American transgender rabbi Becky Silverstein has penned an op-ed for Foward admonishing a recent speech made by alt-right American Jewish commentator, Ben Shapiro.
Shapiro - best known for being the Editor-in-Chief of online news outlet Daily Wire - gave an address earlier this month at the Yeshiva University, a Jewish institution in New York.
In his speech, he referred to being transgender as a form of “mental illness” and said that “men can’t magically become women, and women can’t magically become men.”
In response, Rabbi Silverstein has refuted the claim that being transgender is the result of mental illness and has gone on to quote portions of the Torah, the Jewish holy books, to negate Shapiro’s bigoted comments.
“The Torah teaches that we are all created in God’s image. Shapiro failed to extend this teaching to the transgender community or to people with mental illness,” Rabbi Silverstein writes.
The rabbi also addresses Shapiro’s misleading comment about transitioning between genders:
“Shapiro said that ‘men can’t magically become women, and women can’t magically become men.’ What Shapiro misses is that part of living life is about becoming who we are, living into our potential, recognising our gifts and sharing those with the world. For transgender people, the barriers to do so are higher.”
Rabbi Silverstein also implores the Jewish community to help end this cycle of being “mocked or shamed” for having mental illness or for identifying as queer.
“Both transgender people and people with mental illness experience tremendous indignity at the hands of our communities,” the rabbi writes.
“Despite the recent gains in how LGBTQ individuals are treated in both liberal and Orthodox Jewish communities, we are often still treated as a problem to be solved or as an anomaly to be assimilated, not as a gift to be celebrated.”
Shapiro has yet to respond to Rabbi Silverstein’s op-ed.