An overview of Evolve’s pieces on gender—from personal, communal, theological and political standpoints.

It is a fundamental Reconstructionist principle that it is the responsibility of every generation to continue the ongoing evolution of Jewish civilization by respectfully engaging with unprecedented challenges. Deepening our understanding of gender is one of this generation’s challenges.

“Male and female God created them” (Genesis 1:27). This biblical verse renders invisible all of us who do not identify as male or female—everyone whose gender identity is nonbinary, neither exclusively male nor exclusively female. And it is unaware that a person’s gender identity may differ from the sex they were assigned at birth.

As always, it is incumbent upon us to address the needs and challenges that arise as we become aware that it is inaccurate to assume that everyone is either male or female and has been so unambiguously since birth. We present essays that address a variety of these challenges.

Lily Solochek and Lanni Solochek (“Making Jewish Ritual Spaces All-Gender Inclusive”)  provide a clear and comprehensive glossary of all the terms related to gender identity. They then explore some of the steps that communities can undertake to include people who identify as nonbinary. This is a different challenge than accepting the chosen gender of a transgender person, because in moving from one gender to another, trans people do not challenge the male-female binary. Their suggestions relate to building facilities, administrative forms, continuing education and ritual access.

Gwynn Kessler (“Beyond the Kingdom, Transforming God Imagery”) challenges the widespread assumption that the God of the Bible is portrayed exclusively as male. For those of us who are interested in moving beyond masculine God language in prayer and King language in theology, she explores biblical images that expand God’s gender. For those of us adjusting to a nonbinary view in which all aspects of reality contain a magnificent array of diversity, biblical variation in God imagery may be helpful.

Rabbi Dev Noily (“My Name is Dev, and My Pronouns Are ‘They’ and ‘Them’”) details what the experience of identifying with a gender other than the sex you were assigned birth (“gender dysphoria”).  They explain why it is so meaningful to them when people use their chosen gender—what it means to be seen as they see themself.

Anonymous (“Parenting a Trans Child”) narrates some of his experiences as the father of a transgender daughter. His honest, self-reflective and insightful observations open our hearts and raise questions we all need to face about being true to oneself.

Rabbi Tamara Cohen and Essie Shachar-Hill (“#MeToo, Gender Socialization and the Movement We Are Constructing”) argue that there is much important work to be done before the #MeToo movement can effect genuine transformation in U.S, society. First, the focus has been on victims  who are white, educated, cisgender women ignoring substantial numbers of victims who are trans and nonbinary, people of color and boys/men. Second, the fundamental and pervasive problem, requiring substantial education of all people, is that cisgender men are acculturated to assume that they are entitled to take whatever they want.

Please join our two web conversations about Judaism, gender, and gender identity on April 3 and May 7 by registering here. Add your voice to this discussion by leaving a comment on an essay, or write an essay of your own! Send us a program outline or a curriculum that we can post so that everyone can benefit from your work!