The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
May 20 marks Transgender Day of Celebration, to acknowledge transgender lives in a joyful and celebratory context. This year, and particularly over the past few weeks, there is a lot for the transgender community and allies to be excited about!
Just last week, the Obama administration sent a letter to all public schools instructing them to ensure students nondiscrimination on the basis of sex. Upon the release of these documents, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center, issued a statement commending the Obama administration, noting that “The historic letter and guidance from the Departments of Education and Justice are much-needed steps toward greater inclusion and equality for transgender and gender-nonconforming people in our society.”
In addition to restrooms, the letter asserts that schools need to provide transgender students access to all educational programs, activities and facilities according to their gender identity, rather than their sex assigned at birth. This is to be done without the need for a medical diagnosis or a birth certificate. Along with the letter, the Department of Education also sent thorough guidelines containing example policies and emerging practices for supporting transgender students.
This week, Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, introduced legislation that would list gender identity and expression in the hate crimes provision of the Criminal Code, and as a prohibited ground for discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act. In other words, bill C-16 would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity, giving transgender people the much-needed protections they deserve. While this bill has been introduced in the Canadian House of Commons before, this is the first time that it has been sponsored by the government, which advocates are hoping makes the difference in its passage.
The RAC and the Audacious Hospitality division at the URJ are excited to partner with Keshet and the Youth and Gender Media Project to offer a new Active Learning Network called “Building a Transgender Inclusive Community: Tools for Your Toolbox.” This program is an opportunity for Reform communities to advance their inclusion initiatives, particularly around gender diversity. Throughout this five-webinar series, participants will gain an understanding of the experiences transgender Jews have in our congregations and greater society, and will learn about opportunities to better welcome and honor people of all gender identities in Jewish communal life.
We are excited that the launch of this ALN will occur during Pride Month, on Wednesday, June 8 from 12:00-1:30pm ET. In order to best prepare ourselves to create meaningful change, the first webinar will explore common terms, distinctions and life experiences relevant to transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. We will learn from Patrick Rock, Director of Jewish Education for the Youth and Gender Media Project, and from two transgender Jews who will share their own stories. Institutions and individuals are welcome to join us no matter where they are on their journey towards greater LGBTQ inclusion, and no prior competency is needed. Click here to register for the first webinar in the Building a Transgender Inclusive Community: Tools for Your Toolbox series, or go to www.urj.org/transinclusion.
While there are undoubtedly many more steps that are needed to improve the lives of transgender people, it is so meaningful to see how much progress has been made since May 20 last year, and exciting to think about ways that society can move forward in the year to come. To learn more about the RAC’s work on LGBT rights, visit our issue page.