LGBTQ Rights – If Not Now, When?

Image: Gay Pride March, with rainbow flags. Photo by naeimasgary/pixabay.

June has become known in the US as LGBTQ Pride Month. For the last eight years, the White House has acknowledged it as such, and made a greeting to LGBTQ Americans. This year there is silence.

Last year the most vulnerable among us had access to health care through the Affordable Care Act. This year, the ACA is under attack from both the legislative and executive branches of government.

Last year our government spoke up for LGBTQ rights – human rights – abroad. This year there is a gay genocide in Chechnya, and Washington is utterly silent.

The battles we were still fighting last year are still raging. Kris Hayashi of the the Transgender Law Center reported on May 10, 2017:

The news this weekend from New York that another transgender woman, Brenda Bostick, has died after being viciously assaulted is a bleak reminder of the crisis of violence against transgender people… That crisis, fueled by hateful rhetoric and public policy, has for too long gone unseen and unacknowledged.” Brenda Bostick was the 10th transgender woman of color – and 9th Black transgender woman – murdered in 2017 that we know of.

The Department of Education announced on Feb 27 that it would no longer enforce Title IX to protect transgender students equally in all school facilities, including restrooms, according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

I could go on and on – if there’s a statistic or situation you think readers should know, I hope you’ll add it in the Comments.

But this is not a year to panic, or to hide our heads in the sand.

This is a year for LGBTQ people and straight allies to mobilize whatever privilege we have in defense of human rights and in resistance to the Trump Administration. Each of us have different degrees and kinds of privilege or talents, be it economic privilege, racial privilege, health privilege, gender privilege, ability privilege, a talent for written or other expression, or other things we can bring to the cause.

This year, celebrate Pride with ACTIONS:

  1. IDENTIFY YOUR GIFTS – Ask yourself, what talents or privilege do I have to offer? Do I have disposable income? Am I physically able to show up at rallies? Am I good at mobilizing people or at using social media? Does my race allow me to go or do or say things that would be much riskier for a person of color? How can I mobilize my privilege and talents in the service of others?
  2. DONATE – If you are able, support the organizations that defend us by sending a donation. Public interest law firms such as the Transgender Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Lambda Legal are on the front lines in the courts, currently our sole defense against a conservative Congress and a mean-spirited administration. Support organizations that serve vulnerable populations as well.
  3. PESTER ELECTED OFFICIALS – Email, tweet, write, and call your elected officials about LGBTQ issues, such as America’s refusal to issue US visas to Chechen men fleeing persecution. Keep an eye on state and local news for opportunities to speak out to the elected officials who work for you about local issues of discrimination.
  4. SHOW UP to marches and peaceful demonstrations if you are able.
  5. BOOST THE SIGNAL of LGBTQ voices and organizations in social media. Use your social media to spread legitimate information (consider your sources!) and to Share, Retweet, and otherwise add to the messages of LGBTQ organizations.
  6. REACH OUT to one another in kindness in these difficult times. The news is stressful, the unfriendly voices we hear in public spaces are painful, and all of it is downright scary. The world is mean enough right now – let’s practice the Jewish value of chesed, kindness in dealing with other LGBTQ folks.
  7. SHARE PRIVILEGE with others. Team up to make things happen. For instance, I’m disabled and marches, etc, are difficult for me on my scooter. I appreciate it when family and friends have stayed beside me, so that I feel less vulnerable. Do you know someone who could SHOW UP if only they had a little friendly support? Do you know an LGBTQ activist who could use a word of support, a meal, a RT?

Judaism is unequivocal on the necessity of speaking up when something is wrong. Leviticus 19 commands that we not stand by while another human being bleeds. Hillel speaks of the necessity of speaking up for ourselves and for others:

If I am not for myself, who is for me? When I am for myself, what am I? If not now, when? – Pirkei Avot 1:14

This Pride month, let us be for ourselves and for one another. Now.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

7 thoughts on “LGBTQ Rights – If Not Now, When?”

  1. When Prop 8 was passed in California a close friend of mine, a lesbian, told me sadly, “I won’t live to see the day when I can legally marry.” I ached to my core, but refused to give up. “Yes, you will!” I insisted. When Prop 8 was struck down I got to say, “I told you so!” So here we are – the same, but different. The Shabbat of the week when Prop 8 was eliminated I took a rainbow challah to my shul for the oneg. One young friend of mine, about age 7 at the time, referred to that moment in our political history as “the rainbow challah decision.” My young friend lives in a world that is full of LBGT friends – Jewish and not, a world in which the Rainbow Challah Decision is in place. The future belongs to her. We just have to get through this difficult time. And we will.

    Thank you for all these suggestions for actions. It is so important to get concrete guidance. In the anxiety of the moment it is easy to feel helpless. But we are not. Action is empowering.


  2. We in Canada have had our share of infighting with some organizers arguing the police should be kicked out of Pride Parades. Organizers under a lot of comments and action from activists allowed the police to stay. In Toronto the police were told they could be in the Pride Parade in civilian clothing. After 35 years of creating a good relationship with the local police most of us sighed. If they were kicked out who would be next? Pride flags are now flying over Parliament in Ottawa, in Provincial capitals, almost every major city hall and draped from balconies. Most of the time we, the older gays and lesbians, are told to shut up. This year we let them know they were wrong to exclude anyone. We won and so did everyone who wanted to show support by participating.

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