For some Jews it’s still not safe to be out and proud
Jewish News celebrated the 10 LGBT+ trailblazers in the community, posting a photo of myself and my friends with our youth movement flag at London’s last pride. Somehow the pages of a Jewish newspaper felt a more daunting space to be out, or an ally, in than the streets of London.
Progress has been made by our community but that does not mean we have come far enough. This weekend I will march with the Keshet/ Jewish bloc at London Pride. Last year our part of the parade (over 200) wore tallits, Magen David rainbow flags (which were considered ‘unsafe’ at Chicago Pride) and youth movement shirts. While the turnout should be celebrated, it does not mean Pride has become a party instead of a protest.
For some Jews, it is not safe to be out to their families. As with every community- people talk. Some parents worry about the social stigma. Some kids stop going to shul because they don’t know which side of the mechitza to stand on if they identify as non-binary. Conversion therapy, now illegal in the UK, has been the response of some rabbis to congregants coming out. People worry they may have to pick between their religion and identity.
Community leaders are making efforts to decrease this ultimatum. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has said that “every person is precious. Single parents, women, the unaffiliated, LGBT Jews – let no person feel they have no place in our shuls.” Senior rabbi to the Reform movement Laura Janner-Klausner chooses to march in her clergy gown so as to be a recognizable clergyperson.
Changes aren’t just coming from community leaders. Social attitudes are somewhat evolving in facets of the community. We are not homogenous and will not change overnight. With simcha themed LGBT+ club night ‘Buttmitzvah’, ‘GayW3’ (JW3s initiative which was boycotted) and drag at Limmud parts of the community are opening up the tricky conversations necessary to not only accept but celebrate diversity.
But club nights aren’t enough- classrooms and education set our communities attitudes. At JFS in Sex ed, we were given a heteronormative education and not given a toolkit to understand or express sexuality and gender that is not ‘cis’ or ‘straight’. If we don’t create a safe space for discussion in schools, cultures will not change.
The Union of Jewish Students run Keshet training sessions to ensure Jewish Society committee members are careful about using correct pronouns, offer resources for them to make ‘priday night dinners’ and run a liberation conference.
Many young Jews turn from the community if they cannot find a space that welcomes them. The Jewish bloc at Pride turning out helps ensure that those who identify as LGBT+ feel welcomed by the community. The importance of allies lies with the addition of nuance and sensitivity around the nature and history of Pride.