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

The term LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer; in some cases, you may see additional letters LGBTQQIA+ which expand the acronym to include Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual. The term LGBTQ+ Equality refers to a world where all people are treated equally no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In practice, LGBTQ+ Equality most prominently 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 every day, such as not being addressed by the correct pronouns and not having access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity. 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 understanding and addressing the ways that U.S. and Canadian history and policy, on national, organizational, and societal levels, has institutionalized the disenfranchisement of the LGBTQ+ community, and what can be done.


The Reform Jewish Movement has worked for decades to end discrimination and support equality for the LGBTQ+ community. We are obligated to honor the fact that all people are created b'tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, and thus, 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+ inclusion.


  1. What is the difference between gender expression and sexual orientation?

  1. What does Judaism have to say around LGBTQ+ equality?

  1. How does heteronormativity crop up in our institutions? What can we do to make sure everyone is welcome in our communities, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation? What tools do we have to do this?


Raising awareness is the first step, but in order to affect real change, ongoing, tangible action needs to be taken. Your family, and your teen, may consider some of the following options to take their learning to the next level:

  • Visit the  Religious Action Center's LGBTQ+ Equality page for immediate legislative action items, such as advocating your position to members of Congress.

  • Normalize pronouns in your community (it can save lives) - Normalizing pronouns and other behaviors 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 this Facebook Live, 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 for how you can make your community more gender affirming