LGBTQ+ Equality and Gender Expression: A Social Justice Primer for Teens and Parents

LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer. In some cases, you may see additional letters, like "LGBTQIA+," which expand the acronym to include Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual. The term, "LGBTQ+ equality" refers to people of all sexualities and genders being treated equally.

In practice, LGBTQ+ equality addresses government policies such as the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQ+ equality also addresses more nuanced and institutionalized forms of discrimination and challenges LGBTQ+ folks face, such as not being addressed by the correct pronouns and not having access to restrooms consistent with their gender. The persistence of discriminatory policies and bullying behaviors have devastating effects on those who identify as LGBTQ+, especially teens.

Advocating for real, lasting change requires a comprehensive approach to addressing the ways that U.S. and Canadian policies have institutionalized the disenfranchisement of the LGBTQ+ community on national, organizational, and societal levels.


The Reform Movement has worked for decades to end discrimination and support the LGBTQ+ community. We are obligated to honor the fact that all people are created b'tzelem Elohimb'tzelem Elohimבְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִיםLiterally "in the image of God;" the concept—from Genesis 1:27: “God created humankind in God’s image”—that because all humanity is created in the image of God, each person is equally valued.   and deserve to be treated equally in all facets of society. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) is active in the legislative fight for LGBTQ+ equality and NFTY has a  long history of LGBTQ+ affirmation.


  1. What is gender expression and sexual orientation?
  1. What does Judaism have to say about LGBTQ+ equality?
  1. How does heteronormativity crop up in our institutions?
  2. What can we do to make sure everyone feels a sense of belonging in our communities, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation?
  3. What tools can we use to do this?


Raising awareness is the first step. In order to affect real change, you must take ongoing, tangible action. Consider some of the following options to take your advocacy to the next level:

  • Visit the  Religious Action Center's LGBTQ+ equality page to see current legislative action items and advocate on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community to your representatives.
  • Normalize pronoun usage in your community. Combined with other behaviors, this can have a life-saving impact on transgender and gender-expansive individuals, especially youth. Use the URJ Quick Guide to Pronouns to learn how to incorporate pronouns into your everyday life. 
  • Watch the recording of the Facebook Live event, Affirming Trans & Non-Binary Youth in Our Jewish Communities, to hear NFTY North American Board members Daniella Abbott and Cameron Samuels and HUC rabbinical student Kelly Whitehead talk about how to make our Jewish communities more affirming for trans and non-binary youth.
  • Check out the RAC and Keshet's Transgender Inclusion Guide for terminology and additional resources to make your community more affirming. 
  • Visit our REDI/DEI Resources page for more materials to help you and your community create a culture of belonging.