October 23, 2018
S. Naomi Finkelstein, who will preach this Sunday, was born a transracial (Mexican birth mom) adopted baby. They went from a little town in East Texas, being biracial and illegitimate during Jim Crow, to become Ashkenazi Jewish and growing up in the Bronx. They were outted by their abusive father when they were ten and lived on the streets of NYC for two years as a homeless queer youth. At 15, they became an activist, and along with other gay youth, began the future LGBT community Center in NYC.
They cut their teeth working to pass the gay rights bill in NYC which took years. They were a member of the Women's Pentagon Action and a queer affinity group in Hunter College in the fight against apartheid. They stood on street corners with other Jewish lesbians fighting for a two-state solution in Palestine/Israel, often getting spit on from other Jews.
They became a carpenter through the NYC union. It was very cold or extremely hot and they worked with literal Nazis on their crew. After hard work all day, they cared for people with AIDS. Many of their friends died. They worked in ACT UP and the Lesbian Avengers to challenge the incredible homophobia and abelism of the Reagan Era.
They lived on a lesbian commune, chopped and stacked firewood, fished for trout and smoked it and became an activist against fatphobia. They went to Yeshiva in Philadelphia thinking they would go to Rabbinical school. Instead their neighbor introduced them to Leslie Feinberg and they worked together with others to form “Queers for Mumia.”
They became a disability activist and did anti-poverty work including fighting for Yesler Terrace. They learn to weld to fix wheelchairs. They became a metalsmith and a peer counselor who worked with homeless people in crisis.
A published writer and Hedgebrook alumnus, they have sought to make connections between oppressions and politicize the hard work of survival. They now work with the Poor People's campaign, which over a lifetime of activism, has become their most important and fulfilling political work.
They used to think their greatest accomplishment was completing college after years of hard work and learning to live disabled. Now, they are turning 55, after a long, hard, queer Scorpio life, which in trans years is as old as Methuselah. It would not be hyperbolic to say they have almost died 9 or more times including two suicide attempts, one at age two and again at 26. But they are here, alive – deeply human, flawed, fragile, resilient and sober 30 years with long-term friendships. Without their queer family, communities. faith and luck, they wouldn't have survived.
They know how to get by, how to make a way. This, they believe is their greatest accomplishment. They have survived as a gender non-conforming, queer transracially, adopted, poor Jew for 55 years in a world which is violent to any one of these identities. And they still have a sense of humor; now that's something!
Many thanks go to their cat companions and the Great Pyrannes dog, Bear. I am humble before God to have survived this long. All honor to my ancestors. -S. Naomi Finklestein
(S. Naomi Finkelstein’s gender pronouns are: they/them/their)Subscribe
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