On being FtM and Jewish

I, along with being gay and trans and fabulous, am Jewish.  I wasn’t raised Jewish, I was actually raised batshit-one-step-away-from-cult-Jesus-camp-Pentacostal-Seventh-Day-Adventist-Evangelist-Christian.  However, I’ve been studying Judaism since I was six and unsatisfied with the answers I was getting from pastors, deacons, priests, nuns, elders, and Sunday school teachers.  Interestingly enough, most of my Jewish friends have a similar background.  Apparently we have “Jewish convert” magnets or something.

One thing most people have trouble wrapping their heads around when they find out that I’m Jewish is how I can be gay, trans, and a Jew all at once.  After all, some of the most strict admonishments against homosexuality can be found in Leviticus and other books of the Old Testament (Sodom and Gomorrah is in Genesis, in case anyone was wondering).  What they fail to recognise is that most Jews (particularly in the US) follow liberal Reform movements rather than conservative Orthodox ones.  Being gay and trans isn’t just tolerated, it’s accepted to the point where the Union for Reform Judaism has a special blessing and seder for those who are transitioning.

I have never had a Jewish person — Reform, Orthodox, or otherwise — tell me I am evil for being trans or gay.  One friend has.  Once.  The person ended up being a Jew for Jesus.  My rabbi and cantor regularly officiate at gay weddings — and have since the early 70s.  Neither of them batted an eye when I came out to them.  Really they were more confused by the fact that I have no Jewish heritage or partner and still want to convert.  The same goes for the members of the congregation I am a part of, they’re far more interested in why I want to convert than what goes on in my pants or what I do in my bedroom.

What about those pesky passages that say man shall not lie with man and women shall not wear the garb of men?  They’re old.  They were written based on the social conventions of the time, much like documents from WWII era Germany which claim that Jews are an inferior race.  We know better now, most of us have moved on.  Those who haven’t are generally respectful enough to allow the rest of us our opinions — provided, of course, we’re equally respectful to them.

Really my trans history and sexuality never enter the equation.  The closest I’ve come to anyone caring was when a (well-meaning) father asked if I knew of any places his daughter could find a nice Jewish girl to settle down with.  It was kind of adorable, even if he did totally miss the “Gay Boy” t-shirt I had on.

5 Replies to “On being FtM and Jewish”

  1. At my synagogue, the head rabbi is a gay man, and the cantor/rabbinical intern is a trans man. It’s not an LGBT congregation; just an accepting community that doesn’t judge a person for their gender and/or sexual orientation. Reform, not Orthodox, but I think both men went to Orthodox rabbinical schools for their training.

    Times are changing for the better.

    • My synagogue is just ridiculously liberal in general. I’ve always tried LGBT specific congregations when I first move, but inevitably I end up at whatever synagogue the local environmentalists and social welfare reformers like. There’s just something a bit too…New Age about every LGBT synagogue I’ve attended. I’m vaguely traditional when it comes to what I want to get out of services, if all the praying isn’t in Hebrew I start to get annoyed.

      I wasn’t aware trans people were allowed to attend Orthodox rabbinical/cantorial training. That’s kind of cool.

  2. Wow. I just wanna thank you, cause I’ve wanted to convert to Judaism since I was about eight but was never able to as I live nowhere near temple (pretty few and far between in England). When I came out as trans I was told by a rabbi (via email) that converting just wasn’t possible, mainly due to the issues surrounding the mikveh. I figured I’d have to settle with being a ‘fake’ Jew, which broke my heart, and although I observe all holidays etc the entire thing’s isolating as I’m the only Jew I know – that combined with thinking I’d *never* be able to truly count myself as a Jew just killed me. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog as now I have hope of one day being able to convert completely. It’ll be a long time yet (due to uni/college) before I can move to somewhere with a synagogue, but I can’t thank you enough for giving me hope. G-d bless.

    • Hey, glad to be of some help. You may want to check out the Liberal Judaism movement in the UK, they’re roughly analogous to the Reform movement in the US. It also varies by rabbi, the one I worked with while converting didn’t require mikveh while the one at another Reform synagogue about five miles away did. It may take some searching before you find a synagogue and rabbi that fit with you — and even then, they’re not always the most conveniently located.

      • Yeah I know all about liberal/reform etc (I was actually told I couldn’t convert by a liberal), there’s just *nothing* around here. I’m hoping to move over to the US one day (yeah, I’m crazy) so for now I’m comforting myself with Judaism being a hell of a lot more prominent over there. Plus like you I’m gay so the Masorti movement can stuff it. Sadly I’m also disabled and thus can’t drive, otherwise I’d happily travel. Nonetheless I’ve been incredibly happy since I discovered it was possible (or maybe that’s just due to internal hype over Iron Man 2) and just can’t explain how much you’ve settled my soul. You’ve quite literally my thanks for forever. 🙂

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