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		                                    Thinking Torah Blog		                                </span>

04/14/2022 05:00:00 PM


Rabbi Josh Whinston

When I was in my high school youth group, the songleaders with their acoustic guitars were often the center of energy around which others orbited. Those songleaders usually had bumper stickers plastered across their guitar cases. One sticker I remember distinctly read, "Straight But Not Narrow." Coming of age in the 90s, thank God, the world was beginning to change concerning the LGBTQ community, and in NFTY (the Reform Movement's youth group), that change meant a vocal acceptance and even celebration of LGBTQ peers. But, of course, it was only the beginning, and so much more needed to happen before there was a genuine celebration of diverse sexual identities in our country.

Last week a member reached out to me. This member wrote, "Last Shabbat, I was leaving the house to come to services when I saw my Pride flag had been stolen. I couldn't quite believe it. I searched for the flag for an entire block, looking in bushes and under cars in the hopes that it had somehow blown away, despite the flagpole being damaged and five other houses on the block still having flags for sports teams or Easter up. I spent all of services unable to keep my mind on Shabbat and my prayers, instead wondering who in my neighborhood had done this. Who had waved at me while getting the mail or talked about our gardens but now had enough hate that they took a symbol of my joy from me." This person also went to her door to double-check her mezuzah as well. The anxieties of hate permeate in dynamic ways for us. Most of us live in Ann Arbor, and I imagine most cisgender straight people think anti-LGBTQ hate is a thing of the past in our town, but it isn't. Whatever happened to our member's pride flag—I am sure some of us are thinking this must just be a mistake—the fact is, our member lives with that fear, and that is real. And it is an understandable fear. With waves of anti-LGBTQ legislation hitting statehouses across our country, the fear is understandable.

As we approach Passover, our holiday that celebrates our coming out of Mitzrayim, our "narrow places," we can't forget that the narrows are growing tighter and more constricting for some in our community. For many straight, cisgender people, LGBTQ rights culminated in marriage equality. Still, there is so much work left for us to ensure all people, regardless of gender or sexuality, have complete protection of the law and are safe in our communities.

Tue, December 5 2023 22 Kislev 5784