The Tide

Lately, requests have been coming in from religious organizations for me to address their members. I’ve been asked to write a blog for a national group of Christian clergy, to speak at a Unitarian church, and to give a sermon at a Jewish synagogue. I haven’t sought these opportunities out; they’ve just fallen in my lap.

The synagogue where I’ll be speaking this Friday night, Sha’ar Zahav, was founded as a space for LGBT people and their families; as they’ve grown, their membership has broadened to include many straight families. Increasingly, synagogues, churches, and other places of worship in our country are opening their doors and their liturgies to include gay, lesbian, transgender, and gender-nonconforming people. In response to a culture that is starting to accept its LGBT citizens, religion is changing, too. Not everywhere, certainly. But as the unexpected invitations float in, I can feel the strong current that brings them to me.

Sha’ar Zahav invited me to help them commemorate International Transgender Day of Remembrance, a memorial to those who have died from anti-trans violence. Names will be read of all the people who have died in the past year, and the kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, will be said. The Day of Remembrance is a deeply sad and wrenching day. But I have been asked to talk about my son and the work being done to make the world a safer place for children like him. I’ve been asked to speak about hope. Even as we speak of violence and hate and loss and all that is wrong in the world, this congregation also wants to talk about hope.

Dip your toe in the water; you can feel the tide changing.



    • shoffman says

      Thanks, Roccie. Very interesting; I’ll post to facebook. It’s true that mainstream toys are very gendered. What toy companies aren’t expecting is that boys end up playing with EZ Bake Ovens and girls end up playing with pirate Lego, despite how heavily toymakers market the other way. If the US followed Canada and Sweden, banning advertising to children, I wonder how much more cross-gender play we would start to see?

      The thing I don’t agree with here is the degree to which kids are influenced by culture. Certainly we are a mix of nature and nurture, but gender nonconforming boys who are exposed to all the cultural norms telling them to be a he-men still turn out quite feminine. This video makes the point that kids are influenced by hearing the media’s idea of what is expected, desired, and possible for kids. Sure–but gender-nonconforming kids SEE what is “expected, desired, and possible” for their biological gender–and still do what the opposite gender is “supposed” to do. Those ads may harm them because they’re telling them they’re playing “wrong,” but I don’t think they’re forming their idea of who they’re supposed to be. That comes from inside.

      But I think that teaching critical media literacy skills to kids of all ages is a brilliant idea. Maybe it would help more boys to find their feminine sides, and more girls to find their masculinity.

  1. Melissa T says


    It does seem that the tide is turning. I have been following all the different recent stories and I was amazed at the number of positive comments to all of them. We have been content to live in the shadows so to speak and I am feel guilty that we are allowing you and others to do all the difficult work while we reap the benefits. I guess the time is coming for me to bite the bullet and start a blog or do something to keep the momentum going.

    I do believe we are on the edge of a break through in the public’s understanding of gender expression.

    • shoffman says

      Melissa, I think that we all make change in different ways. I tell my son that just being himself changes the world. Talking to other people changes the world. Being kind and supportive to people who are different changes the world. Starting another blog is a great idea–but so is talking to as many people as you can, buying books about pink boys, asking your school to do anti-bias training. And anything else you can think of!

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