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Growing up, we always referred to my birth father as “Daddy”. My brother and I never asked where Daddy was, but in 5th grade, I wanted to send my daddy a letter. I showed my mother that I had a letter but my mother said she had to discuss it with a psychologist first. Afterwards, I never brought it up anymore. It wasn’t an issue. That year was hard for my parents. I used to yell at my dad, “You’re not my real dad.”
Not long after I opened my first Facebook account when I was sixteen, I got a message from someone saying, “I know your birth father. I know he hurts.” A whole lot of stuff, giving me information that I clearly didn’t want to know! I showed it to my mom, and I asked her if I should read it or delete it, and she said she would prefer that I delete it. I messaged this lady saying please don’t message me again. But then she messaged me again with even more details that I didn’t read. Who does that to a sixteen year old? It’s not something you message someone about on Facebook! I thought, for a little bit, that maybe it was my birth father, using a fake account, trying to get to me. Then I figured out it wasn’t.
My parents were worried that when I traveled to Belgium, my birth father would find out that I was in Europe and try to contact me and they wanted to be the ones who told me the story. Until then, all my life, my mom always told my brother and me that the reason she got divorced was because my birth father wasn’t fit or ready to be a father.
When they told my younger brother [who is the son of my birth father], the only thing he wanted to know was “What happened to the tallis and tefillin?” I love him.
That night when I learned about Gittel, I needed to get out of the house, to talk and share with my friends. My mom told me not to tell my younger siblings. She told me I could talk about it with a friend, so I went out in my friend’s car, running errands. It was already night, and I told her, “My birth father, he’s a woman.” She said, “You don’t tell me that when I’m driving, M! What’s wrong with you?!”
Then, a few months before the bar mitzvah, they contacted me again, asking if I wanted to come to the simcha (happy event), so all of a sudden it was real. They offered to fly me in to Belgium! I thought a lot about it, for such a long time, discussing it with my mom and my friends, and then I decided that it’s important for me to go and get to know them and decide if I want a relationship with them or not. And I decided to come to Europe, but it was clear to me that if I was coming to the Europe, I would have to go see my grandfather, because he wasn’t doing so well at that point. And also, I didn’t want to spend too much time with my birth-father’s family. I wanted it to be short. I wanted it to be manageable. I had a lot of people telling me, you can come stay with me, take all these telephone numbers, find somewhere else. People were surprised that I would stay at their house. Zahava (Gittel’s partner) actually offered for me to stay elsewhere but it seemed silly to me.
My oldest memory is sleeping over at someone else’s house as a little kid. They had no boy’s sleeping garments, so they gave me girl’s pajamas to sleep in and it just felt right. I slept in a little girl’s room that felt right too. I have an image of the garment being yellow and trying to do the buttons.
Being transgender sucks. No one wants to be trans. No one wants that life. They just have to, because that’s who they are. A lot of frum trans people will never transition, because the post-transition life won’t work for them…they are too old, too responsible, they have too many kids, too many angry and hurt relatives, too, too, too, too. They know how transitioning will affect their lives, so they don’t transition [to live as the other gender], but it’s killing them to stay as they are. I know someone who told me that every day when she is driving to work, she thinks about driving off the road and killing herself. Every single day! That’s because she can’t be who she needs to be, because she has a large family, children who need her to be their father, and she knows it would hurt them. She chooses not to do anything. She buys clothes but then can’t deal with what that means for her, and then she throws everything away, out of fear, and then she does it again and again, over and over. It’s sad.
|It DOES get better|
The only frum places I feel are safe for trans frum Jews are: some Lubavitch places, NCSY and Eshel. Eshel is awesome. I only went once and I was sick that shabbos but I made friends there.
At first, after transitioning, I wanted to go to shul, so I drove to a different city. To get there, I ended up driving on shabbos, all so I wouldn’t be so isolated and alone. I had the times wrong for the minyanim in the shul where I wanted to go though. So then, I went next door and they had a Kiddush. I didn’t know, but it wasn’t kosher! (reform shul). I drove to shul to be with Jews and I ended up eating treif! What am I doing? I stopped feeling like I belonged and like I was wanted. I gave up. I gave up on my Judaism. It was a tipping point.
Until then, I studied Torah almost daily for most of my adult life. I know halacha. The following Shabbos, though, I tried to do all 39 melochos (types of work forbidden on the Sabbath). I was mad at G-d. Why does he put me in a situation where I will be rejected? Does He care??? Then I look at other people who were born with horrible illnesses… I am thankful for what I have, but I can’t get myself to pray any more. I am not angry with G-d. I heard from a transwoman who is frum that there is a prayer she read on a bumper sticker,' G-d protect me from your followers.'