Category Archives: featured

New Inclusive Flag of the United States of America

Many of us thought the “Philadelphia” LGBTQ Pride flag with its additional black and brown strips at its top, aimed to “center the experiences of queer people of color” within the movement was a one-off, and perhaps a good one at that. Well, it’s catching on, to the point where it is hard to find a pride meme not using it. This is not necessarily a good thing. Whether or not the modern Pride experience feels like it centers around certain population, the flag itself is a reminder that love and tolerance are supposed to transcend skin color. 

New Pride Flag
Philadelphia 2017 Pride Flag Variant

Why should only certain skin colors suddenly be represented on the flag for all of us? Even the words “black and brown” used in this context of people is hardly sufficient to capture the diversity of the human experience, especially when any given person may descend from mixtures of these broad swaths and others. You could make the scientific argument that “white” is the the sum of all of the remaining rainbow colors, and thus is itself on the flag (because prisms, yeah), but that hardly solves all the problems.

Secondly, why should only queer black and brown people be represented? What about the rest of American straight and cis black and brown people? We need to change the American Flag to represent POC liberation. So here is the NEW United States POC and Passing Flag. Please use it immediately and rip down any obsolete US flags you see–physically or in digital space–to make way for the superior replacement.

The Star Spangled Banner will now be inclusive of black, brown, and passing people.

The United States flag already has stripes by convention, representing the original 13 colonies. It is essential that the black and brown be in the symbolic “colonial space” because they were absolutely part of the colonial narrative, obviously by and large as slaves in all colonies, but particularly in the south.  We should not forget that. The major other players in the colonial times were, fittingly, the “white” Europeans and the native “red” (as in Washington Redskins, or the Cleveland Indians chief) population. The remaining stripes are white and red, clashing starkly in contrast. It is a living reminder.

Now you might be looking at this and saying, “But what’s that tanned band second from the top?” It may look different on different on different screens, and is tough to digitally represent, but it’s supposed to be off-white to ivory. Distinct enough to notice up close, but white-passing from a distance. This is the band of those who are blended and those who pass within whiteness, but broadly within any population.

The “Passing” band.

The Passing band can apply to populations like Ashkenazi Jews, who are not distinctly of white ethnicity, to many people of LatinX origin, to people of MENA origins, and even to albino individuals who are often misinterpreted on the street. Really, why does melanin belong on our flags at all, but hey at least we should also remember that not all racism is dependent on skin color. Jews are a great example: We were gassed by the millions by Nazis, then silly antisemite radical groups have the nerve to lump us in as Nazis in all the whiteness problems they see the world facing.

Funny how the Nazis call Jews part of the minority problem and the minorities call Jews part of the Nazi problem. And if you told them there was a country where Jews, Christians, Muslims, Queers, and Women all had rights… they’d wet their ripped up fatigue pants, until you remind them the country’s name is Israel. Anti-racists don’t want it if the Jewish accomplished it… but that’s obviously not racism. We’re talking about America here, how dare I hijack my own platform to talk about Israel? Yeah, people actually stay up at night trying to make their own racism sound sensible. “My racism, the alternative to bad racism.” -Your local radical nut job.

So enjoy the new American flag, and start using it, the same way it has become for Pride. If you don’t like this flag, you are the probably the reason it exists. There’s only one thing that is for certain, you can’t be anti-racism if you are only against everyone else’s racist except your own. Certain radical groups should really learn a thing or two before they go crying out to dismantle democracies. But when they build liberated states in their imaginations, er, in their wakes, I’ll be there to draft the flags.

ChangedMe, my new Etsy Shop!

I’m selling awesome pins and other goodies soon too, the kinds of things I actually wear, and the kinds of things I could never find growing up myself, to have been more proud and visible.

My NY Times WomenInTheWorld Profile

Amid a shifting tide of tolerance, transgender Jews search for faith and community

Abby Stein on Columbia University’s campus in New York City (Katie Booth/Women in the World) On a temperate afternoon in late December, Abby Stein sat in a café on the Upper West Side, surveying her glass of water with a mixture of amusement and surprise.

The following is excerpted from the site above. Read three more stories there, this one is mine:


Hannah Simpson, 31: “The only breach in decorum and protocol was that people started applauding.”

Hannah Simpson photographed in New York City. (Katie Booth/Women in the World)

Hannah Simpson photographed in New York City. (Katie Booth/Women in the World)

Hannah Simpson has a winking penchant for wordplay — trans-inspired wordplay included. “I like to joke: there’s a place in religion for you as a transgender person,” she said with a grin. “It just might not be the sect you were assigned at birth.” Later, she noted: “I’ve never had a bat mitzvah before, and when I do, it’s going to be a bat mitzvah with ears, capes, and utility belts optional.”

On a dreary day just after New Years, Hannah was chipper and sunny-eyed, a walking emblem of LGBTQ pride. She wore Star of David earrings painted with rainbow stripes, and in her bag, she carried a rainbow-splashed Israeli flag, which she sometimes dons as a cape. Hannah also brought along two knitted yarmulkes: one stitched with rainbow threads, the other modeled after the transgender flag in pink, white, and blue. She likes to trot these yarmulkes out before journalists and other interested parties, though she doesn’t wear them very often; traditional Judaism dictates that this particular religious garment is only mandated for men. “It’s one of those things where [sometimes] I do feel like I should be wearing a [yarmulke] and I sometimes don’t,” she said. “More often than not, I don’t these days, because I’m not obliged to, and it’s weird for me to make that act that is very traditionally masculine.”

It has been two years since Hannah started living her true self. From the time she was a small child, growing up in suburban New Jersey, Hannah knew that she was a woman. Existing as a male was, as she likes to put it, an experience similar to writing with her non-dominant hand: instantly and instinctively, she knew it didn’t feel right.

During the second year of her studies at Touro College medical school in New York, Hannah decided that she felt ready to begin her physical transition. She has since withdrawn from her studies on a temporary basis; several encounters with administration and staff, the details of which she would prefer to keep private, made her feel uncomfortable and unwelcome on campus. By comparison, Hannah’s post-transition integration into the Jewish world has gone relatively smoothly.

Hannah’s family belongs to a progressive synagogue in New Jersey’s Bergen County. Her parents are active in the congregation — her mother volunteers as a lay cantor, her father as an usher — and Hannah has carried their emphasis on community involvement into her adult life. She works with a support group called Jewish Queer Youth, and is active in Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, an LGBTQ congregation in Manhattan. This past December, she staffed an LGBTQ Birthright trip to Israel. Hannah has also found acceptance beyond LGBTQ Jewish communities. When the cantor of Hannah’s childhood synagogue found out that she had transitioned, he promptly offered to officiate her (as yet non-existent) wedding.

It seems appropriate, then, that the most public proclamation of Hannah’s identity took place in a synagogue. In 2013, while Hannah was still presenting as a male, she was asked by an egalitarian congregation in Boston to give a sermon on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Hannah had already begun the early phases of her transition and decided that this speech — to be delivered on a day that celebrates fresh starts and new beginnings — would present the perfect opportunity to come out.

When the congregation’s leadership saw a draft of Hannah’s speech they balked; there would be elderly members in attendance, they told Hannah, and perhaps she could edit out any parts of her speech that would cause offense. “They eventually changed their mind and came to their senses, and I gave the sermon,” Hannah said. “And to my surprise the only breach in decorum and protocol was that people started applauding.”

Though she is interested in Jewish liturgy, Hannah is not particularly bothered by the fact that sacred texts give virtually no attention to people of non-binary gender identities. “It is not so much that I can find the trans experience in the liturgy. I think it is the opposite: I can find the liturgy reflected in the trans-experience,” Hannah explained. “Gender diversity I really don’t think was on the ancient radar.”

Perhaps the best example of Hannah’s efforts to draw parallels between her own life and the Jewish tradition lies in the name that she chose when she transitioned. The biblical Hannah was a barren woman, who pleaded with God when she could not bear children and ultimately became the mother of the prophet Samuel. “With her fervor and passion she changed God’s mind,” Hannah explained. “I am a transgender woman and … I am actually taking an active step to argue with God, to assert myself. And hopefully I will find my fulfillment through that.”

As our interview drew to a close, Hannah pulled a miniature, electric menorah out of her Poppins-esque bag of knick-knacks. Every year during the Hanukah season, she teaches children and young adults how to make this very 21st-century version of the holiday’s traditional candelabrum. Though Hannah has woven her trans identity into so much of her Jewish life, it is important to her to extend her involvement beyond activism, beyond the LGBTQ community. Or as Hannah puts it: “Being a trans Jewish person is also just being a Jewish person.”

Watch my 2017 Austin Interfaith Pride Sermon!

This video includes the full introduction by Rabbi Rebecca Reice.

Thanks so much to the Austin Interfaith Pride Coalition for the invitation and chance to share some torah and some laughs amid challenging times!

I’m Back on Refinery29!

Delighted to share my latest article on Refinery29, on the real-life consequences of being publicly outed, as Survivor contestant Zeke Smith was on national television. It’s fun to have my work back up on Refinery29 after nearly a year. I’m looking forward to lots more edgy queer content coming up on R29.

What It Means To Publicly Out A Transgender Person

Survivor host Jeff Probst said it best: “You can’t unring the bell.” I’m usually the first to hear when trans headlines make the news. Mom beat me to it last night. Her text, “You better turn on Survivor,” a show I normally ignore, lacked further explanation.