Rabbi Hugenholtz’s Statement Supporting Transgender Youth Participating in Sports
This statement was given by Rabbi Hugenholtz for the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa.
Jewish ethics is guided by over three thousand years of Biblical and two thousand years of Rabbinic thought, both centering the moral truth of Gen. 1:27 – that all human beings are unconditionally and irrevocably created in the Image of God. Out of this deep teaching of ‘b’tzelem Elohim’ (in the image of God) comes a Jewish sensitivity to ‘k’vod habriyot’, innate human dignity and the insistence of Lev. 19:18: ‘v’ahavta leireacha kamocha’, to love our fellow as ourselves.
These are not abstract principles but lived realities of our community, tradition and faith. Two thousand years ago, the Rabbis of the Talmud already recognized diversity and dignity of a wide array of gender expressions in their culture.
Including and supporting trans youth in all spheres of life, including athletics, is about creating a culture of solidarity and integration. They are our peers and the entire community can benefit to learn from them. Interpersonal ethics are not a zero sum game: we all stand to benefit from inclusion and from sharing the wisdom of each other’s lived experience. Opening up and keeping open our society to the LGBTQ community is a fulfillment of our Torah’s values of human worth. Not only that; knowing what we know about the emotional peril LGBTQ youth can find themselves in when their humanity and being are discriminated against, it is is imperative for us from a pikuach nefesh perspective: the injunction to save and preserve human life.
As a rabbinic representative of the Jewish community here in Iowa and as a mother of three children who hopes to raise her children in the unfolding fullness of their being, I would urge the Iowa legislature to reconsider their proposals.