Transgender Rights

A synagogue president writes to his community, asking for their support of his transgender family ahead of Election Day.

From a November 2018 letter from Weinberg to the members of the Malibu Jewish Center.

If you have heard me speak during any of the Yom Kippur services the last three years, you know that as President of our synagogue and as a proud Jew, I am and have been very concerned about the rising torrent of anti-Semitism in this nation. The legitimization of white supremacy and its anti-Semitic focus during the events in Charlottesville, which included threatened attacks against a local synagogue there, happened before our eyes. According to the Anti-Defamation League, in 2017 the number of anti-Semitic incidents rose over 57%. And now 11 of our own lie dead, sweet innocents who, while wrapping themselves in the beauty of Shabbat, were mercilessly slaughtered by a white supremacist claiming his acts to be Making America Great Again.

This message from me originally was going to focus on a more personal act of hatred that has been leveled against my own family and people we love. It is an act that is being advanced as another step in Making America Great Again. The horrific massacre in Squirrel Hill and the killer’s declared MAGA purpose have pushed my family’s concerns to an even higher level. I need to speak out about it, just as I have about anti-Semitism. I preface the following by saying that what I am sharing here is very personal and should be read in that light.

A week ago Sunday, my wife and I awoke in horror to a frightening headline in the New York Times. The headline read: “‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration.” The article described how this attack on transgender people already is being implemented by that administration. The article is here.

How does this affect my family? Our son is transgender. Our handsome, loving, hard-working son Raoul, raised in the MJCS community, and who in transitioning took the name of his mom’s father, a Holocaust survivor, is now being threatened because of who he is. Under the proposed Trump Administration policy and law, the nearly 2 million people who, like our son, identify themselves as transgender, will have their identity stripped from them along with their rights as American citizens. They will no longer have any protection against discrimination. This is not speculation. The US Justice Department just last week argued to the US Supreme Court that transgender is not real and that people who identify as transgender are not entitled to any protection under federal anti-discrimination laws.

Transgender people are those whose personal identity and gender do not correspond with their birth sex. Transgender people always have been members of the human experience. It is not a psychological condition. Being transgender is not a choice. It is medically proven. It is as real as the earth is round.

This is my son Raoul, with me, hiking in Utah last summer: As you can see, Raoul is male. The courts have confirmed this. His passport, driver’s license and other official records state this. The administration’s policy and threatened laws will strip him of the right to identify his official gender as male. Which means that he will be unable to renew his passport, driver’s license, and health insurance. He can be denied the right to work, to use public facilities, to be married, to vote, to attend graduate school, to travel or to get a loan. He will be completely stripped of his identity and his rights.

Most frightening of all, my son Raoul, and all transgender men and women, will be stripped of any legal protection against discrimination, humiliation and brutality. He, like the Jews throughout the centuries, will be treated as nothing more than a pariah – an outcast to be discriminated against, ignored, hated and brutalized. As we sadly have come to learn, this outcome is not conjecture or rhetoric – it is very real. More than 50 transgender men and women were murdered in the last two years. This administration has repeatedly supported the use of violence against those it views as “other.” Physical bullying at campaign rallies, supporting candidates who have physically attacked reporters and inciting people to use physical harm has sadly become commonplace. Not damning the white supremacists who chanted anti-Semitic slogans during Charlottesville has resulted in a sense of empowerment and legitimacy that in its extreme led to the slayings in Squirrel Hill. This is the new reality. As a Jew, my son’s safety is already threatened in this toxic environment – as a transgender male, stripped of any legal protection, his physical safety is in jeopardy because, as an “other,” he is a government-sanctioned target. All in the name of Making America Great Again.

Now, imagine if this threat was to your child or grandchild or great grandchild or niece or nephew or cousin or sibling. Or anyone else you love. Imagine if their rights, and their identity could be “defined out of existence” and they lost every protection and right granted to citizens. Imagine if they had no safety net and could be relentlessly discriminated against and physically harmed. Where would you stand on this?

As President of our congregation, I have scrupulously avoided raising political issues. This is not about politics. It is not about some abstract ideology. This is about a very personal, very direct threat against my son by our own government. A government that instead of taking a forceful stand against hatred, has done the opposite, using hatred as a political tool under the banner of Making America Great Again. So now we have the massacre in Squirrel Hill, the most violent act of antiSemitism in our country’s history. And we have a new law and policy that threatens the extinction of our son’s right to be who he is, and possibly his life.

Anti-Semitism is the irrational, unjustified hatred of a class of innocents merely because of who they are. The administration’s anti-transgender policy likewise is the irrational, unjustified hatred of a class of innocents merely because of who they are. This hatred creates violence. It leads to mass murder. It must end.

So here is my personal request, not as MJCS President, but as Raoul’s dad. When you vote in the upcoming election, ask yourself this: Am I the kind of person who will turn my back, like those during the last war, who remained silent as other Jews were imperiled, or will I follow the righteous path of Tikkun Olam and Jewish ethical values and vote against such inhumanity? Will you stay in your personal comfort zone and vote for candidates who support this administration and its brutal anti-transgender policy, or will you stand with the Jews in history who bravely fought against discrimination and tyranny?

Will you vote for or against hatred?

Will you vote for or against our Raoul?

Thank-you for listening.

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