Have you been to see Toowoomba doctor David van Gend about your sexuality or gender identity?

April 14, 2017

David van Gend

 

If you have been or are currently a patient of Toowoomba doctor David van Gend and you have been to see him about issues relating to your sexuality or gender identity, I would like you to contact me in the strictest of confidence.


A succinct message from Helen Szoke on sexuality

August 5, 2011

[SOURCE]

As Helen Szoke finishes up as the head of the Victoria’s Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, she leaves us with some sage words on sexuality:

For the first time in years, I believe that, as a society, we are poised to recognise the enormous harm we do to same-sex-attracted people when we dismiss, deny or simply refuse to recognise their sexuality.

This message is one that we must heed, otherwise we will increasingly realise the cost of ignoring it, measured in human suffering.


WUPJ – The Jewish Superhero

February 25, 2011

[SOURCE]

It’s heartening to see the Progressive Jewish world working to reduce the isolation and marginalisation of same-sex attracted people.  Unconditional acceptance and inclusion is the only way this can be done effectively and it seems they are on track here.

Yes, there is the big elephant in the room about same-sex marriage, and there doesn’t appear to be a light at the end of that tunnel yet.  I am optimistic that when the federal government here in Australia removes the obstacles to marriage equality, the Progressive community will be open to discussing this issue in a sensible and respectful manner.  I would be happiest to hear them say they will fully support the evolution of the Marriage Act.

I have included below a communication from Philip Bliss, President of Progressive Judaism Victoria and the Chair of the World Union For Progressive Judaism Resolutions Committee.  It contains the relevant resolution passed at the recent WUPJ assembly in San Francisco.  Clearly this is a step in the right direction.  I have asked Philip Bliss to have his committee consider including mention of bisexuality and gender identity, and reminded them that same-sex attracted people generally find the term “sexual orientation” favourable over “sexual preference”.

A hearty Mazal Tov to the Progressive community.  They are great advocates of human rights and equality and set a high benchmark for others to follow.

Dear Michael
In response to your email
As chair of the WUPJ resolutions committee I was delighted that the resolution below was passed by a huge majority (only one vote against) at our recent WUPJ convention in San Francisco. I also gave on interview on the GLT radio station Swirl a few days after.
I would say that this resolution covers the attitude of the UPJ and PJV here in Victoria
Sincerely
Philip Bliss President PJV


2) WUPJ Resolution on Gender and Sexual Equality
Whereas this International body of the World Union for Progressive Judaism condemns all forms of bigotry and discrimination in our society as being  incompatible with the preservation of human dignity which is destructive of tzelem elohim.
And whereas the WUPJ upholds the principle of treating all people equally whether by gender, age, colour or sexual preference.
And whereas the WUPJ has long championed full equality of women in our movement and in society generally.
IT IS RESOLVED that this International Assembly of the World Union for Progressive Judaism  calls on all institutions, colleges, congregations and youth groups to give equal opportunity to gay and lesbian members,  especially in terms of leadership and learning and to be aware of gender issues when developing study curriculum
IT IS FURTHER RESOLVED that this International Assembly of the World Union for Progressive Judaism calls on all institutions associated with the WUPJ to treat gay and lesbian couples in the same manner as married heterosexual couples and families.  This call includes commitment ceremonies, and family membership fees.


The world needs more people like Rochelle and Jonathan

May 4, 2010

From time to time I find myself remembering Rochelle Millar.  The world needs more Rochelles.  The world also needs more Jonathans.  They’re decent people.  The world needs more decent people.

Michael.

Rabbi Jonathan Keren Black and Rochelle Millar

Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black and Rochelle Millar


Gays are people too.  Jonathan Keren-Black.   LBC 04/11/06

At the end of the Noah story, Noah plants vines, makes wine, and gets drunk.  After all that he’d been through, you can hardly blame him!  But in his drunken state, his usual sense of modesty and decency seems to have been set aside – something inappropriate happened.  It is not at all clear what it was.  It involved his son Ham, who may only have seen his father naked – whatever it was though, Ham was damned as a slave for all time.

In our own portion this week, Avram palms off his wife Sarai as his sister.  She goes off to be one of Pharaoh’s wives.  Clearly this is again an inappropriate, at least potentially sexual, relationship.  And the bible abounds with such stories, such as Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar, who he thought was a prostitute, or Potiphar’s wife trying to entice Joseph.

The bible returns time and again to the theme of appropriate and inappropriate sexual relationships.  You probably heard the story of Moses returning to the Israelites – I’ve got good news and bad news, he says.  The good news is I’ve got it down to ten – the bad news is number seven is still in!  So we are reminded that the prohibition against adultery even made it into the ten commandments.

Just because something may have been considered inappropriate to our ancestors of three thousand and more years ago does not mean it is necessarily the same for us today.  For example, they decreed that if a woman was raped in a town, she and the rapist should both be put to death.  The rationale is that if she wanted to, she could have called for help.   Never mind that the rapist could be threatening her with a sharp flint or knife, or that no-one else dared go out to help.  The kind of argument that rightly causes a furore in the western media even today if someone suggests it.

Bear in mind that the goal of our ancestors was to build a big, strong nation – to produce as many children as possible, to successfully conquer the land of Canaan. The first commandment, given to the animals and then repeated to humans, was P’ru U’rvu – be fruitful and multiply.

If anyone felt attracted to their own sex, that was not considered normal or permissible.  It would not produce new children, more soldiers.  And so, right in the heart of Leviticus, we seem to have two strong prohibitions on homosexuality – one who lies with a man as with a woman should be put to death.  When, at a later stage, the ancient rabbis considered the matter again, they decreed that, even if you did have homosexual feelings, you should still marry and have children.  It was not in the feelings that one was sinning against God, but in the action.

Let us wind forward to 1885.  In Pittsburgh, the Reform movement of America held a conference and launched the so called Pittsburgh Platform, one of the formative documents of progressive Judaism.  In part it read ‘we hold that the modern discoveries of scientific researches in the domain of nature and history are not antagonistic to the doctrines of Judaism, the Bible reflecting the primitive ideas of its own age…’.  In other words, we do not consider the Torah to be binding on us, when it seems to conflict with our modern understanding and insight.  Now in 1885 it is likely that many of those wise rabbis of the Pittsburgh platform may well have been strongly homophobic.  Hopefully today we are not.  When we say that all are created in the image of God, we must truly mean it.  All are different, and in sexual identity, some are heterosexual, some are homosexual, and some are in between, or move over time in their sexual identity.  Today we understand that some people have a mismatch between their physical and emotional sexual identity.  None of this makes people better or worse, right or wrong.  Progressive Judaism, progressive religions in general, should not be prejudiced against any sexual identity.  We must address and check our own prejudice, and consider and treat each person as an equal creation of the one, all-loving God.

This is why I spoke last year and again last month at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Multicultural conference.  So far as we are concerned, people can be Jewish and Gay, and indeed for years we have been ordaining outwardly gay rabbis within our movement.  Rabbi Zylberman kindly directed me to a website and centre at Hebrew Union College for the study of human sexuality and Judaism.  There I found a prayer for coming out, and even one to use whilst taking medication for changing gender.

I am reminded of what an orthodox rabbi said at the end of the Jewish Christian Muslim conference last year: What I have to go back and explain to my congregation is that I didn’t meet Christians and Muslims, I met PEOPLE.   It is the same with the Queer conference.  I didn’t meet Homosexuals and Gays and Queers and Lesbians and Trans-sexuals – I met people, with cares and concerns about their lives and our world, just like everybody else.  Sometimes, people like to meet in interest groups, where they share something significant and feel safe and comfortable – like AFL, or an Italian, or an Israeli, background.  So we shouldn’t be surprised when gays sometimes also prefer to meet together – indeed they probably face far more prejudice from wider society than Italians or even Israelis!

I am delighted, therefore, to say that we at LBC are able to offer the Aleph group for gay Jews a home for some of their Shabbat, Pesach and New Year Havurot.  And gathering together is also empowering.  The more numbers, the more so.  This is why the Gay Pride rallies have become so important.  You might be aware of the huge battle being waged, so far through the courts, but sadly perhaps this week also on the streets, in Jerusalem.

This week the High Court finally ruled that is could go ahead, but  Yaacov Ederi, the minister responsible for Jerusalem, called on police commander Ilan Franco to reconsider and to transfer it to another city given the confrontations expected.  MK Nissim Zeev of Shas also called for the march to be stopped, saying that the participants should be sent for treatment. According to him 90% of the residents of the capital are against this demonstration.

On Tuesday the police arrested 14 orthodox protestors at an anti-Gay Pride demonstration. On Thursday they released 8 of them. They are not allowed to be in Jerusalem during the next two weeks.

On Thursday evening it was reported that the parade may be cancelled. If the police manpower necessary to safeguard it will interfere with general police operations, they may cancel it, says. Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter.  Sounds like he’s been got at!

I don’t have the latest update – but no doubt Israel will be back in the news again this week!  And of course, I hope it goes ahead safely and spectacularly.  Jerusalem is the capital for all Israelis, not just the ultra-orthodox – within which also, I understand, and as you would expect, there are more than a few gay Jews to be found.

The bible, as we saw, was preoccupied with what it considered to be inappropriate sexual relationships, and, though we would no longer accept its definitions, we would concur that there are appropriate and inappropriate sorts of relationships, and times and places.  Sex is ultimately a personal and private matter, as long as it is not exploitative or harmful.  Perhaps it is really not the realm of religion?

Finally, I mentioned Aleph a few moments ago, but Melbourne also has a Jewish lesbian group, and one of its key members over many years was a lovely woman named Rochelle Millar who I got to meet  just a few times over the past few years.  Rochelle was also involved in running the Australian Gay Multicultural council that organises the conferences.  Like me, she hailed from the United Kingdom, though her accent revealed that she came from across the Scottish border.  She arrived here when she was 14.  Michael Barnett knew her for longer than I did so I thank him for this information. He tells me that Rochelle was very proud of being a gay woman, and also of being Jewish.  Through both communities she made many lifelong friends and was loyal to them all.

Rochelle had an infectious laugh and smile and a sense of humour and outlook on life that made people want to be around her.
Sadly, the pneumonia with which she was first diagnosed turned out to be aggressive lung cancer, and her health deteriorated fairly rapidly over the past few months.  Yet up to the very end Rochelle had a smile on her face and a laugh in her voice.  She was an amazing woman that everybody loved and who loved everybody.  I believe that this was the closest to a Jewish ceremony that she had, and I am proud to be able to share it with you and with Michael and her other friends who are here this morning.  I think Rochelle would be smiling, and would be proud.  And I hope that we, as individuals and as a community, will all be a little more open to those who are a bit different, in some way or other, from ourselves.  After all, are we not all people, and all made in the image of the one, loving God?



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