Tradition, Respect and Mutual Understanding
Eight lights, eight nights—the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, beginning this year on the evening of December 24, symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness. The candle-lit menorah is a symbol of freedom. Freedom from oppression, freedom to be Jewish...freedom to be ourselves. It is a celebration of freedom for all who desire it. You do not have to be Jewish to enjoy the fruits of this holiday. We are more than happy to share the bounty.
Soulmate and I waited until our daughter was twelve to spill the beans about ourselves.
She had been raised Jewish and educated by the local day school so we did not worry over acceptance, but my transition from male to female would require some very careful planning. If we were both cisgender girls with a curious young child, of course we would have done some things differently, but we were not...and consequently had the time to set the coming scene appropriately.
We waited until after our daughter’s bat mitzvah to come out at West End Synagogue. The staff and congregants were fantastic and most openly welcomed the news. We very quickly agreed upon a simple and practical solution to the washroom issue that would benefit all: turn one of the washrooms into a unisex/family washroom with a lockable door. The Orthodox congregation down the avenue had no problems with this solution either. I use the women's room in a private part of their synagogue accordingly, and I will be sitting with my soulmate in the women's section the next time we visit.
I am a woman in both synagogues. Soulmate is my wife, and I am hers. Facts were accepted on day one, with no explanations necessary...and we solved a tricky problem with a handshake.
Why did I agree to this washroom solution you may ask? In an everyday situation where adults and children are forced to mix, a family washroom serves the same purpose as the teacher’s washroom in elementary school. Teachers are taught on day one to minimize their chances of being put in a potentially compromising situation involving their students. I tend to follow that advice as a reasonably law-abiding transgender adult too. It just makes sense on all levels when dealing with public establishments and children if there is a private option available. There is nothing wrong with prudence.
In a place that does not normally deal with kids, it’s a different story. We are all adults there and should act accordingly. I use the women’s washroom every single time. If there is any person cis or trans who is acting like a jerk inside a washroom or wherever, they should be swiftly shown the door. No need to agonize over it. Behave, or out you go. Trans people do not have much patience for fools either.
Transgender people of all ages belong in the washroom that they will be most comfortable using. Adult transgender people, however, do need to take into consideration the children factor in child-friendly environments, in my opinion, if a safe alternative exists.
I am aware of this country's history of segregation and cannot fathom what that must have felt like for a huge chunk of America, but what I am describing is merely courtesy and not surrender. Time, place and situation dictate the proper response. No one can, or should, legislate which washroom someone may use, but when we have choices, I believe we should endeavor to be considerate. This is the hard part of going post-mainstream for the Rainbow Planet; it’s not always going to be about us as we continue to move ahead.
Beginning the evening of the December 24, our daughter will again light the menorah candles, recite the traditional prayers...then proceed to clean our clocks with the loaded dreidel she keeps hidden for the game played on these eight special nights (we discovered it by accident a few years back). She will again go happily bounding up the stairs with her jackpot of chocolate gelt, while both parents contemplate their Vegas-style losses and inability to fully understand how special this holiday is for her.
You see, we didn't grow up this way, but our daughter did. She gets it, and will likely pass it on to someone special down the road. Jewish culture and tradition is just as alien for Soulmate and I as the LGBTQI world is for most folks outside of our unique tribe. But our daughter grew up with both and is doing just fine. As LGBTQI-ness goes further mainstream, so will most of the next generation.
We light eight lights over eight nights…
to remind us that miracles happen no matter the odds…
to remember our freedom was fought for and must be cherished...
for allies who embrace a people they may never fully understand…
for soulmates who were just as scared as we were...
and to be thankful for our unrequested blessings.
Julie Chase is the pen name for a local 40-something trans woman. A graduate of The University of the South at Sewanee, she loves butterflies, strong women and the Austrian School of Economics. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of Out & About Nashville.