Connect with us


Telling stories of Jewish LGBT lives

Books to consider as high holidays arrive



Jewish, gay news, Washington BladeThe Jewish High Holiday season begins this week, so let’s take a look at some new stories that feature queer, Jewish families, including a children’s picture book and a grown-up memoir by a woman with four lesbian moms.

Meryl Gordon’s The Flower Girl Wore Celery is one of two children’s books to gain publication through a writing contest hosted by Keshet, the national organization for LGBTQ Jews, in partnership with Kar-Ben Publishing. (The other title, The Purim Superhero, came out in 2013.)

Gordon’s book, with dynamic, whimsical illustrations by Holly Clifton-Brown, tells the story of young Emma, who is asked to be the flower girl at her cousin Hannah’s wedding. Emma is excited, but has some misconceptions. She thinks she will dress as a flower—until her mother tells her she’ll wear a “celery dress” like the bridesmaids. She then imagines a dress covered with stalks of celery. When she hears there will be a “ring bearer,” she envisions a furry “ring bear.” About Alex, to whom her cousin is engaged, she knows nothing.

She is surprised to learn that celery refers to the dress color; that the ring bearer is a human boy; and that Alex is a woman. “No celery. No bear. And two brides! Nothing was what she had imagined,” she thinks—but takes it all in stride. Gordon doesn’t dwell on the fact that the couple is female, even as she acknowledges that it might be unexpected (but no more so than anything else). This makes the book a great choice for any parents wanting to show their children various types of families, as well as for same-sex parents and our kids.

The wedding is definitively Jewish: there is a rabbi (a woman) and Jewish wedding traditions like reading the ketubah (wedding contract) and stepping on wine glasses. Publisher Joanna Sussman told me, “We were seeking great Jewish-themed stories featuring same-sex families that would be of interest not just to the LGBTQ community, but to the community at large.”

LGBTQ-inclusive kids’ books are rare, and those that celebrate any kind of ethnic or religious identity are rarer still. A lack of specificity may give a story broad appeal—but it is also important for children to see in books the various intersecting parts of themselves (and others). Kudos to Keshet and Kar-Ben for helping to make this happen.

Kellen Anne Kaiser’s self-searching, funny, and occasionally bawdy Queerspawn in Love is not a children’s book, but rather a memoir of her first serious adult relationship. Kaiser is writing, she tells us at the start, to try and make sense of its demise.

Kaiser first met Lior Gold in their Berkeley Hebrew school class. He left to join the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and they drifted apart until reconnecting years later, shortly after 9/11, when he was home on leave and Kaiser was home between semesters in college. Romance bloomed, and the two of them attempted to keep it alive after he returned to his unit. The problem was not just distance, but Kaiser’s own struggle to balance her “peacenik” upbringing and left-wing Zionist leanings with dating an IDF combat soldier. On top of this, particularly after Lior leaves the IDF and returns to California, was the challenge of navigating the different expectations that any two people have in a relationship, especially two young people figuring out what they want to do with their lives.

Kaiser’s four moms are a constant background presence: Nyna, her biological mom; Margery, Nyna’s former partner; Helen, Nyna’s best friend, who parented with them; and Kyree, Nyna’s spouse from the time Kaiser was five until she was 18. Kaiser shows us how her upbringing imbued her with certain values and cultural touchstones, both Jewish and queer, that she carries into later life. She knows what it feels like to be marginalized, for example, and to have to speak up to defend those she loves. And in trying to get Lior to open up about his feelings, she observes, “I was used to a much higher level of emotional expressiveness. Think constant processing. Total sharing. Think raised by lesbians.”

She shows us, too, how lessons from each of her moms helped her through her journey—and how the overall message they conveyed, of building their lives on their own terms, helped her find comfort and strength as she and Lior parted.

I wish she had explained a few terms that may be unfamiliar to non-Jewish readers (like “Shabbas goy,” a non-Jew who helps observant Jews on the Sabbath). This is a minor quibble, though, for a compelling book that illuminates the sometimes complex interactions of identity, family, and relationships.

No review of Jewish, LGBTQ family stories would be complete without a mention of Transparent, Amazon’s Emmy Award-winning series, which just started its third season. Most in the LGBTQ community know it as a story about a transgender woman and her family. But the Jewish Daily Forward also called it “the Jewiest show ever.” Josh Lambert at Tablet observed that “it makes sense that it’s a Jewish family at the center of this story” noting “Jews were crucial, ardent supporters of sexual science and minority rights throughout the 20th century … often because, being Jewish, they understood that persecution or prejudicial treatment of any minority is actually a threat against all of us.”

It seems no surprise, then, that we are seeing more stories centered on Jewish LGBTQ families. I hope we continue to see stories for all ages about the many different intersections of LGBTQ families, cultures, and religions.

Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of, a GLAAD Media Award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBTQ parents.



Latest Uganda anti-homosexuality bill incites new wave of anti-LGBTQ hate

Mbarara Rise Foundation appeals to international community for help



(Image by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

To the international community, 

I write to you today on behalf of the organization I lead, Mbarara Rise Foundation.

Since the year began, our rural grassroots LGBTQI+ communities have faced life threatening problems including an increased number of mob attacks, individual threats, police arrests and non-stop fears and insecurities arising from the homophobic campaigns happening in Uganda. Sadly, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2023 was introduced on March 9, inciting a new wave of anti-LGBTQI+ hatred.

This anti-homosexuality bill is worse than previous bills because, under this new law, simply identifying as LGBTQI+ means you have committed a crime. Even before the bill has passed, this homophobic action in Parliament has encouraged more of the general population, bloggers, celebrities and politicians to increase their hate campaigns all over the country. More than ever, Uganda is not a safe environment for us now. 

Currently, attacks are happening all over Uganda. Our communities have faced mob “justice” scenarios, threats and arrests and we have no legal recourse. Many of our constituents have received death threats, and in fact some have gone into hiding. This all increased dramatically when the bill was read in the Parliament and homophobic people are using it as a new excuse to inflict harm upon us. In just one of many examples, a transgender woman associated with our organization was beaten, publicly, by a group of cis men and she now sustains serious wounds. The police do not care.

Your voices are needed to speak out against these human rights abuses in Uganda. Your kind support is crucial and timely for us because we need protection, visibility and defense of our basic human rights. Mbarara Rise Foundation is working tirelessly to help LGBTIQ persons through building the capacity of the LGBTQI+ community, by documenting and advocating against violence, and through providing safety and security where we are able. We are fighting to increase access to legal counsel and justice and working to repeal homophobic laws and transform the attitudes of duty bearers towards LGBTQI+ persons. We cannot do this work alone.

These matters are urgent because Uganda needs interventions to protect the rights of LGBTQI+ persons amidst escalating violence and homophobia given the limited capacity of LGBTQI-led organizations, a shrinking civic space. In short, we need your outrage, your voices, and your support and we need it now.

Yours sincerely,

Real Raymond

Executive Director

Mbarara Rise Foundation

Continue Reading


Brazil insurrection proves Trump remains global threat

Jair Bolsonsaro took page out of former U.S. president’s playbook



Former U.S. President Donald Trump and former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. (Washington Blade Trump photo by Michael Key; Bolsonaro photo by Celso Pupo/Bigstock)

I was at home in Dupont Circle on Sunday afternoon when I learned that thousands of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro supporters had stormed their country’s Congress, Supreme Court and presidential palace. I grabbed my iPhone, used Google Translate to translate my initial thoughts into Brazilian Portuguese and sent them to many of the sources with whom I have worked while on assignment for the Washington Blade in the country.

“Muito perturbador a que está aconterendo em Brasília,” I said. “What is happening in Brasília is very disturbing.”

One source described the insurrection as “terrible.” Another told me that “everything is chaos.”

Toni Reis, president of Aliança Nacional LGBTI+, a Brazilian LGBTQ and intersex advocacy group, said what happened in Brasília was “horrible.” Associaçao Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais (the National Association of Travestis and Transsexuals) in a statement said the insurrectionists “attacked democracy.” Congresswoman Erika Hilton, who is transgender, described them as “terrorists.”

The insurrection, which has been described as a “coup” and a “terrorist” act, took place two days after the U.S. marked the second anniversary of Jan. 6. I felt a real sense of déjà vu because what happened in Brasília was nearly identical to what I witnessed here in D.C. two years and two days earlier with Blade Photo Editor Michael Key and then-Blade intern Kaela Roeder.

Then-U.S. President Donald Trump refused to accept the 2020 presidential election results, and thousands of his supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, laid siege to the Capitol after he spoke at the “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse. The insurrection began after lawmakers began to certify the Electoral College results.

supporters of former u.s. president donald trump storm the u.s. capitol on jan. 6, 2021. (washington blade video by michael k. lavers)

Bolsonaro, who has yet to publicly acknowledge he lost to current Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, flew to Florida on Dec. 30.

Da Silva’s inauguration took place in Brasília on Jan. 1. Bolsonaristas laid siege to their country’s Congress, Supreme Court and presidential palace a week later. 

“The Brazilian presidential election has fueled a misinformation emergency that has tipped the LGBT+ community into a boiling pot of fake news,” wrote Egerton Neto, a Brazilian LGBTQ and intersex activist who is also an Aspen New Voices Fellow and manager of Oxford University’s XX, in an op-ed the Blade published last Oct. 28, two days before Da Silva defeated Bolsonaro in the second round of Brazil’s presidential election. “This is part of a broader global problem and we need a global plan to stop it.”

supporters of then-brazilian president jair bolsonaro rally near the brazilian congress in brasÍlia, Brazil, on oct. 1, 2022. (washington blade video by michael k. lavers)

I was on assignment in Mexico City on July 16, 2018, when Trump defended Russian President Vladimir Putin after their summit in Helsinki. I wrote in a Blade oped the “ridiculous spectacle … proved one and for all the U.S. under (the Trump) administration cannot claim with any credibility that it stands for human rights around the world.”

“American exceptionalism, however flawed, teaches us the U.S. is a beacon of hope to those around the world who suffer persecution. American exceptionalism, however flawed, teaches us the U.S. is the land of opportunity where people can build a better life for themselves and for their families,” I wrote. “Trump has turned his back on these ideals. He has also proven himself to be a danger not only to his country, but to the world as a whole.”

Bolsonaro during a press conference with Trump at the White House on March 19, 2019, said he has “always admired the United States of America.”

“This admiration has only increased since you took office,” said Bolsonaro.

The so-called “Trump of the Tropics” clearly took a page out of his American ideological counterpart’s anti-democratic playbook, and Sunday’s insurrection in Brasília is the implementation of it. The bolsonaristas who stormed the Congress, the Supreme Court and the presidential palace perpetrated an assault on democracy in the name of their country’s former president who cannot bring himself to publicly acknowledge that he lost re-election. Sunday’s insurrection also proves that Trump, his enablers and those who continue to blindly defend and worship him remain as dangerous as ever.

Continue Reading


New York Times’ decision to hire anti-LGBTQ attorney as columnist is appalling

David French has worked for Alliance Defending Freedom



David French (Screen capture via Wheaton College/YouTube)

GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, is responding to the New York Times’ recent announcement of their hiring of anti-LGBTQ attorney and writer David French as a columnist.

“It is appalling that the New York Times hired and is now boasting about bringing on David French, a writer and attorney with a deep history of anti-LGBTQ activism. After more than a year of inaccurate, misleading LGBTQ coverage in the Times opinion and news pages, the Times started 2023 by announcing a second anti-transgender opinion columnist, without a single known trans voice represented on staff,” responded GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis. “A cursory search for French turns up numerous anti-LGBTQ articles and his record as an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group that actively spreads misinformation about LGBTQ people and pushes baseless legislation and lawsuits to legalize discrimination, including just last month at the Supreme Court. The Times left out these facts in its glowing announcement of French’s hiring, and also forgot to mention his work as a co-signer on the 2017 Nashville Statement, which erased LGBTQ voices of faith and falsely stated ‘that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism.’ The Times had the gall to claim French as a ‘faith’ expert despite this known history.

The Times’ opinion section continues to platform non-LGBTQ voices speaking up inaccurately and harmfully about LGBTQ people and issues. This is damaging to the paper’s credibility. The Times opinion section editors’ love letter to French yesterday shows a willful disregard of LGBTQ community voices and the concerns so many have shared about their inaccurate, exclusionary, often ridiculous pieces. Last year, the Times ended popular trans writer Jenny Boylan’s column, leaving the opinion section with no trans columnists and a known lack of transgender representation on its overall staff. Who was brought on after Boylan? Pamela Paul, who has devoted columns to anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ disinformation, and David French. This reflects a growing trend on the news and opinion pages of misguided, inaccurate, and disingenuous ‘both sides’ fearmongering and bad faith ‘just asking questions’ coverage. The Times started 2023 by bragging about hiring another anti-trans writer, so LGBTQ leaders, organizations, and allies should make a 2023 resolution not to stay silent as the Times platforms lies, bias, fringe theories and dangerous inaccuracies.”

Examples of French’s anti-LGBTQ activism:

Examples of NYT columnist Pamela Paul’s anti-LGBTQ work:

Recent examples of inaccurate news coverage of LGBTQ people and youth, and their consequences:

  • In court documents, the state of Texas quoted Emily Bazelon’s June 15 report in the New York Times Magazine to further target families of trans youth over their private, evidence-based healthcare decisions. Every major medical association supports gender affirming care as best practices care that is safe and lifesaving and has widespread consensus of the medical and scientific communities.
  • The World Professional Association of Transgender Healthcare (WPATH), the world’s leading medical and research authority on transgender healthcare, criticized the Times’ November 2022 article “They Paused Puberty, But Is There a Cost?” as “furthering the atmosphere of misinformation” about healthcare for trans youth, noting its inaccurate narratives, interpretations and non-expert voices. WPATH noted the Times elevated false and inflammatory notions about medications that have been used safely in non-LGBTQ populations for decades without an explicit statement about how the benefits of the treatment far outweigh potential risks.
  • Writer Michael Powell elevated anti-transgender voices to falsely assert, in a piece about one successful transgender athlete, that transgender athletes are a threat to women’s sports. Powell’s other pieces have been used to support Pamela Paul’s inaccurate opinion essays falsely claiming “women” are being erased by the inclusion of trans people in discussions about abortion access. 
Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade