Good morning everyone, and happy new year! L’Shana Tova (traditional greeting, Hebrew for “for a good year”). I hope that everyone has a fantastic and wonderful year.
Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year – and Yom Kippur – our Day of Atonement – are the big deal holidays in Judaism. I’m not doing much of anything for Rosh Hashanah this year as it is during the week and I have way too much schoolwork (I know, I know, excuses…), but I will hopefully spend Yom Kippur with some of my sisters who live nearby. This will be my first Yom Kippur after having really accepted myself as trans.
I haven’t done much research into Judaism and transgender issues. I know a bit about LGBT issues in general and Judaism. Growing up, I went to a fairly liberal Conservative synagogue (not political conservatism, but Conservative Judaism – which originated as a movement to “conserve Jewish tradition,” though there are some who would argue there is not much difference). My synagogue held forums and events about Judaism and LGBT issues. My rabbi even fought on my behalf to convince some synagogue sisterhood group that I should be allowed to wear pants at my Bar Mitzvah (technically it was a Bat Mitzvah – different names for girls and boys – but I prefer to use the male version of the name until I figure some things out). So it never occurred to me that my queer identity and my religion did not complement each other.
Religion is one of those things that I think truly depends on how you are raised. Judaism as I was taught is about learning and acceptance, the building of community, but it may not be for everyone. Jewish holidays in my family always involved welcoming anyone and everyone to our celebrations. I never had to fear anyone telling me I was going against God.
But I’m in kind of a weird place right now. Judaism has some very sharp divisions between men and women, even among some of the less observant sects. Sometimes it’s just a question of language, sometimes it’s more. For example, in Jerusalem, there stands the Kotel – the Western Wall (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Wall) – the last remaining architecture of The Temple in Jerusalem (there are a lot of temples, I know, but the Jews had the Temple, and when it was destroyed, we had the Second Temple, which was also destroyed; they were big deals). Jews travel from all over to pray at the Western Wall. The area in which you can pray is divided into two parts for men and women, as, technically, we are supposed to pray separately. When I went to the Kotel, it burned me up to have to wear a skirt and pray on the women’s side, but I wanted to stand at the Kotel, so I did it. I look forward to going back one day and standing on the other side.
There are a lot of rituals in Judaism that only men have to do, or only men can do. Blowing the Shofar (a ram’s horn used on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shofar) is traditionally only done by men. Only men technically have to wear a tallit and yamakah, only men used to get Bar Mitzvahed. Now we just have two different names for the ceremony (and I think there may be one prayer that has a slight difference).
What I keep thinking about is my Bat Mitzvah (in this case, calling it what it was). The Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a coming-of-age ceremony, and introduction to the Jewish community, and there’s not much difference in the procedure for girls or for boys. I’m still a part of the Jewish community, I still came of age, but it doesn’t quite feel right. I used the wrong name (twice, since I had a Hebrew name as well) in the ceremony. In a lot of respects, I am coming of age again (both literally with the whole second puberty thing and figuratively). And I also just didn’t know who I was back then.
I mean, I was twelve, so who really knows who they are at that age. But still, it is slightly more extreme. I very much lean toward wanting to do it again when I am further along in my transition to mark my real “coming-of-age,” and, if not a re-entrance into the Jewish community, a redefining of my place in the community as I accept myself. I don’t mean that literally in terms of redefining my gender role, but rather that knowing who I am has changed how I interact with people just on the level of my being more confident, more comfortable in my own skin, more sure of my direction, and I do want to acknowledge that.
But I don’t know if I would be drawing too much attention to my transition by getting a second Bar Mitzvah. I also suspect it makes my parents feel bad, as if my childhood wasn’t “real.” But I also want to do it right, with the right name, and the right version of the word, after having finally figured myself out.
“L’Shana Tova (Happy New Year)!” by https://growingupgareth.wordpress.com/ is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://growingupgareth.wordpress.com/.