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.
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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.
June 11, 2010 | 1:32 pm
Posted by Maital Guttman
Hi and welcome to “Oy Gay,” where being gay ain’t no shunda! The bloggers represent a wide variety of perspectives and “labels.” We have an Orthodox lesbian, a married gay man living in Laramie, an Angelino in Tel Aviv, a transgender man and many others! Each blogger brings a unique voice, identity and experience, and our hope is to provide a space to explore issues we face as Jews, LGBTQ people, and the two together.
The launch of the blog, hosted by The Jewish Journal, coincides with the 40th anniversary of Pride Weekend in Los Angeles. Though we have come far as a community, there are still plenty of issues to face, fears to confront, and showtunes to sing. “Oy Gay” will bring these insights, events, reposts, and the newest gossip from Glee straight to your home!
Enjoy, leave your own experiences and (respectful) comments, and may we together create a Kehillah, or community, wherein all feel safe and included!