Queer Orthodox Jews Want More Than Tolerance

From Them:  https://www.them.us/story/queer-orthodox-jews-want-more-than-tolerance

Queer Jewish leaders are less willing to choose between their faith and their identity. Their communities are starting to listen.

October 24, 2019

Last month, over 100 students from the premier Orthodox Jewish institution Yeshiva University marched to demand more LGBTQ+ inclusivity at the school. The demonstrators pushed for increased resources for queer students, the right to form a Gay-Straight Alliance, and inclusivity training for university employees. “We, too, are YU,” they chanted as they marched.

A few months earlier, 27-year-old Daniel Atwood became the first openly gay Orthodox rabbi to be ordained in Jerusalem. After his own rabbinical school refused to ordain him, Atwood spoke publicly about the rejection and caught the attention of Rabbi Daniel Landes, who founded the “post-denominational” and more progressive ordination program Yashrut. Landes invited Atwood to Israel and ordained him alongside seven other students.

Orthodox Jewish law is often interpreted as being intolerant of homosexuality. Two verses in Leviticus condemn men who lie with other men “as he would with a woman,” which some read as a rejection of all forms of homosexuality. Others, however, see the text as far less black and white, believing for example that it only refers to specific sex acts, or that to read condemnation is a gross misinterpretation. Regardless, queer Orthodox Jews not only exist but are coming out younger and more often — and demanding louder than ever the right to live dignified lives.

According to Rabbi Atwood, the Orthodox community has come a long way on acknowledging the existence of the queer community. Now, he says, queer Orthodox jews want more, and the community is starting to listen.

“I think this is a situation where the average people are ten steps ahead of the leaders,” Rabbi Atwood says. “The synagogue I was raised in did not recognize my marriage, did not wish me congratulations on an official level. But when I was there for the holidays, so many of my parents’ friends congratulated me and were excited.”

According to Miryam Kabakov, executive director of ten-year-old Orthodox LGBTQ+ organization Eshel, the Orthodox community has become exceedingly more open over the past decade.

“When we started,” she says, “Orthodox communities were not really addressing LGBTQ inclusion as something they needed to do.” Now, Eshel’s Welcoming Shuls project reports that over 140 Orthodox synagogues across North America are willing to engage in dialogue with the organization about how to be more inclusive and to work toward adhering to their Principles of Inclusion.

Continue reading at:  https://www.them.us/story/queer-orthodox-jews-want-more-than-tolerance

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Scientists Have Carried Out the Biggest Ever Study on Transgender Children—Here’s What They Found

From Newsweek:  https://www.newsweek.com/transgender-kids-living-identity-develop-cis-children-1471729


Trans children who live as the gender they identify with act and develop similarly to their cisgender counterparts, according to a new study.

In the largest ever study of transgender children, scientists recruited 317 3 to 12-year-old transgender children, 189 of their siblings, and 316 cisgender kids who acted as controls. The transgender participants had socially transitioned, meaning they were living as the gender they identify with rather than what they were assigned at birth. For instance, a child with a penis assigned a boy at birth who has come out as and is living as a girl.

To conduct the study, the researchers met families across North America, study co-author Selin Gülgöz, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington, told Newsweek. They spoke to children and parents about the former’s gender identity. That included showing kids toys and asking which ones they preferred, and quizzing them on how similar they felt to boys or girls. The cisgender control group followed the same steps.

“The most surprising finding is, overall, just how similar transgender and cisgender kids looked,” Gülgöz told Newsweek. “What this means is that, if I saw the data of any random participant, I would not be able to tell if that child is transgender or cisgender.”

“Within both transgender and cisgender children, we find a wide range in the strength of their identity and preferences. For example, we had some ‘tomboy’ transgender girls in the study, just as we had ‘tomboy’ cisgender girls.”

As the trans rights movement has gained mainstream attention in the past half decade or so, some have debated the legitimacy of the marginalized group’s experiences. Some have controversially argued that teaching children about trans issues is confusing, that children shouldn’t be allowed to transition, or that doing so perpetuates damaging gender stereotypes, for instance that girls wear pink or are submissive.

Gülgöz said the study can’t answer whether children should be allowed to socially transition due to its design. But the findings “show that the time a child spends living as transgender does not appear to change their gender identity, or make their preferences in gender-stereotypical clothes or toys more prominent, which lends support to previous research suggesting that early social transitions are not likely to be the cause of transgender children’s gender identities.”

“This study does show that in fact not all trans girls (or cis girls) want to wear frilly pink dresses or play with dolls. We in fact see plenty of trans kids violating these stereotypes, just as we see cis kids do so,” said Gülgöz.

“Other work in our lab has shown that trans kids either endorse gender stereotypes at equal rates or less than cis kids so the idea that trans kids are perpetuating stereotypes does not appear to hold up.”

According to her team’s findings, Gülgöz said it’s not possible to speculate why children—both cis and trans—appear to be drawn towards different interests, styles of clothing, and whether this is due to socialization, biology, or something else entirely.

Gülgöz acknowledged the study was limited because all of the children had socially transitioned, and the participants were studied in one moment in time. The cohort was also skewed in favor of children from higher-income homes with educated parents. It’s unclear if the same patterns would be found in other samples, she said.

The team plans to revisit the families and chart the participants’ development every three years.

Continue reading at:  https://www.newsweek.com/transgender-kids-living-identity-develop-cis-children-1471729

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On the Frontlines of Progressive Anti-Semitism

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/14/opinion/college-israel-anti-semitism.html

I am a young, gay, left-wing Jew. Yet I am called an “apartheid-enabler,” a “baby killer” and a “colonial apologist.”

Blake Flayton
Nov. 14, 2019

I have never done 23-and-me, nor have I “ancestry.com’d” myself. It’s never felt necessary. My family’s Eastern European Jewish heritage was something we lived to honor, including in our politics.

Like so many others, my family came to this country escaping discrimination in the Old Country and facing injustice in the New: abusive labor conditions; university quotas; social exclusion when we tried to climb the ladder of the American dream. Given our history in this country — and our involvement in so many social justice movements — it shouldn’t be a surprise that so many young Jews, myself included, can’t imagine being anything other than political progressives. As a gay abortion rights advocate and environmentalist, my place in such circles has always been welcomed and accepted.

Well, until now.

As a sophomore at George Washington University, whose student government last year passed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions proposal, I now find myself pushed to the fringes of a movement I thought I was at the heart of, marginalized as someone suspicious at best and oppressive at worst. This is because I am a Zionist. It is because I, like 95 percent of American Jews, support Israel.

Before I arrived on campus, I could proudly say that I was both a strong progressive and a Zionist. I didn’t think there was a conflict between those two ideas. In fact, I understood them as being in sync, given that progressives have long championed the liberation movements of downtrodden minorities. I viewed — and still view — the establishment of the state of Israel as a fundamentally just cause: the most persecuted people in human history finally gaining the right of self-determination after centuries of displacement, intimidation, violence and genocide. For me, this remains true even as I oppose the occupation of the West Bank. It is my Zionism that informs my view that the Palestinian people also have the right to their own state.

But my view is not at all shared by the progressive activist crowd I encountered on campus. They have made it abundantly clear to me and other Jews on campus that any form of Zionism — even my own liberal variant, which criticizes various policies of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and seeks a just two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — is a political nonstarter. For this group at my school, and similar groups on campuses and cities around the country, Zionism itself is, to parrot the Soviet propaganda of several decades ago, racist. And anybody who so dares to utter the words “right to exist” is undeniably a proponent of racism.

Given that almost all American Jews identify as “pro-Israel,” even as the majority of us are also critical of Israeli government policy, this intolerance affects huge numbers of young American Jews. I am one of them.

At many American universities, mine included, it is now normal for student organizations to freely call Israel an imperialist power and an outpost of white colonialism with little pushback or discussion — never mind that more than half of Israel’s population consists of Israeli Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, and that the country boasts a 20 percent Arab minority. The word “apartheid” is thrown around without hesitation. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is repeatedly dragged into discussions ranging anywhere from L.G.B.T.Q. equality (where to mention Israel’s vastly better record on gay rights compared with that of any other country in the Middle East is branded “pinkwashing”), to health care to criminal justice reform.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/14/opinion/college-israel-anti-semitism.html

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