Culture, Sex & Gender

The Folly is Jewish Press' Editorial Stance on Transgender People

Some of you already know I prefer to post directly to newspapers when I can rather than write responses here, but unfortunately, The Jewish Press has not, and I am pretty sure, will not be posting the comment I wrote (which unfortunately I also forgot to save so I cannot repost here) in response to their horrendous editorial on Wed, Nov 15th entitled “Transgender Folly.”
Very rarely are transgender people covered in the media with respect and self-determination, and we’ve gotten a handful of lovelies (note the sarcasm) as of late including an offensive and denigrating poll that was done by Time Out–which has already received a number of letters from trans communities denouncing this so Time Out may (note I say may) issue an apology in their next issue which hopefully they will do.
So I knew from the title alone of The Jewish Press’ piece that the coverage of transgender people would be bad.
One of the reasons I wanted to start a new media outlet like JVoices was because when we look (of course this is true for most media but for now I’m going to keep it on the Jewish press–and I don’t just mean this one paper I mean the institutions as a whole), and even at most of the Jewish blogs, what we rarely have are a multitude of voices of people who are historically disfranchised–meaning people who do not have the choice to step away from Jewish institutions but are barred from full and meaningful participatory access, representation and on a very basic level, dignity and respect. I want to emphasize this distinction–it’s not that they don’t like for example how synagogues run and so start their own havurah, it’s that they wouldn’t be allowed in, or if they get through the door, they will be harrassed, discriminated against–you get the idea. The point, however, of JVoices, is not that the writers should or have to talk about identity all the time–please we are so much more than that. People have that choice of course, but the overall point was that because of our experiences in being disfranchised and because of our identities and honoring them, more often than not we have a different view on issues, society and the world at large–perspectives that are often seen as too far out there, too radical, too divergent…too…too…too…too anything because they aren’t watered down enough or palatable for even the young straight Jews who want to build something “new”. Because we aren’t asking to be like or be embraced by dominant society or culture.
And because more often than not, what we see reflected back to us are editorial stances like those of The Jewish Press, of institutions and media outlets who have no Jewish LGBT people in them–and I’m not even talking about a token they can then use and say speaks for our communities–but for real none in them but feel perfectly fine talking about us, our lives, or living, breathing realities as being disgusting.
The work that trans advocates in NY are doing to enact real changes to reflect the lives of trans people is no joke, and the new rule under consideration that proposes that surgery not be a requirement for a person to change their gender on their birth certificate will ultimately save lives. Advocates are having to continue to push to make sure that this new law really does do just that as the way the policy is written now still means that particularly poor people and people of color will still have a hard time changing these documents because of lack of access to basic health care.
This has real implications on people’s lives.

“With only birth certificates that show no gender or birth certificates that show the wrong gender, transgender people face bias, discrimination, and groundless accusations of forgery,” Z. Gabriel Arkles, staff attorney for the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, one of the organizations that advised New York City’s departments of health and vital statistics, stated in an e-mail. “We have clients who have been kicked out of their housing, harassed in social services offices, fired from jobs, or denied access to other ID because of the discrepancy between the sex on their birth certificate and their current gender.”

As a transgender Jew, we need Jewish institutions that will stand with our communities. We need communities that will help us hold accountable outlets like The Jewish Press that attempt to degrade our very existence–and I say attempt because we know our worth is so much more. We need people to understand the implications of what it means for an entire editorial board to make these statements, and the implications it has on our communities when LGBT people are not represented in positions of decision-making, opinion-making and positions of power that ideally are accountable to constituents (although more often than not those in power are not able to be held accountable).
We need more people to denounce editorial stances like those of The Jewish Press, and recognize the fundamental basis of human rights, that we are all interconnected, and that our livelihoods, our happiness, cannot be and must not be in place of the harming or imposing suffering on others.
For we are told that the heart knows the bitterness of one’s soul, meaning that we know the truth of our body and our lives, that we must evaluate who we are and what we need for we know best our own experiences.
Knowledge that ultimately could never be reflected by The Jewish Press. So you see, really, the folly isn’t on me, or any other transgender person. The folly is on an editorial board that fails to seriously account for its own misguided stances. For I know, for we know, the truth of our own souls, life and communities.
Again, hold them accountable. Maybe your post will get through.
crossposted to jspot

4 thoughts on “The Folly is Jewish Press' Editorial Stance on Transgender People

  1. I think you should also take on the not-quite-progressive-enough editorial positions of the Yated and Der Yid, as long as you want to bang your head against the wall and demand we follow suit. My gosh — why won’t the Orthodox newspapers just do want Cole Kravitz would like them to?

  2. Given that the Mishna recognizes at least 4 different genders and possibly up to 8 (depending on your interpretation) I think it isn’t unreasonable for the Jewish Press, whose editors are obviously so pious, to perhaps be at least cognizant that people are deserving of respect regardless of which gender they live in.
    Everyone has prejudices; as children we’re all taught things that we grow up to reject. That’s why we work to eradicate our prejudices, which starts with being aware of and rejecting our early brainwashing. And I think being Orthodox does not exempt you from learning. That’s an excuse which reveals a prejudice against the Orthodox! “Oh, we can’t expect those religious people to deal with the realities of the world…” The attitude that the Orthodox need to be protected from new ideas infantilizes them and endangers the rest of us.

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