Mikveh for LGBT Jews: Use, Adaptation, or Appropriation?

Written by Gabriella Spitzer, Barnard College Student

At Barnard College, where I am currently a junior, I am taking a class called Thinking Sexuality.  Among other things, it deals with the intersections of queer/LGBT life and other aspects of identity.   I’d love your help with research for my final project, researching how queer/LGBT Jews and others have refashioned mikveh to meet their spiritual and queer needs.

I’m interested in all kinds of queer mikveh use: lesbians doing some form of niddah (monthly immersion) practice, gay men using the mikveh as part of their sexual relationships, mikveh use as part of coming out rituals or sex change transitions, and so on.

I am particularly interested in the following issues:

  • Mikveh use intersecting with queer identity
  • Using other Jewish rituals in conjunction with queer aspects of life
  • Specific experience(s) at the mikveh
  • How mikveh use is conceptualized
  • Hesitations about mikveh usage
  • Is mikveh for the LGBT community a use (just like any other) of the mikveh, an adaptation (changing mikveh rituals), or an appropriation (subverting mikveh traditions to suit your needs)?

To fill out my survey, click here. 

Thank you for your help!

Gabriella Spitzer is in the Barnard College class of 2013, an Environmental Science major, and interested in the ways people make rituals meaningful.  

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About mayyimhayyim

Mayyim Hayyim is a 21st century creation, a mikveh rooted in ancient tradition, reinvented to serve the Jewish community of today
This entry was posted in Immersion, Inclusiveness and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Mikveh for LGBT Jews: Use, Adaptation, or Appropriation?

  1. raphaella says:

    hello!
    great post and interesting questions. have you read the book balancing on the mechitza: transgender in jewish community, by noach dzmura? it’s got some great essays in there. there are also a couple blog posts on this blog, one by rav claudia kreiman on her sponsoring someone through her conversion, and another by the person converting, for a very personal reflection on the conversion process and the mikveh experience as well.

    will you post the results of your survey? it would be great for us to see.

    good luck.

  2. Marta says:

    My own experience has been confined to bringing the Melton class (“Rhythms”) to our local Mikvah, which is a beautiful place that makes me sad. I’m sad that, rather than face dealing with Reform conversion issues, it is now closed it to all conversions. People from all movements commute to Rochester or Toronto, an hour away or more, sometimes economically a hardship for working folks. When I look at its calm waters and hear our gentle mikvah lady present to the class, I experience frustration that I cannot express publicly there. Although I teach about mikvah diplomatically and do know the halacha, I would never use ours because of how their leadership blithely trashes my core identity as a practicing Reform Jew. I also remember growing up in pre-Civil Rights era Maryland when, in response to desegregation laws, local towns preferred to drain their swimming pools before allowing black children to share. At which point, everyone sweltered all summer looking at empty public facilities. (I know we’re not talking about swimming, of course). I don’t discourage you at all, but am simply identifying the reality that those who operate a mikvah (if it were here, anyway) would sooner close it all down than open it to those they see as outside their own paradigm of Jewish life. — from your aunt upstate

  3. Pingback: Queer Submersions | The Mikveh Lady Has Left The Building

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