A Jewish Obligation to Protect Gender Diversity

A light-skinned human being in a black shirt holds up a sign with rainbow text reading “HELLO MY PRONOUNS ARE”
Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

I’ve always been impatient about inequality. I was a stamps-her-feet, doesn’t-sit-down, never-shuts-up kind of little girl.

Now, I’m a stamps-her-feet, doesn’t-sit-down, never-shuts-up, knows-her-own-power, spends-her-own-privilege queer, polyamorous, feminist Jew and Mama Bear. And I’m roaring against the anti-trans, anti-gender-diversity legislation systemically threatening the queer community right now in the United States.

I have and do and will advocate fiercely for both of the children my wife birthed, and I adopted, and we parent together. And have and do and will advocate fiercely for my chosen family of queers, weirdos, and wilderness-wanderers.

Our society reinforces a gender binary: A system in which two, and only two, options are presented.

When a child is born and a doctor declares, “It’s a girl!” a whole host of assumptions are usually activated. Not only: “This infant human has a vulva, and, we assume,

internal ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes!” The statement “It’s a girl!” reaches into the future of this infant: Anatomy is thought to predict a certain gender presentation and reception: pink, frilly clothes, and long hair, and ballet classes. This infant’s sex (female) and gender (feminine) are often assumed to be predictive of her sexual orientation: crushes on boys.

Two and only two options. For sex: male or female. For gender: masculine or feminine. For orientation: straight or, sometimes begrudingly, gay.

And yet, human, and indeed all life in the animal kingdom, displays far more variety. Some of this variety we have words for. Some of these words are neutral or positive; and others, derogatory. We’ve heard of tomboys, and sissies. We know “tough women” and “sensitive men.” We have seen customs surrounding hairstyle, make up, and dress, change, reflecting different fads and trends. For a boy to wear his hair long, falling below his shirt collar, is no longer considered a “dress code offense” in public schools. The Victorian convention of dressing little boys in pink has given way to outrageous “pink for girls” “blue for boys” “gender reveal” stunts. Even the realms of “science” and “medicine” increasingly acknowledge and address human variation.

Rabbi Nikki DeBlosi (she/her)

queer belonging. sex positivity. creative ritual. inclusive judaism.