Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How do we welcome the LGBTQ Community within our community?

In Philadelphia at the most recent  ARJE.  (Formerly NATE, now the Association of Reform Educators, see my blog from last month) annual gathering in February I attended two sessions on learning  to work with the LGBTQ community.

 (Lesbian. gay,  bisexual & transgender. Q stands for questioning – someone who is questioning their sexual and/or gender orientation. Sometimes, the Q stands for “queer,” a term reclaimed by some LGBTs for political reasons.)

 I enjoyed learning with Phoenix Schneider who is the Director, LGBTQ Initiative at Jewish Family and Children's Service of Greater Philadelphia.  I learned terms such as Cisgender which  is a word that applies to the vast majority of people, describing a person who is not transgender. If a doctor announces, “It's a girl!” in the delivery room based on the child's body and that baby grows up to identify as a woman, that person is cisgender.  Cisgender and transgender, are just a few of the terms and language we learned in our sessions. 

Currently at Lakeside we are also participating in a training initiative program with the Response Center on LGBTQ.  We are working on creating a safe space at Lakeside and we are committed to being Allies in our community.  Included in our training initiative is our clergy, educators and lay leaders.  It has been an interesting journey and I have learned quite a bit along the way; how to be a welcoming community, how to respond to and be sensitive to all types of issues.

We are meeting next week for the 3rd time to talk about action items for our congregation.  One idea I want to implement is changing our school registration forms.  It will be easy to change the gender question to have a fill in the blank then to check off  Male or Female.  I hope this will be one of many ideas in our action plan.  

 I am sure in the next 5 years we will have transgender students as well as members of our community.   
One challenging issue is to have a non gender specific bathroom in the building.  Right now we do not have a designated bathroom although Rabbi Serotta has a private bathroom and that is a short term solution.  I hope that perhaps one day we will have a family bathroom which would help all of our families young and old.

Once we have completed our action plan I am sure we will share it with the congregation.  If you have any suggestions please feel free to comment here or email me.  

I look forward to continuing to learn, adapt and help our programs and congregation to reflect the community around us.  Thanks too to Phoenix Schneider for a great session to start off this most recent journey.