Yiddish is a queer language. For at least 150 years, Yiddish-speakers have been blending their queerness with their Yiddishness, drawing on this international language’s built-in intersectionality to create theater, music, art, film, and literature that defies old taboos by including our own queer selves. As Sara Felder wrote, “Queer Yiddishkeit gives me permission to go back to the world of my grandparents without leaving myself behind.”
You can expect: a son with two moms, transitioning in the shtetl, a gay Jewish bullfighter, a Yiddish remix of Marlene Dietrich, AIDS activism, a circus lady, drag kings and queens, cruising in 1930s Vilna, sexy sapphic bagels, a ritual spanking, and much more.
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A groysn sh’koyekh to @Jausdschneider for an amazing talk all in Yiddish about queer Yiddishkayt over the centuries shared at Yiddish Sof-Vokh ‘23 in England. He cited @MikhlDarling @eddyportnoy @klezbigal @yiddishstage and many more plays, articles, films, and books pic.twitter.com/x36wE0i5We— Sarah Biskowitz (@SarahBiskowitz) May 9, 2023
This presentation compiles and builds on the research of numerous scholars and fellow queer Yiddishists who have been gathering these examples themselves and producing their own contemporary queer Yiddish culture. I recommend that anyone interested in the subject seek out and support their work.
I am particularly indebted to the scholarship and knowledge of the following living people:
In addition to all the living legends mentioned above and others I’m forgetting, I’m incredibly grateful to our queer Yiddish ancestors for their bravery and their fierceness.