Looking back at 2014, from an LGBT perspective

As 2014 comes to a close, I think we can all agree it wasn’t exactly our “best year ever.” Nevertheless, some good things happened, so I thought I’d try to wrap it up on a positive note. I turned to a few of my friends, gay and trasgender Jewish leaders and activists, and asked them what was the best news they’ve received this year, and what do they wish for 2015. Here are their answers.
Arthur Slepian, Executive Director of A Wider Bridge, San Francisco: “For me, the best news of 2014 was a trio of transgender related stories. The success of Israeli trans activists in working with the government to improve the protocols for sex reassignment surgery, the publication of Yiscah Smith's beautiful memoir about her journey as a Jewish trans educator that has brought her home to Jerusalem, and the release of Transparent, the remarkable and moving TV series that tells the story of the quirky and very Jewish Pfefferman family, as Mort, the father, blossoms into Maura. A good year for trans visibility!”
For 2015: “I wish simply that it is a year that brings us closer to peace and equality, in the Middle East and throughout the world.”
Rabbi Joshua Lesser, Congregation Bet Haverim, Atlanta: “I think that Malala Yousafzai bring awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was one of the highlights of the year. Supporting the education of women and girls around the world has an incredible impact on acceptance, inclusion and ending poverty in the world. While some may see this as an indirect link, I believe it forwards all progressive communities.”
For 2015: “I hope that we can have a more global impact on the persecution of LGBT people around the world and help support activists from Russia to Africa to the Middle East who are working and risking their lives to secure freedom for so many.”
Surat Shaan Knan, Project Manager at Rainbow Jews/Twilight People, London: “My best news this year is that we received Lottery funding for the landmark project Twilight People: Stories of Faith and Gender Beyond the Binary, It will be the first ever UK project to look at the heritage of gender variant people of faith. Runner-up: British icon Stephen Fry saving the Rainbow Jews legacy by donating over £2000 last minute, before the crowd funder was to end.”
For 2015: “Creating more awareness around gender identity issues; specifically about the needs and requirements of people who are gender nonconform. Improving transgender rights worldwide. What about making more gender categories than just female and male legal worldwide? Additionally, LGBT organizations getting more lobbying and funding.”
Eran Day, Manager of LGBT Israel on Facebook, Tel Aviv: “The best news I've heard all year was the decision to highlight transgender people as the theme of Pride 2015 in Tel Aviv. The transgender community works the hardest for equality and freedom in Israel and doesn't even enjoy the most basic right of security and well being.”
For 2015: “I wish that we learn to work together as a community and create the much-needed change in Israel and in the rest of the world.”
Gideon Querido van Frank, gay Jewish activist, Amsterdam:Exodays at Amsterdam Gay Pride (august 2014) was the best news of 2014! Amsterdam Gay Pride's famous parade is traditionally held on the city’s celebrated canals with extravagant boats taking the place of traditional floats. This year one of these boats was ours: Exodays, an event for LGBTQ Jews from all over the world who came to Amsterdam to celebrate their heritage and freedom. It was an amazing event; with many participants, press around the world covered it. In times of increasing antisemitism and hate against Israel this positive Jewish visibility is very much needed. Highlight was an appearance of Israeli superstar Dana International on our boat.”
For 2015: “Less hate, less war. More love, more sex.”
Jayson Littman, Founder of Hebro, New York: "I'd say the best news of 2014 was reading all the LGBT wedding announcements in the New York Times and seeing many prominent New York Jews featured in these announcements. It makes all of our dreams and wishes seem like a very possible reality.”
For 2015: “I hope the rest of the United States offers marriage equality for all its citizens and and that we see messages of peace and love throughout the world"
Cantor Juval Porat, Beth Chayim Chadashim, Los Angeles: “For me, personally, 2014 was a great year for reconnecting with friends and family around the world, trying new things professionally and collaborating with colleagues and musicians. It was also a year of overcoming the loss of BCC member and friend Will Korthoff and I couldn't have asked for a better community to remember Will with than BCC. Not sure about what the best news of 2014 would be, but I certainly enter 2015 with great experiences and insights from the previous year. I look forward to new year with a new album of mine, which has been almost 2 years in the making, exciting musical projects and deeper connections with my BCC community.”
And as a final note, I’ll abuse my position to tell you all that this year, my husband and I married in Tel Aviv, stepping on a glass in front of our families and friends. A great sign in my life and a lovely hint of a new future in Israel where love is embraced wherever it is found.