Last week, the Reform Jewish movement passed the widest resolution on transgender rights of any major religious organization crafted by the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism of the Union for Reform Judaism. This is Judaism’s first official anti-discrimination policy on transgender issues. In 1977, both the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis passed resolutions affirming “the rights of homosexuals,” and took an official stance to oppose laws that fail to uphold principles of equality for all people of all sexual orientations. The “Resolution on the Rights of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People” which was voted upon last Thursday at the Union for Reform Judaism’s biennial conference held in Orlando, Florida, state that, “North American culture and society have, in general, become increasingly accepting of people who are gay, lesbian and bisexual, yet too often transgender and gender non-conforming individuals are forced to live as second-class citizens.”
The Reform movement has demonstrated full inclusion of transgender people in accordance with Jewish tradition. In 1990 Reform responsum (CCAR 5750.8) affirmed that simply being transgender is not enough to to deny someone conversion to Judaism. A responsum in 1978 indicated that a rabbi may officiate at the wedding of two Jews if one partner has transitioned to a gender with which they identify, as opposed to one they were assigned at birth (“Marriage After a Sex-change Operation” in American Reform Responsa, Vol. LXXXVIII, 1978, pp. 52-54).
The Resolution goes on to further list that the Union for Reform Judaism explicitly resolves that:
- Affirms its commitment to the full equality, inclusion and acceptance of people of all gender identities and gender expressions;
- Affirms the right of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals to be referred to by their name, gender, and pronoun of preference in our congregations, camps, schools, and other Reform affiliated organizations;
- Encourages Reform congregations, congregants, clergy, camps, institutions and affiliates, including NFTY, to continue to advocate for the rights of people of all gender identities and gender expressions;
- Urges the adoption and implementation of legislation and policies that prevent discrimination based on gender identity and expression, and that require individuals to be treated equally under the law as the gender by which they identify. This includes establishing the right to change without undue burden their identification documents to reflect their gender and name and ensuring equal access to medical and social services;
- Calls on the U.S. and Canadian governments at all levels to review and revise all laws and policies to ensure full equality and protections for people of all gender identities and expressions;
- Urges Reform Movement institutions to begin or continue to work with local and national Jewish transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual organizations to create inclusive and welcoming communities for people of all gender identities and expressions and to spread awareness and increase knowledge of issues related to gender identity and expression. These activities may include cultural competency trainings for religious school staff, the new congregational resource guide on transgender inclusion being created by the Religious Action Center, education programs on gender identity and expression, and sermons on the topic of gender identity and gender expression;
- Recommends URJ congregations and Reform Movement institutions, facilities and events ensure, to the extent feasible, the availability of gender-neutral restrooms and other physical site needs that ensure dignity and safety for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals;
- Urges Reform Movement institutions to review their use of language in prayers, forms and policies in an effort to ensure people of all gender identities and gender expressions are welcomed, included, accepted and respected. This includes developing statements of inclusion and/or non-discrimination policies pertaining to gender identity and gender expression, the use when feasible of gender-neutral language, and offering more than two gender options or eliminating the need to select a gender on forms; and
- Will work in collaboration with other Reform Movement institutions to create ritual, programmatic and educational materials that will empower such institutions to be more inclusive and welcoming of people of all gender identities and expressions.
Three cheers for the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism! We all could use some good news on the LGBT* front after the disaster in Texas last Tuesday.