Last month, at L’Taken, Jason and Bailey of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas lobbied their members of Congress in support of comprehensive non-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals, on the heels of an announcement by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the lead sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the Senate, that he intends to introduce comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination legislation in the next Congress.
This past Sunday, Leelah Alcorn, a trans teen from Ohio committed suicide. In a posthumous note on tumblr, Leelah cites her parents’ rejection of her gender identity, their refusal to let her transition and her feelings that things will not get better as some of the reasons for her suicide. While the work I do advocating on behalf of the Reform Movement for legislation that would grant legal equality to LGBT individuals is meaningful and important, this legislation alone cannot end the transphobia and rejection that Leelah faced; we must do this work as a community. In the wake of Leelah’s suicide, we should look within our communities, both Jewish and secular, to create spaces where individuals’ gender identities are affirmed rather than rejected.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the Center for American Progress’ event, “We The People: Why Congress Must Pass a Comprehensive LGBT Non-Discrimination Act,” where Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the lead sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the Senate, announced his intention to introduce comprehensive LGBT non-discrimination legislation. While the speakers at the event were captivating, the part of the event that stood out to me the most was during the question and answer section when Diego Sanchez, Director of Policy at PFLAG National, spoke about the importance of trans-inclusive advocacy.
Following a recent vote by the Department of Health and Human Services panel, which recommended that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reverse its policy banning men who have had sex with men (MSM) from donating blood, the FDA announced yesterday that it will be replacing its current indefinite deferral policy with a policy that allows MSM to give blood if they have not had sex with another man in the past year. While this change will allow some MSM who were ineligible to donate blood in the past to donate blood, this new policy still raises questions about judicious, equal treatment for MSM in this particular situation.
By Reuben Bank
When people ask me why I’m passionate about social justice I always struggle to find the correct answer. There are several generic responses that I could go to such as, “because there are so many unjust things in the world,” or another classic, “because I have a passion for helping people,” but these never seem to work for me. They don’t encompass the real reasons that I am passionate about tikkun olam, about repairing the world. I’m not passionate about social justice by itself, I’m not interested in doing random community service hours every weekend. As a Reform Jewish teenager, I am passionate about being a part of a movement.
Last month, a Department of Health and Human Services panel voted 16-2 to recommend that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reverse its policy banning men who have had sex with men (MSM) from donating blood. Instead, they suggested that MSM should be allowed to give blood if they have not had sex with another man in the past year. However, a separate FDA panel recently expressed concerns over lifting the life-long MSM blood donation ban.
Four years ago, on December 22, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010, which, as the name suggests, repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), the federal legislation that barred lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) service members from serving openly in the military. Repeal of DADT was ultimately fully implemented on September 20, 2011. Yet, almost 4 years after the DADT Repeal Act was signed into law paving the way for LGB service members to serve openly, there is still a population of people who are barred from the military simply because of who they are: transgender individuals.
Seth Walsh. Tyler Clementi. Jamey Rodemeyer. In 2010 and 2011, these names were all over the news as the media reported on a wave of teen suicides as a result of anti-LGBT bullying. In response, columnist Dan Savage launched the It Gets Better Project, a project which highlighted the increasing acceptance for LGBT individuals and featured videos from a wide variety of contributors, from President Obama to the staff here at the Religious Action Center. In the past couple of years, however, news coverage of anti-LGBT bullying and teen suicides has decreased, yet, anti-LGBT bullying continues to be an important and pertinent issue.