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An Ode to Both/And

One of the scariest parts of coming out as a Queer person is not knowing how the person on the other end of the conversation will react. Will they accept me for who I am? Will they still love me? Will they think I’m broken? Will I lose this person? These are actual thoughts many Queer people have when deciding whether or not they want to disclose part of themselves with another. I’ve written at length about my struggles (and triumphs) with my own identities as a Genderqueer/Nonbinary Transgender Jew. For the majority of my life I was afraid that my Jewish communities would disown me when I let my true self into the room. It is taking years of unlearning and healing to realize and understand that there are Jews just like me and Jews that are allies to people like me. Despite knowing this, deeply and viscerally, that pain and trauma lives in my mind, body, soul and spirit and I have to actively soothe and remind myself that I am not that scared child anymore and that there are communities that actually want me around. But it’s an ongoing conversation between me and my past pain. I can’t help but notice similarities between the fear of disclosing my queerness with disclosing how I embody and live my deep values of both B’tzelem Elohim (all humans are created in the image of the Divine) and to save a life is to save the entire world. All of that pain is rising and bubbling up inside me and has caused me to be frozen in grief and fear. I recognize this for what it is, trauma, and it’s on ME to break that cycle and I am, slowly and surely.


How am I breaking this cycle? I’ve explored and understand what that pain and fear actually are (past traumas bubbling up) and will share how I am feeling in this moment. Hineni, here I am.


We have been presented with many false dichotomies – this either/or binary way of thinking that just doesn’t hold up to the reality of the world. People are touting statements of “absolute truths” that don’t actually reflect the nuance of what’s happening and simply cannot capture everything all at once. As a Genderqueer/Nonbinary Jew living in the United States who doesn’t fit into the binary of man or woman, I’ve learned that not only is it possible to live in the inbetween, but it’s required for my survival. And what have I found there? So much beauty, hope, promise - it is where the truest/most honest versions of ourselves live. And we are squelching all of it by insisting there is no in between, no nuance. We know that's not true, so how have we forgotten? I’m so grateful to have learned to question the narratives I was raised with around gender; in that questioning I found my true self–which saved my life–and opened up so many more beautiful possibilities and ways of experiencing myself and the world. I’ve learned to question other narratives outside of gender, too. If this narrative was false, what else could be false? I understand the deep pain that comes with unlearning something we’ve been taught to be an indisputable fact, but we are stronger when we continue to seek the truth and live in nuance.


Our channels are clogged and overflowing with talking and yelling with very little listening happening. We are all so HURT. We are in PAIN. We are ANGRY and SCARED. We are ACTIVATED. When so much anger, pain and hurt are present, it’s very hard to open ourselves to hear another person. I’m begging you, please try. Even if it’s not my words, listen to the words of others who are screaming, begging to be heard. Begging to have their humanity seen. My heart aches from all of the missed opportunities of connection and humanity.


This pain of bearing witness to all of this violence, ugly rhetoric and false dichotomies only builds on the pain of being a trans person living in the United States where there are literally hundreds of bills whose mission it is to take away our autonomy, humanity, dignity, and freedom. I can’t help but see a common thread between what’s happening in Israel and in Palestine and Gaza and what’s happening here in the States and around the world – dehumanization.


I want to be very clear: My heart aches for all of the innocent Israeli lives taken on October 7th. Hamas is a terrorist organization and I do not support them in any way, shape or form.

There is never an excuse to harm civilians. Ever.


My heart aches for the hostages who were mercilessly ripped from their families and homes. We need to get them home NOW.


My heart aches for all of the Jewish lives taken and impacted by antisemitism and anti-Jewish oppression around the world, a terrifying rising tide.


My heart aches for the everyday Israeli citizens who feel abandoned by their government, an experience I am all too familiar with.


AND!


My heart aches for all of the innocent Palestinian lives taken both since October 7th and before it.


My heart aches for the many, many, many Palestinian children whose lives, according to the news, are just “collateral damage” in this war and the many decades of harm leading up to this moment.


My heart aches for Palestinian lives who are dehumanized with hateful rhetoric, who feel abandoned by the world.


It should not need to be said, but it does: caring about Palestinians and their liberation does not make me antisemitic nor a self-hating Jew. We must reject this false dichotomy. Not only is it not true, this binary way of thinking is extremely dangerous - for all of us.


I’m noticing a scarcity mindset when talking about liberation – yet we know there isn’t a finite amount of liberation. Quite the opposite: None of us are free until we are all free. And until then? These cycles of violence, pain and trauma will continue. My friend Joanna Ware speaks about metabolizing our grief into action. When we don’t put our grief and anger somewhere, it changes us from the inside out. It becomes part of our DNA and a core part of who we are - it impacts all of our interactions. We pass this on from generation to generation. We HAVE to break the cycle.


I was on the phone with my friend and unloading all I’ve been feeling these past many days. I said “I cannot even fathom how Jewish people can be in a position to dehumanize another group of people when we were the ones dehumanized years ago in the Holocaust, and honestly, still today. I’m confused because so many different people I trust are lashing out at each other and are all fighting with each other. It seems like we’ve forgotten that we can care about more than one thing at once.”


My friend reminded me that this is precisely how white supremacy works. It’s meant to divide us, confuse us, and make us angry with EACH OTHER when in reality, WE are not each other’s enemies; we are fighting for the same thing: Humanity, dignity, safety and liberation. But this mission has gotten lost. So much dehumanization is happening that it makes it easy to destroy lives through violence. Where has this gotten us? Nowhere. It begets more violence and pain.


But we have the power to STOP THE CYCLE: to queer our lens and reexamine the stories we think we know so well. We have the power to LISTEN to each other and SEE each other exactly as we are: human beings, who by design exist in the in-betweens and nuance, craving and desperate for connection and to have our humanity seen; to feel safe – to be free.




image of broken heart


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