What do all of these letters mean, and do we mean when we describe Kehilah as a “queer-affirming” community?

Lesbian: A woman whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same gender

Gay: A sexual and affectional orientation toward people of the same gender; can be used as an umbrella term for men and women. Sometimes refers specifically to those who identify as men

Bisexual: A person whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same and other genders, or towards people regardless of their gender.

Trans (gender): used most often as an umbrella term, some commonly held definitions 1. Someone whose gender identity or expression does not fit within dominant-group social constructs of assigned sex and gender. 2.  A gender outside of the man/woman binary.  3. Having no gender or multiple genders. 4. A person who lives full-time in a gender different than their assigned birth sex and gender.

Queer: Anyone who chooses to identify as such. This can include, but is not limited to, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and asexual people. Not all the people in the above subcategories I.D. as queer, and many people NOT in the above groups DO. This term has different meanings to different people. Some still find it offensive, while others reclaim it to encompass the broader sense of history of the gay rights movement. Can also be used as an umbrella term like LGBT, as in “the queer community.” Some transgender people express concern that “queer” only applies to sexual orientation.

Questioning: Anyone who is actively questioning/exploring their own sex and gender identiti(es)

Intersex: People who naturally (that is, without any medical intervention) develop primary or secondary sex characteristics that do not fit neatly into society’s definitions of male or female. Intersex people are relatively common, although the society’s denial of their existence has allowed very little room for intersex issues to be discussed publicly. Hermaphrodite is an outdated and inaccurate term that has been used to describe intersex people in the past.

Asexual: A sexual orientation generally characterized by not feeling sexual attraction or a desire for partnered sexuality. Asexuality is distinct from celibacy, which is the deliberate abstention from sexual activity. Some asexual people do have sex. There are many diverse ways of being asexual.

Ally:A person who confronts heterosexism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and heterosexual privilege in themselves and others out of self-interest and a concern for the well being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual people and believes that dismantling heterosexism, biphobia, transphobia and genderism/cis-sexism is a social justice issue. (these definitions are adapted from the UCDavis LGBTQIA Resource Center)

Being a “queer affirming” community means integrating queer perspectives into our teaching and learning, celebraing those voices as authentically Jewish, and constantly working to identify the ways in which we can continue to make our community more inclusive and welcoming of a diversity of gender identities and experiences. We honor the gender identities, presentations, and pronouns that members of our commuity prefer.

If you would like to help us continue to deepen our engagement with queer issues, or if you have identified some ways in which we can continue to grow, please contact us!

Additional resources:

Keshet is a national organization which advocates for greater inclusion of queer Jews in Jewish life and community.  Their website has many different kinds of resources, including a weekly Queer Torah Commentary.

Ritualwell collects contemporary rituals and reflections for marking traditional (and some non-traditional) sacred moments in Jewish life. This link will take you to the section of the website dedicated to rituals connected to gender and sexual identity.

The Mazzoni Center is a wellness center in Philadelphia dedicated to meeting the needs of LGBT people and helping them navigate the larger health care system.