Transsexual Jew

August 20, 2011 | by

I have a difficult issue that I wish to discuss with a rabbi. I am a female-to-male transsexual. My soul and self-identity feels male, yet my body is biologically female. Every time I look in the mirror, ever since puberty had its way with me, I am shocked and disappointed that the body I feel within me is not represented by my physical female body.

The pain of being a transsexual is deep and constant. This is especially true when I interact with people who treat me as a woman, such as using feminine pronouns.

My question is: Do Jewish sources discuss this issue? I do not want to violate God's law. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely, Joshua

The Aish Rabbi Replies

I feel your pain and the deep feelings you have about the incongruence between what you feel in your soul and what you see in the mirror. It must be a most difficult test and only the Almighty knows why you are being subject to it.

First of all, regarding sources: Sefer Hachinuch (mitzvah 542, 543) and Maimonides (at the end of Hilchot Akum) articulate the Torah prohibition of men dressing as woman and vice-versa.

In other words, God created men and women. He wants there to be clear boundary between the sexes. From the fact that there is such a commandment, it means that some people have a desire to do just what the Torah forbids. It means there are men who would like to be women, and women who would like to be men.

God does not make mistakes. If He gave you a female body, it means that he wants you to live your life as a Jewish woman, not as a Jewish man.

If you were to undergo an operation to try to change your sex, you would be trying to escape from the responsibilities that God has entrusted with you. If you underwent an operation, you may look more like the way you feel, but in God's eyes you would still be a Jewish woman and be expected to act that way. No amount of operations or name changes (a name change, by the way, is not advisable) can alter the metaphysical reality, nor its implications, that was imposed upon you by your Creator, along with its incumbent responsibilities.

Consider the person who was born with an unusual ability to perform on the violin. God has given him this talent to bring peace, tranquility and joy to his fellow humans.

Now let us say that this person has no desire to give other people pleasure. In his heart he does not feel like playing. However, the obligation to give others pleasure is still incumbent upon him. Even if he were to cut off all his fingers, it would not change the obligations that he has, he would simply be unable to fulfill them.

This does not negate your feelings in any way. It is your right to feel like a male inside. This, however, does not affect the expectations that God has of you as a Jew with a female body.

Undoubtedly, this is a great challenge on many different levels and you were chosen to be the one to face this.

I know this is a very major problem. I suggest that you discuss this with an Orthodox therapist. If you tell me what city you're located in, I'll be happy to recommend someone that you could contact.


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