In the story of creation, the first story we read in the Torah, we learn that every person is created b'tzelem Elohim - in the holy image of God (Genesis 1:27). Discrimination against any person arising from apathy, insensitivity, ignorance, fear, or hatred is inconsistent with this fundamental belief. It is this principle that guides that Reform Movement's advocacy for LGBTQ+ equality.
However, there is much more to learn from this verse in Genesis, especially in the context of addressing transphobia. The full verse reads "And God created humankind in the divine image, creating it in the image of God - creating them male and female" (Genesis 1:27). While some interpret this to mean that God created men and women in the divine image, Rabbi Margaret Moers Wenig posits that the text actually implies not only male and female but also "every combination in between." As Rabbi Wenig explains, "this verse is a merism, a figure of speech in which a totality is expressed by two contrasting parts (e.g. 'young and old,' 'thick and thin,' 'near and far')." In fact, our Jewish legal texts mention at least six different genders across the gender spectrum.
Every June in the U.S. we celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month. While Pride Month is a time to celebrate, affirm, and honor the LGBTQ+ community and the continuing fight for equality, it was originally established to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. Following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in New York City, patrons fought back against what had become routine harassment by the New York City police department. Many credit Marsha P. Johnson, a transgender Woman of Color, with starting the uprising that became an iconic flashpoint that helped sparked the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement.
While it is important to celebrate and show up for the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month, our support (particularly those of us who are straight and cisgender) should not be limited to just one month of the year. Already in 2022, there have been hundreds of bills introduced in state legislatures and state directives that attack the LGBTQ+ community - especially LGBTQ+ children. These include, Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law, which prevents schools from teaching or talking about sexual orientation and gender identity, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott's directive to classify gender-affirming medical care as child abuse. The epidemic of anti-trans violence, which historically targets transgender Women of Color, continues nationwide with 2021 being the deadliest year so far for transgender and non-binary people. At least 57 transgender or gender non-conforming people were killed in 2021 and at least 14 have already been murdered in 2022 , and this doesn't even account for the unprecedented attempted suicide rates of the trans community (41 percent). These legislative and physical attacks harm LGBTQ+ people throughout the year and has the potential to cause years of trauma and generational trauma.
It is important that we take time during June to celebrate, while also committing ourselves to action. Here are some of the many, potentially lifesaving actions you can affirm and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights during the month of June and throughout the year:
Beyond Welcoming: Addressing Racism, Homophobia, Ableism, & More in our Communities (REDI 101) (June 1, 3-4:30PM ET) - Start building stronger communities and transform the ways in which you can create meaningful Jewish experiences for people of all backgrounds.
Active Allyship: Reform Jews Showing Up for Fundamental Rights (June 14, 7:30-8:30PM ET) - Join Keshet, Women of Reform Judaism, and the RAC to learn how current trends in anti-LGBTQ+, anti-abortion legislation, and threats to bodily autonomy are interconnected and how we, as Jews, can be active allies and fight against these bills.
Host a Pride Shabbat - A Pride Shabbat service is a great opportunity to highlight LGBTQ+ inclusion. Check out our Pride Shabbat Resources to include in your service or program (during Pride Month or any other month of the year). This year, the RAC is also joining our interfaith partners in launching Faith for Pride: a month-long effort to highlight religious support for LGBTQ+ equality. Visit the Faith for Pride website to find an event near you or register your own event to be featured on the site.
Normalize pronouns in your community (it can save lives) - Normalizing pronouns and other behaviors can have a life-saving impact on transgender and gender expansive individuals, especially youth. Use the URJ Quick Guide to Pronouns to learn how to incorporate pronouns into your everyday life.
Contact your Senators - Urge the Senate to swiftly pass the Equality Act to provide civil rights protections for all LGBTQ+ people.
Racial Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (REDI) Working Group Training Series: 4-part series - Learn how to start (or continue) the essential work of incorporating REDI practices & principles into your community. The 4-part series will take place from 3:30-5 PM ET every Wednesday from July 27-August 17, 2022.