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Somló Got Lost in Warsaw… And in eternity

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It was dark outside already, an October evening when I was sitting on my room’s hardwood floor wearing a blue turtleneck, a handknit sweater, and indigo coloured jeans. I remember that outfit because I wore it almost every day in the autumn of 1994. I had gotten my first CD player a few months earlier, and my friend Miki brought over his father’s LGT CDs. (My brother says they were tapes. It could be.) One of the songs we listened to that day was from the 70s, A Kicsi, a Nagy, az Artúr és az Indián. One line cracked me up. “Somló got lost in Warsaw.” Somló, of course, being one of the band members of Locomotiv GT, the one with the wild hair, who started out as a circus performer. The one whose voice was unmistakable.

After my introduction to LGT that cool evening Somló Tamás and the rest of the band have always had a cherished spot on my playlists. I bought their solo projects as well, and I only went to see that awful awful remake of Hyppolit to listen to the theme song by Somló. 

And now Somló Tamás is gone. He passed away after a long battle with cancer during the night. 

And here I am, sitting on the hardwood floor with my children, and my iPhone is playing A Kicsi, a Nagy, az Artúr és az Indián, and Vallomás and the finale of Képzelt riport.

Arra születtünk, hogy tiszta szívvel szerethessünk, boldogok legyünk, boldogok legyünk.

May his memory be a blessing.

Love is…

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We Hear The Silence

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We heard the silence when a mother of six was murdered by an Arab terrorist in Judea and Samaria.

We heard the silence the numerous times civilians were stabbed, injured and killed by Arab terrorists the past year.

The silence was deafening when Arab terrorists attacked a school bus three weeks ago. (Oh, you never heard about it? Why am I not surprised?) 

The silence of many last week when two Arab terrorists killed four and injured four in a shooting in Tel Aviv was heard by us.

And now there is silence again. 50 dead and 53  injured, and people still having their profile picture in French colours are silent.

Dafna Meir, the other shooting, rock throwing and stabbing victims, the students from Makor Chaim High School, the people at Sarona market were Israeli Jews.

We heard the silence, and the strange breaking of tge silence when a US military veteran was among the killed. 

Those killed two nights ago in Orlando were members and allies of the LGBTQ community. We hear the silence. 

The outrage is by friends and allies, mostly. Some comments are by Trump supporters, who see their blind Islamophobia justified in the killings. However, there is a lot of silence.

The Diaspora vs. Eretz 2/31

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I grew into my Judaism, my secular, non-G-d-believing, tradition-honouring, peculiar-minority-being Judaims in the Diaspora. I was surrounded by Jewish pluralism, in a society where celebrating Christmas by most secular Jews was kust as normal as kids from mixed marriages attending Chabad schools, where they were welcomed with open arms… And not being indoctrinated. It was a place where the Chabad and Orthodox schools proded themselves in providing quality secular education as well as Jewish education to their students, and proudly displayed their national ranking based on univrsity acceptance, foreign language exams, and other academic measurements. It was somewhere where an openly gay Jew from a Reform background was called up to the Torah in a Chabad shul just because. Where Chabad’s chanukiyot stood next to the far right party’s crosses during Chnukah/Advent. Where the Jewish Summer Festival had more non-Jews perform than Jews in some years, and where the targeted audience was definitely the non-Jewish majority. It was a place where Jews networked and pulled together, and as a result, were successful.

It was also a place where Antisemitism was alive, and where the above mentioned far-right party’s vice president, upon realising he was halachially Jewish, could be kicked out of his party and become an observant Jew qlmost overnight. It was a place where they claim their Jewish Nobel winners as Hungarians, but generally “hate Jews”. 

It was a place where the first Nobel for literature for that country and both of it’s Oscars for a foreign language film went to Jews. (Though the first film was directed by a Jewish-Catholic man, many of whose films examined his complicated relationship to Judaism.) How proud most of those people who saw a Zionist conspiracy in everything were of those writers, directors, actors! 

Being a Jew then and there made me more Jewish. Where Christian holidays were public holidays, but my kid staying home on Yom Kippur meant an unexcused absence and a visit from the school’s child welfare representative, where only one kosher shop was available and it was cheaper to drive to Vienna and shop for the month than going to that shop, where on Facebook people I knew blamed the Zionist lizard people (I wish I was kidding) for everything from rain to drought, I learnt to embrace my Jewishness. Those challenges were sometimes annoying, but they were insignificant compared to what my ancestors went through to maintain and live their faith. Living in the Diaspora I had the opportunity to choose to be Jew again and again every day. 

8 years ago my family moved to Israel. As a friend said, it’s a wonder I’ve been in Israel, living the Israeli secular existence “And managed to maintain such a positive relationships with Judaism”. 

If she had said that eight years ago when we made aliyah, I wouldn’t have understood it. After experiencing minority existence and blatant anti-Semitism for years in Europe, Israel seemed to be THE place. As Hannah Szenes said, 


We believed we were coming home.

Living in Israel, however, took away our daily choice to embrace and live our Judaism. Living according the Law is enforced left and right, while our Jewishness is constantly questioned. In this split mindset of enforced and doubted Judaism we are still learning to navigate Israeli life. 

There are moments when I’d love to just pack up and leave, never to come back. But then every time I am away from home for more than a few days I suddenly start to miss Home. Against all odds, challenges, discomforts, dangers, Israel has become our home. 

The Sea, The Sand, The Prayer of Man 1/31

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Pesach (Passover) is now over. A week of not having regular bread was easier than I thought. We celebrated the exit of the holiday by making hamburgers and eating them in our garden, then taking a walk on the beach.

While we, Jews celebrated the last days of Passover on Friday and Saturday, most if Israel’s Christians were commemorating Great Friday, and today celebrate Easter. It is only a few days after a Druze holiday, commemorating one of the prophets. Sitting by the sea, sand between my toes, the prayers are still in the air as the new week begins. 

The title is inspired by Hannah Senesh’s “Walk to Ceasaria”, a poem, and a song known as Eli, Eli that I have blogged about before. 

This early summer weekend was about the sand, the sea, the prayer of man. People enjoyed the nice weather in the forests, by the Kineret, or on the beaches. We were among them, and once again I got to enjoy the colourful tapestry of what Israel is. Yet, days like today remind me of my complicated relationship with Israel and Judaism. This month I hope to explore more of this topic on my blog. 

The Hungarian Jew

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Today is an important day. Besides it being my friend Jon’s birthday, it is the anniversary of the 1848 Hungarian revolution and a national holiday. Hungarians on this day wear a cockade of the Hungarian tricolour, and recite a poem written by Sándor Petőfi, titled Nemzeti dal (National Song). This year peaceful demonstrations by various groups, including teachers will add to the state and party sponsored event palette.

Some of the celebrations, however, go further than remembering a quasi-democratic, and mostly bloodless revolution that turned into a year-and-a-half-long war for independence. Some of the greatest heroes of the war were not Hungarians, but some people like to forget that. They also like to forget that many Hungarian Jews who had previously had very few rights, joined the fight against the Habsburg opression. Among them was a distant ancestor of mine, a Jewish doctor from Pest, who became a medic during the war.

Hungarian politicians of the time were divided over the emancipation of the Hungarian Jewry. While Széchenyi opposed it, Eötvös and Kossuth were for it. Kossuth encouraged the social and cultural integration and assimilation of the Jews, which, over the next 90 years, mostly happened, despite the fall of the revolution. Despite what some of the voices say, it is possible to be Jewish and Hungarian at the same time–as long as Hungarians don’t turn on other Hungarians.

Today I can’t wear a cockade, but I wear this kipah:

And here is the Hebrew translation of Nemzeti Dal:

Son of Saul

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His first movie, his first Oscar. 
Congratulationsnto László Nemes Jeles and the rest of the cast and crew!

Some Valentine’s Day Moments

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I sent a note to the principal of my kids’ Jewish English-Hebrew bilingual private school saying that I didn’t think celebrating the Catholic feast day of a Christian saint was rather un-Jewish, especially since he died like 1200 years before any Jew encountered chocolate. The principal didn’t really take my complaint seriously. Since I’m that parent, who complains and tries to get his point across, I told Kevin, who happens to be the principal of our kids’ Jewish English-Hebrew bilingual private school that if he insisted on celebrating Saint Valentine’s Day at the school, he’d have to help our second graders cut out and sign 34 valentines each.

Valentine’s Day is not on the 5777 (2016-17) school activity calendar.

***

We had Family Day just this past week. It is a combination of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and it generally keeps us very busy, because the school has a program for it, the nursery has a program for it, my grandson’s gan (3-6 kindergarten) has a program for it, our homeschool group has a program for it, the music school has a program for it, the dance studio has a program for it… You get it. This year, however, we got ourselves kicked out of our homeschool group, so Kevin never finished setting the program up.  Grandson was sick, so he didn’t go to gan. We only had dance, school, and the nursery to go to. At the nursery the kids were giving presents to their parents, and I got a skull shaped cookie cutter. It goes well with my zombie ones, by the way. 

On Friday my kids and I made cookies, and I used the new cookie cutter. Today as Eli was eating one of the cookies he said, “These look like St. Valentine’s relics.” I hope they were not as stale as those relics must be! 

***

Kevin and I try to be romantic around this time of the year. So the following conversation happened today.

Kevin: We have reservations at this new place in TLV. Do you want to eat Polish candy and watch SGA?

Me: Only if I don’t have to wear pants.

Unashamedly Alive

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  Sometimes I end up breaking my 12-minute-rule on reading. Recently I spent a full afternoon reading Péter Gárdos’s Fever at Dawn again. I vaguely remembered purchasing and reading the book when it was first published several years ago, during one of my many hospitalizations, and I remembered how life affirming the novel was. A novel, a true story, of Gárdos’s parents. Gárdos being a filmmaker turned his beautiful story into a movie which premiered this past Friday in Jerusalem.

The story of two young Shoah survivours falling in love is not a Holocaust story. It is a story of love and life. It explores questions of Jewish identity, the price of survival, touches briefly upon the horrors of the war and the Shoah, but still, it is a story of hope-and sometimes even hope lost. 

In 1945 a Gárdos’s father, Miklós, recovering in a Swedish hospital, wrote 117 letters to Hungarian women also treated in Swedish hospitals after the war. Having to face a grim diagnosis, he didn’t give up. He received 18 replies. The story that follows is more romantic than any Jane Austen novel. It is also more interesting than any soap opera. Despite the end of the story is spoiled from the first page–the author, aft all, was born–we get a special privilege of seeing how love happens.

Gárdos writes well, as evidenced by his films as well. It is, however, the most beautifully written parts of the novel are the original correspondence between Gárdos’s parents. I hope that the translations can match the beauty of those letters. In Hebrew it does. 

To celebrate that Judaism and the Jewish people are alive and thriving my shul celebrates life every year in the anniversary if Kristallnacht. This year we selected a read out of Fever at Dawn. It was a most brilliant choice. Listening to one of my boys reading Miklós’s letters, a young woman reading Lili’s, and people, mistly descendants of Holocaust survivours, taking turns for the rest of the story was indeed a celebration of life.

The English translation of Fever at Dawn will be available in April 2016. 

It’s OK Not to be Christian in December

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12 Minutes

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12 minutes on the bus, every morning. That is usually the time I allow for myself to read freely. Anything longer than that and it’s not a language book or something for uni, I feel guilty. It is something I never thought that I’d experience. I remember friends telling me years ago if a book in their hand wasn’t their Anatomy textbook, they’d feel so guilty during their first year of college that it took them years to get back into reading after passing the combined anatomy-pathology exams at the end of their second year. I kinda dismissed it as an overdramatic reaction, but now I know what they meant.

Back in my earlier college experience I read fast and easy. Now? Learning new things from a tect takes alot more effort and time. And time is the one thing I lack. Between work, helping with home school, working on univesity assignments, trying to finally gain a better understanding of written Hebrew, making some crochet pieces for sale, 168 hours in a week are just not enough. To keep my sanity, however, I give myself those 12 minutes on the bus to read. 

Sometimes, though, I just can’t wait for finals. That will give me a month of reading what I want. That will be my greatest present this holiday season. So many new books are waiting to be read!

Shabbat Shalom from Israel – 7 very Quick Takes

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1. I like to listen to music at work. Every once in a while I can find a corner of the office, or one of the training rooms or conference rooms that is empty, and I can play my music without having to plug it into my CI. Like today.

Today this song was on my playlist:

“I know that at the end maybe sorrow will fade away
Maybe tomorrow maybe another year
The wind that pushes away dawn
At the end will change its direction”

2.So was this song:

“Other days will come, with the sun and with G-d, and the morning will be all right.”

3. And this as well:

“Unfortunately I was born a human

I can see, think, feel, smell,

But that’s not enough for me

I want to hover over people

In an incredible silence, in an incredible silence


I want to fly with the power to see everything from above,

To understand what people are, and so on”

4. And of course, this one:

So my CO asked me: “Hevel, are you being political today?”  

While the songs in my playlist followed each other in this order by accident, because it was my YouTube Harel Skaat playlist, in fact today I was political. I am ready for change. I am ready to feel safe. I am ready for peace. I am tired of the anti-Israel bias of the media and the UN and half my FB friends. I am tired of politicians. 

5. The last two weeks my kids learnt to defend themselves against stabbers in their Krav Maga class, and they learnt how to provide first aid to stabbing victims in their community health class. On Sunday two of my teens will travel to Jerusalem for a lecture, and I’ll let them. I’ll be a nervous wreck. Tel Aviv is experiencing a lot less violence than the capital, so it’s scary to send them there. But such is life in Israel. Some of the places they will pass through have experienced attacks. 

To be completely homest I’m glad not to have to carry a weapon. I am a bit nervous each time my combat soldiers come home with a weapon. Don’t take me wrong, I know my way around them, still, I don’t like them in my home.

6. This month Kevin has lived in Israel (and the general TLV area) longer than anywhere else. Israel has really become home.

7. In the midst of the craziness life goes on. Yesterday Kevin and I attended the wedding of one of the soldiers in my team. It was a joyous occasion, and we all had a wonderful time. Mazel tov to Orit and Fedya.

Shana Tova!

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Compulsory Forgiveness

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One of the things that bothers me a lot about the whole Duggar fiasco is people forgiving Josh for the sexual assault and adultery as they were the victims of either. I can understand forgiving him for the lie that his public persona is, as my friend Annie very wisely said: “I think that all of us are damaged by the sins of any of us….which is why I expect that people have a sense that there is something for them to forgive. In this case, looking up to someone as a model, or inspiration, and finding that they were not that can hurt a great deal.”

The problem with that, however, lies with people, who were more than willing to forgive such betrayal when he was involved in incestous molestation of young girls, but are drawing the line at adultery. Because, you know, actual sexual assaults on little girls are not nearly as bad as consensual sex between two adults outside of marriage.

The other problem is when people are willing to specifically state that they are forgiving Josh for what he did to his sisters, the babysitter, and his wife. This is not some random church lady’s job to forgive him for those. That is a choice his sisters, the babysitter and his wife have. And even if they choose to forgive him, it doesn’t mean that those crimes and immoral acts never happened. There are consequences in life for one’s actions. In less cult-like environments, the consequences would have been being charged for the molestation, and likely divorce, or at least a few months in the dog house for the latter. Anna is, however, already reported to have decided to stay with Josh and support him. Because she has forgiven him. Because she is required to forgive. She is given no other choice. I, however, think that when you are not given a chance other than to publicly act as if you have forgiven and forgotten, forgiveness is often not real. Pretending something didn’t happen is not forgiveness. I do have to wonder sometimes if the Duggars are generally capable of true forgiveness, that is not just outward motions.

Laura Turner brilliantly wrote:

“Anna Duggar can forgive Josh without continuing their marriage. She can separate from him, divorce him, remove his kids from him, because he violated the vow he made to her–and she can still forgive him. To forgive does not mean that you return to the same relationship you had with someone before they hurt you. In fact, sometimes wisdom demands that you make changes to a relationship even as you forgive.” – See more at:

http://lauraturner.religionnews.com/2015/08/21/when-forgiveness-isnt-reconciliation-on-josh-duggar/#sthash.jTwXEQg6.dpuf

Forgiveness is a wonderful thing. It is great to be the receiving end as well as being the one who can forgive. It is often not easy, and definitely not instant: if one can instantly forgive something, then that thing wasn’t even an offence. Maybe whoever did it thought they hurt someone. Maybe we didn’t think we were, but saying the words extending grace and forgiveness still might be just the right thing, to help another feel less guilt.

Maybe Anna Duggar sees no problem with her husband cheating on her, and she finds nothing needs to be forgiven. Maybe she has known for some time, as the accounts on Ashley Madison were terminated around the time of the molestation coming to light, and Josh might have actually been a man and tell her about everything. In that case Anna has had over two months to start digesting what happened. We don’t know. I just hope she will eventually find peace and will be treated by someone as an equal and as an adult. I also hope that this will be the last we hear of the Duggars.

Another Two Cents on Josh Duggar

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My sister thinks I’m obsessed with the Duggars. The reason for that is that during the past 5 years I made at least 4 comments about them to her, and posted exactly three times mentioning them on my blog since 2012  Of course she is the one who has watched every rerun of every Duggar show, and she is capable of telling the Duggar kids apart. I was never capable of doing that, not that I really tried, anyway. So because I am obsessed with the Duggars, I woke to my sister’s text at 4:57 a.m.

2015-08-20 11.12.47

I am worried about Anna blaming herself. I am worried about people who defended Joshua Duggar’s sexual abuse of his sisters and another girl, and his parents’ lack of actions to protect those girls, because Mr. Duggar “got saved”, “repented and became a productive member of society”, “grew up into a Christ following husband and father” will continue to defend him, blaming everyone and everything else, including the internet for his unfaithfulness. Because no good Christian man has enough self control to resist the temptation to cheat on his wife.

Of course marriage equality made him do it as it undermined the sanctity of his marriage. Not unless, you know, he was seeking a gay married guy who also wanted to cheat on his husband. Maybe a married lesbian. In which case Josh Duggar was undermining their marriage.

As my sister pointed out, I believe FRC chose perfectly when they hired him as an executive director, and basically the face of the organization. He represents them, and a big segment of the American religious right just perfectly. I am sure that the message of the real values of FRC didn’t get lost on a lot of people.

I’ve already heard that those accounts must have been fake. They were tied to credit cards that had Josh Duggar’s then current addresses attached to them. There are credit card statements. I doubt that he would have missed an opportunity to complain about identity theft, and being set up by his Christ’s enemies. That alone tells me it was real.

There is still the chance to say that he needed to investigate this evil website as part of his job. Yes, it’s completely believable that he needed not one, but two accounts, over a period of two years. There is no chance that sexual predator Gothardite golden boy could be a (would be) serial cheater. No. Impossible.

Except it is all too real.

ETA: Josh has admitted to watching pornography and cheating on Anna.

He is grieved by the hurt he caused being caught again in something immoral. He writes, “I deeply regret all the hurt I have caused so many by being such a bad example.” He also claims he was fighting immorality in the country…. well yeah, once again, it is more than personal failings. Josh Duggar has been villifying 7-10% of the population in a high paid job, without any proof of what his organization was preaching was true, while he himself committing the sins that FRC assigned to the LGBTQ community.

I definitely hope that Anna wasn’t bullied into a covenant marriage like the Jessa and Jill. However, if she wasn’t and she stays with Josh, she loses any sympathy I might have for her.

I also have to wonder since Josh doesn’t believe in birth control, how many little illegitimate Duggars he has produced and what he took home to Anna… or if he, in fact, used protection, betraying the one thing that brought him fame and a livelihood.

May her memory be a blessing

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From the Jerusalem Pride

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This… This happened yesterday in Jerusalem.

An Ultra-Orthodox protester stabbed six people in yesterday’s Jerusalem Pride. The same man attacked participants in 2005.

Some members of our family attended this year, and I am very grateful that I got Kevin’s text that they were okay before I saw the news. I am still very upset about this happening. How can someone claiming to be a man of G-d, and being angry at people breaking of–what he perceives to be–G-d’s commandment that he completely ignores the one about not killing?

Today is Tisha B’Av (postponed), and I’m Fasting

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Jerus-n4iToday is the 10th day of the Hebrew month Av, and it’s, like Yom Kippur, a fast day for Jews. (Tisha B’Av is actually the 9th, but since fasting is prohibited on the Shabbat, with the exception of Yom Kippur, the fast is postponed by a day.) Unlike Yom Kippur, however, Tisha B’Av is rarely observed or recognized by secular Jews. Tisha B’Av marks the destruction of bothe the first and second Temple, and it’s, in a way, a national day of mourning for all of Israel–whether in Eretz Israel or in exile.

Yet some progressive branches of Judaism all together discard this day of mourning as something that has lost its meaning with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and especially since the return of the Old City of Jerusalem to Israel in 1967. Other branches of Judaism continue to observe this day till the Temple is once again rebuilt and the Moshiach comes. They keep fasting every year. Some of my Reform Jewish friends chose to fast this year as conflict regarding the Temple Mount is getting more and more violent. Some Orthodox and Conservative leaders remind us that today’s mourning is just as much for the flaw in today’s Israel that prevents the coming of the messiah and the building of the Third Temple as it is for the loss of the first two.

I chose to fast this year (for the first time on this day) because I have been feeling more disconnected from Judaism these days. I find myself ignoring my usual routine in tradition. I even considered getting a larger, visible tattoo–but I am almost sure I’ll never get one, because it would remove me too far from all that I find valuable in Judaism. So in an attempt to reconnect with my heritage and my long lost faith. Who knows, maybe one day, I’ll succeed. In the mean time, I fast today, I pray today, and hope for a messiah, who will help us to peace–extending that peace to our cousins in the Abrahamic religions as well.

It’s been a while since the last Harel Skaat post

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He has two new songs out! This one was uploaded today:

And then, his most recent music video for a song that’s actually in English:

 

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Oh, by the way Kit Harington (Jon Snow in GoT) looked like RL when he was younger: kit

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Does Courage Have Only One Face?

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My Facebook feed is full of posts depicting an American soldier in one picture saying “This is courage” and then a picture of Caitlyn Jenner, saying “Not this”.

I think the very people posting these and otherwise bashing Ms. Jenner are the very proof that she deserved the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. The amount of hate that is spewed by people when Ms. Jenner is mentioned is mindblowing.

I also, personally find the above mentioned meme offensive.  As a soldier I don’t think I’m very courageous. Courage in my own life looks very different. I know that many soldiers have a lot of courage. However, so do children and adults fighting cancer, people living with disabilities fighting their everyday battles, former cult members, first responders, parents, investigative journalists, gay couples willing to live outside the closet, and yes, Caitlyn Jenner.

While we in the LGBT community experience a lot of hatred, the T of the acronym even experiences lack of support or understanding, and sometimes outright hate from within the community. Transgender women are murdered and are driven to suicide in disproportionate numbers within our community. It takes courage to stand up and face the world. It takes a lot of courage to face closed minded people, who can only hate, because their definition of courage is very limited.

Congratulations to Ms. Jenner and all people displaying courage: the single mom handling a job and raising her kids, the agoraphobic lady in the neighbourhood who walked to the mailbox yesterday, the orphan who leaves everything they know behind to start a new life with a family in a foreign country, the student teacher on her first day in the classroom, the autistic child trying a new food, and countless others. By denying Ms. Jenner’s courage to transition to who she is, and publicly standing up for others, the courage of all these people and their everyday victories over circumstances or themselves is being ridiculed.

Let’s just all accept that courage can manifest in many ways, and that is why our world is full of brave people.

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