Reform movement in America backs transgender rights


The Reform movement in the US has unanimously passed an extensive resolution to support and promote the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming members.

The Union for Reform Judaism voted in favour of the motion on Thursday, during its biennial five-day convention in Florida, where 5,000 leaders from around the world have been representing a total of 1.5 million members.

While the term ‘transgender’ refers to those whose biological gender is different to their mental gender identity, ‘gender non-conformity’ refers to people who express their gender in ways outside the stereotypical expectations of men and women.

Commitments made in the document - which also called on the American and Canadian governments to legislate equality for all gender identities - include the right to be referred to by your name, pronoun and gender of choice at camps, schools and all congregations.

Branches of the reform movement are also urged to implement gender-neutral toilets, prayer language and administrative forms.

The URJ explained that the resolution was needed because “members of the transgender and gender non-conforming communities face particular ongoing legal and cultural bigotry and discrimination.”

Rabbi Denise Eger, the first openly lesbian president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) - which counts 2,300 rabbis in its organisation - said the vote was a “historic moment.

“We believe in Reform Judaism that all humans were created in God’s image, and this resolution is the highest expression of that.”

She hoped the move would help to progress the cultural dialogue, adding that it had already had a “enormous” effect.

“People are saying ‘I’m so proud to be Jewish,’ or ‘I feel like I have a home again.’ This is what we call a Torah of inclusion. As a long-time LGBTQ activist and the first openly lesbian president of the CCAR, it was a proud day.”

The URJ, which had vice-president Joe Biden and Oscar-winner Michael Douglas make speeches at the convention, wrote in the resolution that prejudice against transgender people in particular was still prevalent across North America.

Pointing out the higher than average poverty, homelessness and suicide rates among the community, the resolution outlined how the transgender community experiences “frequent incidents of hate crimes and harassment, and often face discrimination in employment, healthcare and housing.”

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, the senior rabbi for the Movement for Reform Judaism - which was present at the convention - also welcomed the move, saying it has been “a litmus test for honouring people” that the URJ had passed with flying colours.

The rabbi, who has a personal connection to the cause in the shape of her eldest child Tali, added: “As a parent of a person who is non-gender binary (another term for gender non-conformity), this is both professionally and personally one of the most important things in my life. Tali is brilliant, and this is brilliant.”

She backed the resolution to ensure these groups were “completely integrated, welcomed, loved and appreciated, but also for people who are cis-gendered or more gender binary (both refer to those who conform to their gender), as this is a message about accepting people for who they are however they define their gender.”

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