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Trans acceptance in Orthodox Jewish communities


Audrey

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Hi everyone,

 

So I've been thinking a lot about how I will navigate coming out at work. While I have some anxiety about my colleagues, I have far more about the clients I work with. A number of them are Orthodox Jewish, and would be the most likely to become cold, distant, or even hostile to a transgender person, based on the sense I've developed over the last several years. Generational attitudes may also come into play here too. No matter how supportive my office culture will otherwise be, I worry about these factors and it might make staying in my current job quite difficult. If anyone has any thoughts or experience they would like to share about being transgender and interacting with the Orthodox community that could help my transition, I would be very appreciative. Thanks so much!

 

This article from HRC has been helpful at giving me some insight:

https://www.hrc.org/resources/stances-of-faiths-on-lgbt-issues-orthodox-judaism

 

Love,

~Audrey.

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  • Forum Moderator

Dealing with any orthodox community can be difficult.  In the few interactions i have had i know i am an outsider.  In my case my interactions have been with the Muslim community.  We have provided young goats to that community.  They come to the farm and pray and sacrifice the animals before family dinners at Eids.  In dealing with Imams i have had no difficulties because of my gender.  Hopefully you will find the same from a community that shares so many beliefs.

As an aside I have never brought up my gender but after spending days with these folks it may well be apparent.  

I have an acquaintance who teaches at a well known Yeshiva in NY.  She transitioned at work and survived.

 

Hugs,

 

Charlize 

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As far as I know the Orthodox Jewish hierarchy (Rabbis and such) do not accept transgender Jews.  How they feel about transgender gentiles is unknown to me.  I have had very little dealings with the Conservative wing of Judaism, but of those contacts I have had most were polite but standoffish.  The Reform wing is very accepting and tolerant, amazingly so.

 

I do know that trans men have been barred from praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem if it becomes known to those in charge.  Like @Charlizesaid, the orthodox of most any religion are very set in their ways and slow to change.  That doesn't mean they can't change, but it just takes much longer.  I don't envy your position, Audrey, but you never know about individual attitudes.  There was a very orthodox Catholic in my office, and I expected some hostility when I announced my transition.  But he was very accepting and kind.  We are often the first trans person folks have ever met, and when faced with someone they know who's taken that big step, hearts do soften.  I've seen it happen many times.  So please don't discount that possibility.

 

HUGS

 

Carolyn Marie

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Thank you @Charlize and @Carolyn Marie for sharing your thoughts. I feel the situation isn't hopeless, and we have many clients who are Reform Jewish and I imagine they will be far more supportive and understanding. The Orthodox Jewish clients are a smaller but very visible minority. I'm finding solace in the fact that I have worked in my current position for several years and have an extremely positive reputation among all of our clients. I'm hopeful that this will help ease the acceptance with individual clients, though it will be slow. Everything else about me that they've come to know isn't changing - just my outward gender expression is changing. The thing about Orthodox Judaism is the very strict gender roles that define so many aspects of life, and the concept that it's possible to switch those roles could be quite the hurdle for some. I'll follow the Tzniut when it comes time to returning to the office even though I'm not Jewish myself (well technically I am but only vaguely culturally observant). I feel the other important aspect is the tone the executive director (she's also my supervisor) sets, and we have a wonderfully inclusive environment on many other fronts - but I will be the very first transgender person many will have ever met, and I hope to set the most positive example I can to help challenge any transphobia people may be harboring. Thanks again for commenting!

 

Love,

~Audrey.

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  • 2 years later...
On 1/26/2021 at 12:59 PM, Carolyn Marie said:

As far as I know the Orthodox Jewish hierarchy (Rabbis and such) do not accept transgender Jews.  How they feel about transgender gentiles is unknown to me.  I have had very little dealings with the Conservative wing of Judaism, but of those contacts I have had most were polite but standoffish.  The Reform wing is very accepting and tolerant, amazingly so.

 

I do know that trans men have been barred from praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem if it becomes known to those in charge.  Like @Charlizesaid, the orthodox of most any religion are very set in their ways and slow to change.  That doesn't mean they can't change, but it just takes much longer.  I don't envy your position, Audrey, but you never know about individual attitudes.  There was a very orthodox Catholic in my office, and I expected some hostility when I announced my transition.  But he was very accepting and kind.  We are often the first trans person folks have ever met, and when faced with someone they know who's taken that big step, hearts do soften.  I've seen it happen many times.  So please don't discount that possibility.

 

HUGS

 

Carolyn Marie

As intersex AMAB, the orthodox community sees me as a male for all legal and ritual practices. 

I would not be allowed to participate in services dressed as a female. I know this already so I have never tried. 

 

The book of Leviticus is taken quite literally in orthodox communities, and even the Talmud is unclear on my position within Judaism as intersex. 

 

Identified orthodox genders (6 in the Talmud) are simply identified. The community standing of the individuals is in a gray area. Dress, marriage, etc... is not discussed. 

 

Because the Talmud doesn't address the 8 genders accepted by the Reform movement, those 2 additional genders would not be accepted at all. So that's places them on the black list. 

 

Orthodox Judaism really doesn't care what gentiles do with their personal lives, but rather steer clear of the influence someone might have on them, if that makes any sense.

It's more like, I don't want to see you because I might think about it. Out of sight and out of mind. 

 

That hasn't changed since the Talmud, and I don't anticipate it changing very soon. 

 

The Reform is very accepting, conservative kind of depends on the congregation, orthodox is a no-go

 

I was orthodox but am now Reform. 

 

 

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  • 6 months later...

Looking back at my post of nearly three years ago, I am really happy to say that I have enjoyed much acceptance among all the clients I work with. Even among our Orthodox Jewish clients, I have not experienced any shunning and the organizational culture has fostered a very welcoming space - not just for myself, but the whole LGBTQ+ community. We worked with SAGE and offer a sensitivity and inclusion training for all staff. It is interesting, a few clients have approached me to talk about grandchildren and other relatives who have come out. I am mindful of the transference and countertransference but I feel very honored that clients place that trust in me to talk about their feelings.

 

In the meantime, I have learned more about my family's genealogy and it may be possible that I am Jewish myself but several generations removed! We are quite sure that my great great grandmother was Jewish, and sadly she died not long after my great grandmother was born. As an orphan she was raised Catholic by nuns, and in turn my grandmother and mother were raised Catholic. My mother lapsed the instant she left home, so I was raised in a nonreligious home growing up. Learning about the bloodline, and possibly being Jewish myself, has made me curious about understanding more in my adulthood.

 

Love,

~Audrey.

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  • 3 months later...

Do you know of Abby Stein? Orthodox mtf now in a tense relationship, or last I checked she was, with the Orthodox. She has a Facebook page.

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