By Lex Pe’er Horwitz (they/them)
There is nothing more beautiful than starting your journey to discovering and nurturing your true self.
Learning about our inner most desires and needs presents us with the glorious opportunity to live our lives to the fullest as our authentic, divine selves. After all, we are created in g-d’s image, which means we are meant to be the fabulous perfectly imperfect human beings that we are.
As a proud Jewish human, when I came to my queer sexuality and gender identity in college, I was fearful that I would not be understood—that I would be invisible as the real me—and that I would no longer be accepted, loved or supported by my Jewish community. I wondered, “Do I still have a place in Judaism? In the community that I love—the community that raised me and fully formed me into the beautifully complex human being I am today? Will I be loved as me in all my queerness or despite being queer?” Overwhelmed, I was too scared to seek out the answers for myself.
Growing up, I had never heard the term “transgender” or “non-binary” or “queer” in my religious spaces—let alone my secular spaces—and this absence of visible queer and trans folx in my life, paired with the non-existent conversation on gender diversity and sexuality in mainstream Jewish media reinforced my false belief that there wasn’t a loving space for me as a queer, gender transcendent Jewish human.
But oh how wrong I was! One day, my childhood Hebrew school friend tagged me in a post on Facebook with the title “The 8 Genders of the Talmud”.* Upon viewing, my jaw dropped, my face lit up with excitement, my heart imploded with joy, warmth radiated throughout my soul, and my mind expanded with curiosity as a galaxy of glitter and pixie dust took over my being—I felt the tension from years of internalized fear drain out of my body through the tears of relief that rolled down my cheeks. As I exhaled, it felt as if the world was holding me, carving space for me to live my truth with my community, not as an outsider peering in. It was as if my being was elevating to a sacred plane of existence where I was not only understood, but valued as the true me. In that very moment, everything changed for me—not only does Judaism understand gender diversity, but Judaism affirms and supports genderqueer existence at it’s core.
So today, I am here to share some of the resources that have guided my personal journey to exploring gender diversity and fluidity in Judaism. My hope is that this resource is a stepping stone in your journey to learning how trans and gender diverse identities have deep roots in Judaism. To all of my transgender, non-binary, and genderqueer Jewish siblings, I hope that these resources help you break free from the false belief that we do not have a place in Judaism, a fear that stems from internalized Western imperialist binary thinking (a topic that deserves it’s own article, something we can dive into as a part 2). I am by no means an expert, simply a passionate Jewish LGBTQ+ educator and activist, so in order to provide you with the most accurate and detailed information, I am going to send you directly to the experts themselves.
Keshet is a one-stop-shop for all things LGBTQ+ Jews could need, with their resource library ranging from information on Jewish texts and tradition (including Torah Queeries!), LGBTQ+ holidays and life cycles, coming out, family and parenting, how to support transgender and non-binary people, community inclusion guides (including printable signs and stickers!), and even advocacy and allyship opportunities!
TransTorah was created by Rabbi Elliot Kula and Rabbi Reuben Zelleman to collect accessible trans and genderqueer Jewish resources. TransTorah serves as a clearinghouse for gender affirming rituals (such as a transgender and gender-nonconforming wedding service, a blessing for gender transition and a prayer for binding one’s chest), essays, serums, and poems, videos, and art.
Created by Lior Gross in 2018, the Nonbinary Hebrew Project is a free open-source Hebrew grammatical system that allows nonbinary Hebrew-speakers to speak in the first person without misrepresenting their gender. They’ve written out many of the common prayers in Hebrew and transliteration so you can use this resource even if you’re not fluent! They’ve also compiled resources on modern LGBTQIA+ Jewish efforts, gender expansiveness in traditional Jewish texts, and gender neutral language options for languages around the world.
Looking for inspirational transgender rabbis? Check out Profiling the First Generation of Transgender Rabbis, which introduces and shares the stories of 6 transgender rabbis and rabbinical students.
For some, being recognized in sacred texts may not impact your relationship to Judaism, but for others like myself, being validated by these texts is world changing. These texts are more than just religious doctrine—they work as a road map to our cultural and historical wealth as Jewish people and with that they carry spiritual, moral, and many times pragmatic guidance to our everyday lives. When we as LGBTQ+ beings are not recognized, validated, supported, or uplifted as our authentic selves by the communities we call home, it is beyond heartbreaking. By showing you the presence of gender diverse representations and understandings in Judaism, I want you to know that you are beautiful the way you are, you are loved for being you, and there has always been a space for you in Judaism. I hope you never change your true self for others. And, rather paradoxically, I also want you to know that your validity is never determined by the acceptance, understanding, or affirmation of religion, your respective communities or societal standards—you are valid simply because you are you. Luckily, as trans, non-binary and genderqueer Jews, we can have our cake and eat it too. We do not have to choose between being our authentic selves or our religion because we are represented in every level of Judaism, from our classical texts, to our secular and religious leaders, to the many community spaces like our very own Tribe 12 LGBTQIA+ community that are designed by and for queer Jews.
Be proud of who you are, and know I am proud of you too.
*As incredible as all of these resources are, it is important to note that there is conflation between sex (i.e., female, male, intersex, non-binary) and gender (i.e., woman, man, non-binary, genderfluid, genderqueer, etc.). However, sex is not the same identity as gender. Sex is a combination of bodily characteristics including chromosomes, hormones, internal and external reproductive organs and secondary sex characteristics. Someone’s gender is their innermost concept of self as being a woman, man, blend of both, or neither. Your gender identity is how you perceive yourself and what you call yourself.
About the Author
Lex Pe’er Horwitz (they/them) is a queer, gender transcendent Jewish LGBTQ+ Educator, Activist, Model, and Public Speaker based out of Philadelphia where they live with their two senior special needs fur babies, Saboo and Lady Tooth. Lex received their B.A. in Psychology and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies from Bowdoin College, where they competed as the first out transgender athlete in all of collegiate squash and as the first out trans athlete at Bowdoin. Their advocacy focuses on educating allies and members of the queer community on LGBTQ+ identities, topics, and issues through a multitude of pathways–facilitations, workshops, lectures, one-on-one support, and consultation services to name a few. Lex’s goal is to provide a judgement-free safe space for all people to engage in critical conversation about gender, sexuality, and community. You can learn more about Lex and access their free educational resources on their website. Stay connected and follow Lex’s journey through Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Patreon, and YouTube.