‘An empowering and unforgettable summer’

14 September 2015 – 1 Tishri 5776

Surat-Shaan Knan
1 September 2015

Twilight People project manager Surat-Shaan Knan reports back after having spread the word about Liberal Judaism’s pioneering LGBT+ work at two global gatherings:

This summer, I was invited to attend two major international events – Gender Odyssey and Eighteen:22.

Gender Odyssey is an international conference, held in Seattle, America, focused on the needs and interests of transgender and gender-nonconforming people. There, I was able to connect with more than 1,000 international delegates and engage in debates on the rights of transgender people worldwide.

The conference was also a fantastic opportunity to strengthen ties with a number of high-profile personalities, including Seattle’s mayor Ed Murray and veteran campaigner Marsha Botzer.

Notably, I was the only ‘visible’ British participant. I happily accepted that I was going to be some kind of ambassador for trans and faith issues in the UK, and I hope I did this role justice. I felt extremely privileged to be able to give a well-received workshop about Liberal Judaism’s ground-breaking multi-faith project Twilight People

Eighteen:22 was the first global Jewish LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning) gathering organised by the Schusterman Family Foundation Connection Points initiative in Salzburg, Austria.

Trans issues were also high on the agenda. A few transgender attendees expressed feelings of exclusion, and a number of lesbian, gay and bisexual delegates revealed their struggles with making trans people feel more included. There was some frustration and sadness in the room, but also hope and a willingness to listen and learn.

In the spirit of Twilight People (www.twilightpeople.com), we agreed that sharing life stories and experiences was a great way to connect and eradicate stereotypes and misconceptions, for example about trans people. We completed this gathering with a circle of friendship and respect, giving a commitment to return home and be trailblazers for inclusion and diversity.

My summer trips were truly empowering and unforgettable. And most importantly, I am inspired more than ever to work toward trans inclusion in our Liberal Jewish communities.

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