With many thanks to Isaac Treuherz for all his help with sources and editing
The Midrash, classical Jewish exegesis, adds that the [first human] being formed in G-d's likeness, was an androgynous, an inter-sex person . . . Hence, our tradition teaches that all bodies and genders are created in G-d's image, whether we identify as men, women, inter-sex, or something else.
-- Rabbi Elliot Kukla, Reform Devises Sex-Change Blessings
- What does God think of sex? Of gender?*
- What was the original human's experience of gender? Did it involve transition between genders? Was gender binary?
- How has that developed? Is your experience of gender and contemporary society's understanding of it different?
- Adam, Chava ("Eve" in English), Avraham, and Sarah all have their sexes changed by God. How does this transition go for them? What place does outside influence have on individual identities?
*I am using sex to refer to biology and gender to refer to identity
Chapter 4 of Mishna Bikkurim is an excellent next place to look for early Jewish understandings of intersex conditions and their influence on gender
(Note that Jephthah's daughter at the beginning of the text is a "virgin" but after her two months on the hills with her female companions, she is described not as a virgin but rather as "not having known a man" -- we know these are separate concepts for the Tanach from, e.g., Genesis 24:16.)
- What's going on in the Samuel texts or in the Judges one? What are the possible relationships?
- How are this and the David and Jonathan texts similar? How do they differ? How do love between men and love between women, in whatever form it takes, shape the story?
- LGBTQ+ people's agency over whom they love and with whom they have sex (or don't) has often historically been taken away by others. How does that manifest for Jephthah's daughter? For David and Jonathan?
- What do the texts tell us about affection? How can love manifest?
- Radak has a solitary vision of Jephthah's daughter's life; the Judges text sees it as communal. How can our communities support Jews with nontraditional family structures, without forgetting the power of chosen solitude?
- What value is there in reading our own ideas back into texts? What danger is there?
"We are lesbian, gay, trans, and bi Jews: “You must not go about slandering your kin.” [19:16]
We are your trans, gay, bi, and lesbian siblings: “You shall not hate your brother or sister in your heart.” [19:17]
We are lesbian, gay, trans, and bi victims of gay-bashing and murder: “You may not stand by idly when your neighbor’s blood is being shed.” [19:16]
We are your bi, trans, lesbian and gay parents: “Revere your mother and your father, each one of you.” [19:3]
We are the stranger: “You must not oppress the stranger.” “You shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” [19:34]
We are your bi, gay, trans, and lesbian neighbors: “You must not oppress your neighbor.” [19:13] “You must judge your neighbor justly.” [19:15] “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.” [19:18]"
-- Rabbi Lisa Edwards of Beth Chayim Chadashim
Hillel famously took the Torah's statement "Love your neighbour as yourself" and stated it as "do not do to your neighbour what is hateful to you" (Shabbat 31a) -- since things which benefit one person might not benefit another, it is often safer to focus on avoiding harm than on creating benefit.
How can we create ways of loving everyone which do not harm others? And what specific modes of care might we explore to welcome specifically LGBT+ individuals?
- https://www.sefaria.org/profile/abby-c-stein for source sheets on gender and gender fluidity in Talmud, Midrash, and kabbalah
- A Rainbow Thread, by Noam Sienna - award-winning book of a collection of LGBT+ Jewish sources & experiences from the first century to 1969
- https://www.keshetuk.org/ for LGBT+ Jewish resources and networks in the UK
- http://transtorah.org/ for ritual and liturgy designed for transgender Jews, along with some very beautiful gender-focused sermons and essays
- https://svara.org/ for LGBT+ Jewish resources and residental learning programmes (Queer Talmud Camp) in the US