Today I am thankful for having a supportive, inclusive, and culturally diverse Jewish community. Last Friday in Los Angeles we commemorated Transgender Day of Remembrance at Beth Chayim Chadishim (BCC) in collaboration with JQ International’s Trans Inclusion Committee, of which I am a member. This event was transformative for many people who attended, including long-time BCC congregants, trans activists and allies. Coming together to celebrate and mourn as a community is so crucial to maintaining a healthy understanding of life cycles, including death, and for strengthening our communities in the face of hatred and fear. BCC board member and Trans Inclusion Committee leader Kadin Henningsen did a fantastic job from the bima, reflecting on the dual nature of the two-spirit transgender soul, and on our place in the Torah. I enjoyed his interpretation of the story of Jacob and Esau as two sides of a single coin, as is the reflection of ourselves in the mirror. He wove together the ancient texts, modern gender identities, and Talmudic commentary seamlessly, clearly demonstrating through his words that transgender Jews are and have always been a part of the Jewish community.
We had a wonderful dinner before services with dozens of transgender Jews and allies breaking bread together. I felt so uplifted, held, and supported on this difficult day because of all the allies who came. I lost a transgender friend to violence this year, so it was especially important for me to have the support of my community as we commemorated her loss along with those of other transgender people whose lives were cut short. I am grateful to Kadin for his hardwork over the past year creating transgender Jewish spaces in Los Angeles, along with Asher Gellis and Janelle Eagle of JQ International who have given us the structure in which to do so, and to Jaime Machotka who is also on the Transgender Inclusion Committee. I am also grateful to have Tera Greene in my life because she is a constant supporter and one of the greatest trans allies I know. There are so many more people I could thank by name, but most of all I am grateful to be living in a time and place where I feel like a fully seen and supported member of the Jewish community. Thanks to everyone who came to Transgender Day of Remembrance services at BCC, I look forward to next year’s event!
Article written by Kalil Cohen. Visit Kalil online at www.kalilcohen.com