Posted by: Shula Asher Silberstein | 3 October 2010

An Open Letter to a Transphobe

Gavi and I were enjoying the music at the International Festival until you came along, supposedly to say hello. I hadn’t seen you in three years and I remembered you always being a nice person, and for a second I was sad that I had lost touch with you.

Then you opened your mouth again.

I wish I had told you that your insistence that we no longer know G-d because we don’t conform to YOUR idea of how the world should be is more boring than it is insulting. I mean, really. Don’t any of you homophobes/transphones/self-esteem-phobes ever come up anything original to say? It really seems silly to tell someone who is observing Shabbat right in front of you that they don’t know G-d.

I’m not going to repeat any of the other nonsense you insisted on trying to ruin our evening with except to say this:

I am absolutely disgusted by your claim that the reason Gavi almost killed herself was not because she hated herself for being Bisexual but was “really” because she refused to become straight.


Were you there when she was sobbing with pain? Did you hold her and pray for her and encourage her to keep living when she thought the only escape was to kill herself? Were you there inside my head, secretly afraid that my promise not to let her die was empty and futile, contemplating for years after how close I came to losing her and grieving for all the people who are not so lucky?

No, you were not. I was. You were only there to try to bring her back to that state now that she’s the happiest she’s ever been.

You said you were “concerned” about her. Bullshit.

If you were concerned, you would have shut your mouth when you saw she’s a ton happier than she was three years ago when we knew each other.

All you were concerned about was making yourself feel like you were worth something by trying to make someone else feel like shit about the way she lives her life.

Because of you, the person next to us complained that we were disturbing his ability to enjoy the music when we raised our voices to tell you that four people committed suicide because of people like you.

I am truly sorry that you ruined his experience too, but WE were not the ones who were disturbing people’s peace. Where was his anger when someone was sitting in front of him attempting to bully the person next to him? I don’t expect strangers to fight our battles for us, but I’m having trouble believing that someone spewing hate from the next seat didn’t interfere with his peace.

That brings me to another word: peace.

I believe in peace. I work for peace every day. But how was I supposed to promote peace in this situation? Oh, I suppose Gavi and I could have got up and found other seats so that you so-called Christian would quit bothering us. Maybe that would have been the best course, the most peaceful course.

But we had good seats, we were enjoying the concert, and we shouldn’t have to give them up because your religion tells you that it’s not only okay, but morally correct, to tell strangers that the way they live their lives is wrong.

Since you like scripture so much, here’s one for you:
You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt. Exodus 23:9

Because Gavi is Transgender and Bisexual, because I am Asexual, because we are not like you… we are strangers in your land, the land of heterosexual America. G-d, the Eternal, the G-d you claim to serve commands that you treat us the way you treat your kinsmen.

Yet you think it’s okay to disturb our peace.

I hope someone who overheard did NOT think that we were ruining everyone’s experience by speaking up for ourselves and for all those who cannot speak for themselves, but instead saw what was really going on. I hope someone didn’t care that there was a Transgender Woman in their midst and wondered why the person who was bothering us did care. I hope someone heard for the first time that kids kill themselves because of bigotry and resolved to tell their kids they love them no matter what.

Maybe it’s just wistful thinking, but I’d like to believe that at a festival dedicated to celebrating diversity of all things, there were more people who believe everyone has the same right to be there than there are people who think they have the right to ruin things for other people and call it religious freedom.

I’d like to think that most people have enough compassion and enough goodwill and enough humanity to care that we lost four young men just this week because we, the American people, do not believe in teaching our children to respect others and to respect themselves.

I’d like to think that we will not forget these dead and dying LGBT children ever again, that we will continue, now and forever, to do everything we can to save our young people from the pit of self-hatred and despair that causes them to take their own lives.

And I’d like to think the day is coming when we reserve our disgust for people who abuse and bully others rather than those who are just trying to live happy, fulfilled lives.

I’m glad Gavi is strong enough after three years of working on herself to realize who the problem lies with and to know it isn’t her.

I pray for all those who are still where she was then that they have people in their lives who can steer them in the direction of help and not in the direction of further harm.


  1. Beautifully written!! I’m glad your friend is doing better and that she has you for such great support. I used to think that younger generations just needed to do some growing up before they understood respect. Now I think we don’t teach it like we used to. And I realize I understood elements of it even as a very young child. I thank my parents for that and wish other parents would get with the program or else we’ll do in our country all by ourselves. Nevermind terrorists.

  2. Loved this. especially the following:

    “I’d like to believe that at a festival dedicated to celebrating diversity of all things, there were more people who believe everyone has the same right to be there than there are people who think they have the right to ruin things for other people and call it religious freedom.”


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