By Benjamin Kline, NFTY Mid-Atlantic Region (NFTY-MAR)
Pride Month, which occurs during June each year, is a time to lift up the voices of those who champion the LGBTQ identities, listening to their stories and working in coalition to create a world of greater equality and inclusion. During this Pride Month, the Religious Action Center (RAC) is featuring guest blogs by Reform Jews who are members of the LGBTQ communities.
My name is Benjamin Kline and I am a pansexual rising Junior in NFTY Mid-Atlantic Region (NFTY-MAR). When I share this personal information in the outside world, I usually receive one of two reactions: idolization or ostracization. I am either treated as a symbol of progress and equality or excluded because of something I cannot control. Obviously, both of these responses feel horrible and are invalid and unacceptable in very different ways. My sexual orientation is a large part of my identity, but it should never have any effect on the way I am perceived by the world. While it has given me unique experiences and perspectives, my sexual orientation should neither make others see me as more accomplished or less human.
The level of acceptance I have found in NFTY has been deeper than in any other area of my life, and has allowed me to flourish and grow as a person, as a Jew, and as a member of the LGBTQ community. It has allowed me to grow into myself and explore who I am without putting any extra emphasis on my sexual orientation. NFTY embodies a level of acceptance that marks the true definition of equality: people being judged on personality and merit and not on who they are attracted to or their gender identity.
Like many, I have at times questioned my gender identity, and while this is a very large question in my life that will take time to answer, I know it comes with far fewer anxieties than for others who share this experience. I can take solace in knowing that whenever I find my gender identity and whatever my gender identity is, I will be accepted fully in NFTY. I am comforted in knowing that my identity will not have a large effect on the way my best friends and family see me. I have been shown countless times that in NFTY, people are accepted no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity may be, and that experience has been the most valuable thing in my life as a queer teen. I understand that not every young person finds their home in NFTY, but I deeply hope that every queer individual is able to find a space that offers the same level of acceptance as I have found in NFTY; a place where a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity neither strengthen nor weaken the way they are judged.
Benjamin Kline is a rising junior and an active member of NFTY Mid Atlantic Region (NFTY-MAR). He is the president of TRSTY (Temple Rodef Shalom Temple Youth) and the head songleader for NFTY-MAR.
This post originally appeared on the Religious Action Center (RAC)’s blog. Learn more about the Reform Movement’s commitment to equality – check out the RAC’s current campaigns and NFTY’s resources for teens.