Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner shared her Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on 14 June 2016.
It’s International Pride Month and the murder of 50 people at an Orlando gay club is a shocking reminder of how lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people remain incredibly vulnerable.
Britain can be proud that we have thirty five openly gay, lesbian and bisexual MPs; our first ever openly gay British Ambassador, recently started representing Britain in Israel – accompanied by his husband. The newly appointed Master of the Rolls, the most senior judge in the court of appeal, is a married gay man. But we can’t be complacent. People in the US, the UK and the world over are concerned that copycat homophobic or transphobic terror attacks will happen where they are. As Ryan, a gay person told the BBC yesterday “what’s shocked us the most, is that it could be us.”
I’m proud to be a parent of a bisexual person who defines themselves as gender non-binary. For them, it means, that despite being biologically identified at birth as a girl, they now feel neither like just a man nor just a woman. Their appropriate pronoun is ‘they’ or ‘them’ rather than ‘she’ or ‘he’. It took some getting used to, both emotionally and linguistically but it means that the Orlando murders are close to my heart and to my central parental nervous system.
Religious people, especially clergy have a particular responsibility to safeguard LGBT people because I believe religious texts have been misused to justify homophobic and transphobic discrimination – and, as we saw yesterday, violence.
The British Jewish LGBT advocacy charity is called ‘Keshet’, the Hebrew for ‘rainbow’. The Torah teaches that at the end of flood’s destruction, God placed a rainbow in the midst of the clouds. This rainbow and every rainbow from then on is a sign that God won’t repeat the devastation of the flood and the world.
But it’s not that easy. Judaism emphasises that we can’t leave this to God. It’s also our duty as humanity to confront evil and not to be silent in the face of hatred; that we mustn’t stand idly by when our neighbour’s blood is shed and that we have to respect all human beings and the inherent value of all human life; we are all created in God’s image.
We certainly don’t have to agree with each other but we do have to protect each other and to ensure each other’s safety. It’s crucial that LGBT people, whether they call themselves ‘she’, ‘he’ or ‘they’, can live in security and, of course, with pride.