Did you miss my op-ed in the Detroit Jewish News last week? Well here it is!
As a transgender Jew watching the current news cycle, I can’t help but feel the Purim story acutely — the scapegoating, the persecution, the decrees that limit us and may threaten our very lives.
Every year, Detroit Jews for Justice throws what we call our “Annual Purim Party Extravaganza.” Every year, we focus on a relevant issue of the times — last year we focused on abortion rights. In years past, it’s been water shutoffs or evictions. This year, we’re partnering with the Hate Won’t Win Coalition to shine a light on the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community to gain and retain our everyday civil rights.
As a transgender Jew watching the current news cycle, I can’t help but feel the Purim story acutely — the scapegoating, the persecution, the decrees that limit us and may threaten our very lives. It isn’t hard to see the correlations. As transgender and nonbinary people become more visible and more comfortable with showing ourselves in the public eye, we have been targeted as a way to gain political power. Some of the most aggressive religious conservatives have called for our eradication, much as Haman called for the eradication of the Jews from Persia in the time of Esther. In the same way as Ahasuerus, in many ways our current administration has turned a blind eye to this. It’s coalitions like Hate Won’t Win that are our Esthers, calling out for change and a reversal of the transphobia and homophobia that threaten our safety in the world.
Hate Won’t Win is a Michigan-based coalition of LGBTQ nonprofit organizations and their allies that works to secure and expand rights for LGBTQIA+ Michiganders. Right now, members of the coalition have introduced a bill to transform the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976, or ELCRA, which protects the rights of Michigan residents against discrimination based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status. If Hate Won’t Win coalition members’ efforts are successful, ELCRA will soon be amended to prevent discrimination based on sexuality, gender identity or gender expression.
This will be a huge win for LGBTQIA+ Michiganders, and a strike against homophobia and transphobia throughout the state. Businesses will no longer be able to deny services to LGBTQ customers by using religion as an excuse for homophobia. Schools will have to uphold the rights of students to use the facilities and play on the sports team that match their gender identities. The transformation of ELCRA, as simple as it sounds, will be a foundation for a profound statewide transformation in our rights as queer and trans people in Michigan.
So, on Sunday, March 5, from 4-6:30 p.m., Detroit Jews for Justice will be partying. We’ll be singing and dancing and shaking our groggers, cheering our queer version of Mordechai and booing the homophobic Haman. We’ll hear from Hate Won’t Win representatives and have a chance to cheer them on and thank them for the work that they’re doing to keep all of us safe.
I will be there too, feeling grateful to be part of a Jewish community that loves and supports me for my whole trans self. I know that the same God that has protected us as Jews for all of these centuries will protect us as trans people. Why? Because we, too, are holy.