Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Intersectionally: Queer and OTD/XO Pride - A Personal Reflection

Some pictures from this year's Pride
When a journalist from Yahoo Style emailed me asking if I would like to answer some questions about Pride Month for a slideshow presentation, I was kind of excited to do it. In the past year since I started this blog (I know; hard to believe, but it is almost a year!) I have realized that it is way more important to talk about these issues (-facing transgender individuals leaving fundamentalist religious communities) than I originally thought. I heard from more and more people who struggle - each in their own way - to live a self-determined life, and decided to do whatever I can to help out. That is a big reason why I agreed to all these media interviews, and why I keep on doing them. I did cut down a bit in the last few months, but how could one pass on an interview with Yahoo, and even more, a style magazine… However, to be honest, when I saw the questions, I was even more excited. For the first time I had an interview just about pride and LGBT identity, without having to exoticize my background. Super.
Or so I thought.
I started answering the questions determined to talk just about my Queer identity, and leaving my background, and OTD/Footsteper/Ex-Orthodox identity behind. Don’t get me wrong, I am proud with both of these identities, it is just that every so often I feel that the media tends to focus more on my past, even when trying to focus on the future. After all it is Queer Pride, not OTD pride. As you can see by reading the article, I almost succeeded; up to the final question. I managed to give my favorite secular summer song, my favorite Pride food and dress, etc. Then I was asked to “Talk Like A New Yorker” AKA, say something in juicy NYC slang. Here I failed.
I love NY, and even more so New York City. I am proud to call NYC my birthplace, my hometown where I grew up, the city where I go to school, and the city where I live. However, that is all geographically; culturally, I grew up somewhere else totally. How can I quote New York slang, when I barely knew the English alphabet growing up?
The cover photo on the Yahoo Style Article
First I thought I will turn to my all time favorite all knowing being, Google, and just find some juicy New York slang that I can relate to, so I don’t have to out myself, but then, I realized something bigger. I realized that I am wrong.  
They are no separate identities. I have one identity, that is named “Abby Stein” (and sometimes using my middle name Chava), an identity that doesn’t need labels. That identity is proudly combined from a range of details, but it is One. I found a new respect for the term “Intersectionality” - that so magical word.
Intersectionality - an obvious concept that came to light thanks to WOC during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s, and coined in 1989, has been, is, and always will be, the backbone of social justice. I never doubted the importance of consciously considering every aspect thereof when we try to create a better world, for everything the world contains. However, for a long time I perceived it as the study of interrelated identities and how they affect each other. One has to be blind not to see that the same people that expressed the strongest racism, also express the strongest sexism, homo/transphobia, classism, and so on. Yet, they were all different social justice issues, that we have to deal with. Now I know that they are not different; they are one.
It is impossible to tackle racism or homophobia without tackling sexism, elitism, and ya, antisemitism and Islamophobia. These are not 'related' issues, but one and the same.  
On a personal level, for the first time I knew without any doubts; If I want to succeed in tackling the issues facing Trans people leaving Ultra-Orthodoxy and other fundamentalist communities, I have to tackle the issues facing the entire OTD community. These two identities are not interrelated, but one and the same. At the same time, we, the entire OTD community has to come together and support the LGBT community, and vice versa. Not because we are both fighting for social equality and self-determination, and they “Sometimes Intersect”, but because they are one and the same. The same goes when it comes to sexism, racism (even more within specific (read: Jewish) communities), ability, classism, and so on.
I know that for so many people reading this, there is nothing new here. But at the same times, way too many social activists think that maybe they can tackle one issue at a time, maybe they can still help some people with what’s ‘easier’ first, so to speak. So here is what I learned: NO YOU CAN NOT!

On a lighter note, a lot of people have been asking about my observations of the similarities between leaving the Ultra-Orthodox community, and transitioning on the gender spectrum. The more I think about, the more I realize how much they are intertwined. On that, in an article coming soon!
With Xo and Rainbow love,
Abby @ The Second Transition