Today is a stressful day for trans folk and LGBTQIA+ in the United States and also many of us who are paying attention and/or have friends in the USA.

I wrote this poem a couple of years ago as a reflection on Yom Kippur, the traditional reading of the texts in Torah that declare trans and gay folk as abhorrent, as abominations (exact translation depends on who is translating). At the same time it is a reflection on how we are seen and treated by the wider community on a regular basis. Today in particular it is the hearing at the Supreme Court of the United States on whether or not we can be fired for being gay, trans, etc.


For one day in the year we fast
We ask for atonement for our sins
Seeking renewal, 
to be written and sealed in the book of life.

Yet, we are forced to atone daily
Queer and trans Jews rejected in communities
Trans Jews told that they are flawed
That they will always be defined by their birth

Do not lie with a male as with a woman
Repeated over and over
Every day called to atone—for this is a sin
Every day told love is abhorrent

On Yom Kippur, this is read again
The message that queer love is deviant
Hearing this while fasting
Part of community, yet apart from community

A woman shall not wear a man’s apparel
A man shall not wear a woman’s apparel
It is an aberration and a sin
We must atone for who we are

When we are told year ‘round we are sinful
That we must atone for who we are
That we will never be able to cross the mehiza
Doesn’t that make Yom Kippur like any other day?

Atonement ©2017 Talia C. Johnson, all rights reserved.

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