By Yael SHAFRITZ, Sheffield student.
This past Wednesday was Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). This day was established to remember all those who have died because of anti-transgender prejudice and hatred.
Since TDOR 2012 over 200 people have been murdered due to their perceived gender identity, and this is only the murders that have been reported. Therefore on TDOR we also think of those who have died but whose deaths have gone un-reported and their lives un-remembered.
This past Friday night I was lucky enough to attend a Friday night dinner for Transgender Day of Remembrance; jointly hosted by Moishe House and Rainbow Jews (an oral history project documenting the experiences of LGBT Jews). The evening was intended to create a safe space for sharing experiences, hearing stories and creating a Shabbat community where everyone could feel included regardless of their identity.
This was done in several ways; firstly, the prayers that we said were provided with the original male versions, an alternative female version as well as either a gender neutral option or the space for you to create your own words to the prayer in whatever way helped you most relate.
I really enjoyed doing prayer in this way, as it not only broke the idea that prayer should only be said in uniformity, but it also put forward the idea that we should be able to say prayer however we best relate to it; whether that’s changing the prayers to get rid of the concept of gender, or even changing the word god to something we can better understand.
As the evening went on we heard stories and personal experiences of some people in the room. These stories made me question the ignorance of some people in the world, but it also made me admire the courage of others to stand by their identity no matter what the world thinks of them.
These stories forced us to re-think ideas of male and female gender binaries, and gave us hope that we can move towards a world where we do not constantly try and force people to be one or the other.
These stories asked us to examine the small things in everyday life that can have a big effect for someone who is gender variant, whilst similarly making us understand the mountains that Transgender people climb every single day to be able to live a ‘normal’ life.
In the Jewish community we have strong relationship to ‘Remembrance’. We are consistently encouraged in our rituals to remember those who have passed, whether that is our biblical ancestors, our loved ones or even complete strangers. Similarly in the Jewish community we know what it is like to be discriminated against because of an identity we cannot change and the pain this can cause.
We have a duty as a community and as part of humanity, to stand up and remember as allies alongside the transgender community.
We have a duty to educate ourselves and others about gender and gender variant identities so that we can create a world that is free from judgement and hatred based on someone’s identity.
Lastly, we have a duty to stand up to senseless hatred and violence, and speak out when we see persecution of others.
[divider]A prayer for Transgender Day of Remembrance by Rabbi Reuben Zellman[divider]
Source of Life, bless the souls of all who are in our hearts on this Transgender Day of Remembrance. We call to mind today young and old, of every race, faith, and gender experience, who have died by violence. We remember those who have died because they would not hide, or did not pass, or did pass, or stood too proud. Today we name them: the reluctant activist; the fiery hurler of heels; the warrior for quiet truth; the one whom no one really knew.
As many as we can name, there are thousands more whom we cannot, and for whom no Kaddish may have been said. We mourn their senseless deaths, and give thanks for their lives, for their teaching, and for the brief glow of each holy flame. We pray for the strength to carry on their legacy of vision, bravery, and love.
And as we remember them, we remember with them the thousands more who have taken their own lives. We pray for resolve to root out the injustice, ignorance, and cruelty that grow despair. And we pray, God, that all those who perpetrate hate and violence will speedily come to understand that your creation has many faces, many genders, many holy expressions.
Blessed are they, who have allowed their divine image to shine in the world.
Blessed is the Source of light, in which no light is extinguished.[divider]
For More information on:
Rainbow Jews: http://www.rainbowjews.com/
Moishe House: http://www.moishehouse.org/house.asp?HouseID=22
Trans* Information/Support networks (These are a few, for more info contact the UJS LGBT+ network):