Reform Jews are not the first religious group to take a welcoming stance towards transgender people, but so far, their approach may be the most comprehensive. On Thursday, the Union for Reform Judaism unanimously passed a resolution calling on synagogues to make bathrooms gender neutral, train staffers on LGBT issues, and show support for the transgender community. The recommendations even got into the nitty-gritty details of temple life, the AP reports, including eliminating gender-specific pronouns on name tags and sorting Hebrew-school classes by birthdays rather than gender. The URJ is a loose network and organizing body for Reform synagogues, so it hasn’t mandated that local communities to adopt these measures. But it’s a strong signal to the Jewish community: At least in our temples, the URJ says, transgender people will be fully welcome and accommodated.
In many ways, this resolution is unsurprising. According to the AP, the Reform community ordained its first transgender rabbi about a decade ago, and it has long supported gay marriage and advocated legal protection for gays and lesbians. And previously, minor groups, like Reconstructionist Jews, have been vocal about welcoming transgender Jews. But the resolution does serve as a moment of contrast in American culture. Just this week, Houston voters shot down a measure that would have prohibited discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and housing on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. As Russell Berman reported, the campaign to defeat the measure stoked fear of transgender people using public facilities: “No men in women’s bathrooms,” the slogan went. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage this summer, religious groups have been forced to articulate their views on gender and sexuality. Many, including Catholics, conservative evangelical Protestants, and Orthodox Jews, have reaffirmed their opposition to homosexuality and transgender identity.