“How do you identify?”
“I think you might have offended her.”
“So you like men sometimes? Me too!”
“If you’re ‘queer,’ what does that make me?”
“I don’t know what pronouns she uses. He uses. They use?”
“Why are we saying our names and our pronouns?”
“I didn’t ask what she was; I asked what her story was.”
“I assumed you were a man.”
“He is a man.”
“Oh! I’m so sorry.”
J and I have been friends since before we could even talk. We were less than a year old when we met, and we’ve known each other ever since. He grew up to be a nice Jewish boy, and I grew up to be, well, me.
When I took him to the Keshet canoeing event, I took him on an afternoon trip to a completely different world. Not only are most of my friends in Boston not heterosexual, a large percentage of my friends here identify as trans and/or genderqueer. When we go to parties, many of the above snippets of conversation are par for the course, and I’ve come to think of radical gender politics as old hat. However, J’s presence at the Keshet event made me start to reexamine my little social world.
I’m wondering, is my Jewish community intimidating? Do people find our conversations inaccessible? In being so ensconced in queer community, do I run the risk of alienating even people in the mainstream LGBT Jewish community?
Also, is this the sort of thing that people in more observant Jewish communities wonder about themselves? Do people who came to observant Judaism later in life ever have parallel fears of being “too much”? How about hippy Jews? What is the difference between toning it down and selling out?
J seemed relatively comfortable at the Keshet event, but I know that every once in a while someone isn’t comfortable. Are there ways I can make my world more accessible to everyone? And if there are—should I?
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