Jewish radio personality Dennis Prager published an anti-transgender op-ed in the Jewish Journal this week, saying that “the Torah prohibits men from wearing women’s clothing, and women from wearing male garb.”
“A Southern California synagogue has hired as its director of education a biological female rabbi who identifies as male, wears masculine clothing, is referred to as male and insists on being called by her/his given female name,” Prager wrote. “Obviously, the congregation and the rabbi believe that the Torah’s view on gender distinction is irrelevant.”
Rabbi Heather Miller from the Los Angeles’ LGBT congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim, penned an open letter to Prager as a response to his controversial article. Below is her response.
Dear Mr. Prager,
In response to your recent article, “Torah and the transgendered,” (Jewish Journal, 12/2/15).
I noticed that that you tried to shame an individual rabbi and the transgender community as a whole, in service of posing the question of the authority of the Torah in modern times.
Two weeks ago, we, at Beth Chayim Chadashim, the world’s first LGBT founded Jewish community, memorialized the recorded hundreds of trans people murdered or taken by other forms of violence this year alone, during international Trans Day of Remembrance. Many fell to the hands of murderers incited by the very arguments you are expressing. Many took their own lives due to the type of spiritual violence that your view perpetuates by questioning a person’s theological commitments, relationship to Torah and ultimately, God.
If you’d like to have a principled discussion on the role of the Torah in the modern world, great. Let’s work it out. It is an important conversation to have and it has been discussed since Jews were given the right to become citizens of modern nations. Let’s continue the conversation l’shem shamayim- for the sake of heaven. But the type of shaming and verbal violence you inflict through the power of your pen and spoken word kills.
Thank God the Torah reminds us that God, in God’s own image, created male and female. It is right there in the verse you quoted, just two words earlier: “In the image of God was he created, male and female.” Perhaps those who would otherwise be harmed by your words will find comfort to know that according to Torah, God is not confined to binary genders. May they draw the conclusion that it should not be applicable to God’s human creations either.
Rabbi Heather Miller