current activities, a discussion of issues and priorities, meetings with funders, and opportunities to learn from the success (and failure) of other faith communities.
One can only hope that leaders of over one hundred organization attending the Convening will return to Los Angeles and their own communities renewed, re-centered, and ready to make change happen. With limited funding dollars, limited time, and lots of need for change, it serves the Jewish Community well to have this Convening be productive and successful.
June 12, 2010 | 7:48 pm
Posted by Janelle Eagle
Last night I had 26 people join me for shabbat dinner. Not just any Shabbat… but a Transgender Shabbat. Not that Shabbat itself was trans (perhaps we welcomed a Sabbath Husband?), but we specifically invited the transgender community and their friends to join JQ International’s Trans Inclusion Committee for a potluck and icebreaker discussion of the intersection between Judaism and gender identity.
Rabbi Julie Pelc-Adler led the group in a discussion about terms for gender diversity used in classical Jewish texts including:
Zachar: This term is derived from the word for a pointy sword and refers to a phallus. It is usually translated as “male” in English.
Nekevah: This term is derived from the word for a crevice and probably refers to a vaginal opening. It is usually translated as “female” in English.
Angrogynos: A person who has both “male” and “female” sexual characteristics. 149 references (WOW!!!!) in Mishna and Talmud (1st-8th Centuries CE); 350 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes (2nd-16th Centuries CE).
Tumtum: A person whose sexual characteristics are indeterminate or obscured. 181 references in Mishna and Talmud; 335 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes.
All of these references within the text seemed to liberate a room full of people that have been told repeatedly that their identity was an obstacle for connection and home within the Jewish religion. The very fact that multiple Jewish authority figures consider the first human creation of G-d to be one of mixed or indeterminate gender seemed to show us all that in fact, the transgender Jew might have been THE first Jew. How fantastic!!! We were each asked to then by Trans Inclusion Committee member Kadin Henningsen to share “How does the idea that you were specifically created by G-d as you are (with both male and female characteristics) make you feel?”
As we dined together we shared together. A common theme of “freedom” was tied to many of our answers- that it was liberating to think that it wasn’t an accident. That straight, gay, trans, and unidentified individuals in the room all commonly struggle with the roles that others have assigned us. And most heartwarming for me- was that this discussion made many of us feel a certain amount of pride that it was actually within a religious space that we felt this liberation.
It was such an honor to host these amazing people in my home. It was a joy to have the parents of one of our Trans Inclusion Committee member’s join us and lead the blessing over the challah as a family. I felt such pride in JQ International for reaching out to the transgender community and inviting them and their friends/family to celebrate together. This type of interconnected, all-are-welcome, celebratory environment is exactly what I think a Friday night should be. It was what Shabbat should be. It is what Judaism should be.
And for me, last night was what Judaism is.
June 12, 2010 | 12:30 pm
Posted by Lia Mandelbaum
Every Friday night, as I sit amongst the congregation in Shabbat services, I feel blessed and filled with gratitude to work for such an amazing temple. I welcome in Shabbat each week at Beit T’Shuvah, a 120-bed Jewish residential treatment center for addiction as well as a full congregation here in Los Angeles.
I always look forward to the moment when our Rabbi, Mark Borovitz, tells us that it is time to chant our traditional Shema together. No matter what mental state I’m in at that moment, how chaotic my day has been, or if my head is tied up in knots, I’m able to allow myself to be absolutely present and connect to my highest self and ultimately to God.
Amazingly, when I allow myself that moment to look around, I can see myself mirrored in those around me, as they too feel their inner oneness, a sense of peace, and that absolute wholeness that the sacred space of the Shema can bring. As we chant those sacred words, I can physically feel all the things that have instigated inner turmoil throughout my week just melt away.
Last night, as I reflected in Shabbat services, I began to think about how our annual Pride celebration relates to that sacred moment I feel as I chant the Shema. I found that they correlate because of the sense of peace that they both bring. In the past, as I have experienced the Pride celebration, I have allowed my defenses to drop, knowing that I’m in a safe space and can allow myself the freedom to experience my whole being.
For me, there is that same sense of oneness amongst the LGBT community as we proudly come together to celebrate a part of ourselves that is not often encouraged or fully accepted by society. This weekend will be like one big Shema for me, as I integrate all the parts of myself and strive to become more authentic.
June 11, 2010 | 6:12 pm
Posted by Tera Greene
I just came back from my most-awesome Taglit-Israel Birthright trip with the LA Way kids by way of Israel Experts! Hooray! Before leaving I pondered hard, then harder, about extending my stay for 90 days. Then the answer came as to what day and why I would have to be back before 90 days: Behold! I am opening on the main stage at CSW Pride for the one-and-only Milkshake and Acapella queen herself, KELIS! Don’t get me wrong, I made sure to extend a little bit, with a lovely 6-day schlep over to London afterward to bring the miracle of Shabbat to my French Jew gay friend in London (yes, that will be blogged about later). But Hashem was loud and clear: “You, my little woman Jew, will sing in bedouins; party in Tel Aviv and listen to Rihanna rehearse outside your hotel balcony; you will hike Masada before the sun rises with the moon in the distance, and ride donkeys that you’ll name Unicorn… you will Dead Sea play and bring the miracle of Shabbat to London. But then, you must get no more than 48 hours downtime before you make the gays dance like it’s 5769! You are the chosen one. I have spoken.”
So, if you missed me at pride last year or the WEHO Dyke Marches last year and the year before, here’s your chance to see me, and then Kelis in 2010/5770!
Here’s my Pride schedule:
√ DJ Nova Jade* spins at Dyke Day LA 2010 - Saturday, June 12, 2010 - 12 to 2 pm - Barnsdall Art Park 4800 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles * FREE event! http://www.dykedayla.com/
√ DJ Nova Jade* - LA PRIDE 2010 MAIN STAGE/DANCE PAVILLION - Saturday, June 12, 2010 - 510 to 6 pm - Check http://www.lapride.org/ for ticket info!
√ Sunday, June 13, 2010, I am marching in the parade again this year with film festival OUTFEST, so look with the girl with the cool shades.
Happy Pride. Back to burning some pride discs to throw out to ya’ll.
June 11, 2010 | 3:24 pm
Posted by Kalil Cohen
posted by Kalil Cohen
The second transgender Shabbat dinner organized by Jewish Queer International will take place Friday June 11, 2010. This potluck Shabbat dinner is specifically geared towards creating transgender/Jewish safe space. You don’t have to be Trans. You don’t have to be Jewish. You just have to want to be in a safe space that celebrates both.
As a member of JQ International’s new Transgender Inclusion Committee, I am delighted to be fostering a transgender Jewish community in Los Angeles. When I was first struggling to accept myself as a transgender person and began contemplating transitioning socially and medically, I was really worried that I would lose my communities; I was worried that I would lose my college friends, my lesbian friends, and also my Jewish community.
After going through the terrifying process of coming out to everyone in my life, this was not even close to the truth. I was able to maintain close connections with all the important people in my life, including my Jewish family and friends. With events like this Shabbat dinner, I aim to create safe spaces where other questioning Jews can affirm their gender or sexual identity without the risk of losing their Jewish community in the process.