To all those who have recently posted comments, I would encourage you to join the Dina List. You can join the Dina List by following the instructions on the Dina List page.
Thanks and looking forward to seeing you on the list.
We are pleased to announce the first (annual?) Dina Shabbaton. The Shabbaton will IY”H take place at the beginning of June and is open to all Jewish trans people (FTM and MTF) and their SOFFA (Significant Others, Family, Friends and Allies). We hope this will be a wonderful opportunity for Jewish trans people and SOFFA to spend a Shabbos together, build community, share support, see old friends and make new ones, all in a safe and frum positive environment. If you are interested in attending, please contact the administrator, or join the Dina List, for further details including price. If finances are an issue, scholarships may be available to offset some of the costs. For information on how to join the Dina List, please visit the Dina List Membership Page and follow the instructions given.
If this sounds right for you, we hope that you will join us.
For all readers living in Toronto or surrounding areas, this is an important notice/reminder that Gift of Life is running a Bone Marrow Donor Drive to find matches for bone marrow transplants for people dealing with leukemia. The drive information is listed below. All those that can attend are encouraged to. Dates and locations for drives in other cities can be found on the Gift of Life website.
Sunday, Jan 28, 2007
10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
4588 Bathurst Street
Jeruslem Room # 102
Toronto, Ontario, M5N2V1 Canada
Welcome all. Our first profile has been posted on the Dina Blog Profile Page. Please check in every so often as more people post their profiles.
If you are interested in sharing your story, please contact the administrator.
As readers of this blog are probably aware, Meira Meirovitz Drazin recently wrote two articles on the subject of transsexed individuals within the Orthodox Jewish community. If you haven’t had a chance to read them, you can find them at http://www.floridajewishnews.com/site/c/torah_lifestyle/.
The administrators agreed to be interviewed for these articles in the hope that a dialogue about gender identity and gender transition will ensue in the Orthodox community. The desire to begin a dialogue, however, should not be viewed as a challenge to halachic Judaism. Rather, it should be seen as an overture to the Orthodox community to take the time to understand the realities and challenges of the condition that transsexed people deal with. Treading down the road is made more challenging by virtue of the desire to fulfill our obligations and retain access to our religious faith and observances as well as our involvement with and contributions to the Jewish community. Despite the difficulty, the motivation to maintain a kesher (connection) to halachic Judaism and the Orthodox and greater Jewish community is one of belief, commitment and devotion.
That being said, Orthodox transsexuals don’t want or need a halachic or social carte blanche, but we humbly request the trust and respect that is due to people equally created B’Tselem Elokim, in God’s image. We agree that it is important that halacha deal with these issues, but with knowledge of the realities of the condition and without misperceptions, misunderstandings, and invalid assumptions.
Whether transsexuality is seen as a psychiatric condition (sic) or akin to an intersex condition, it is very real, intensely painful, is often unchangeable, can be life threatening, and can render a person unable to live in their gender assigned at birth. No transsexual person would choose to suffer from gender dysphoria. Furthermore, transsexed people would not suggest gender transition to anyone except in severe cases of G.D. This is because transsexual men and women understand how challenging gender transition is (irrespective of religious considerations). Gender transition is costly, disruptive, and generally extremely difficult. Nevertheless, in some cases, the very real pain of living in the wrong sex/gender poses a far greater threat to a transsexed person’s ability to function and survive.
Given the choice, transsexual people would overwhelmingly choose to have been born in a body that matches their gender identity, as most people are, rather than live a life in excruciating conflict, risk family and social relationships, face societal discrimination in access to health care, employment, services, etc., and go through an extremely challenging transition process to bring their physical sex and gender into line with their gender identity. In reality, for transsexed people such a choice does not exist.
Despite all of the difficulties, transsexed people pursue hormone therapy, gender transition and, in many cases, sex reassignment surgery, because it provides tremendous relief from the anguish of gender dysphoria and it really does save lives.
Accordingly, at a minimum, regardless of whether or not sex reassignment surgery effects a halachicly recognized change in gender status (and there is legitimate, though currently minority, halachic opinion to support this view), or whether hormone therapy, gender transition and sex reassignment surgery is mutar lchatchila (though if it were determined that such a procedure would avert a situation of pikuach nefesh, or risk to life, it would be a chiyuv d’Oraysa [a directly Toraitic imperative], or if it were determined to be a matter of compulsion one who underwent GT, HRT, and SRS would be seen as an Ones [one who is compelled and is therefore not morally culpable]), any halachic analysis must take into account the realities of the condition. Additionally, any halachic analysis regarding the inclusion of trans people within the Orthodox community must take a factual look at the motivations and intentions behind transition and not assume that transsexuality is “contagious” (which it is not) or that such a path is indicative of a rejection of halachic Judaism.
Advising a transsexual that they are obligated to attend synagogue dressed in their pre-transition gender’s clothes and to sit in their pre-transition gender’s section does not address the reality of the condition, the psychological anguish, harm and the embarrassment that an attempt to do this would cause, the undeniable physical changes that result from hormone therapy and the results of sex reassignment surgery, not to mention the significant therapeutic benefits of gender transition.
Now that doesn’t say that the halacha is or is not a particular way, but these are at least some of the facts that must be weighed in. To sit in the Men’s section? Women’s section? To go to shul for davening (prayer service)? These are perhaps legitimate questions. But the way to resolve these issues is to follow a halachic process that accounts for all the information and is open to all the possibilities, not a process that has assumed the facts and formulated an answer before the question is even asked and the evidence presented.
Finally, the demonstrably false attitude and belief that transsexuality (and a host of other things deemed “unpleasant”) just does not and cannot happen within the Orthodox community is often harmful. This attitude forces people into denial as a defense mechanism and/or prevents them from acknowledging the condition and getting the help that they need. It also funnels people into life choices that may, due to what may be unrealistic and unsustainable expectations, exacerbate any potential negative effects on their lives and the lives of others. In general, we hope that the community will consider the attitudes and beliefs that exist, and the necessity of those attitudes and beliefs relative to the benefits and costs.
Accordingly, we hope that this blog will serve to:
- provide a network and community of support to those transsexed and transgender people who wish to maintain some form of connection to Judaism, the Jewish people, and other trans Jews; and,
- provide a network and community of support for the families (including spouses) of transsexed Jews; and
- provide information to the community to counter the rampant misconceptions, misunderstandings and inaccurate assumptions about trans people in general and Jewish transsexual and transgender people in particular.
Welcome to The Dina Blog, an international blog for and by Jewish trans people and their families to share their stories, resources and support. This blog will be geared to trans people and their families who have some background within the Orthodox Jewish community.
Dina was the daughter of the Patriarch Jacob. According to the Midrash (Jewish lore), Dina was conceived male. When her mother Leah realized that Dina would be her seventh son and that she would have the majority of the destined twelve tribes, while her sister Rachel would only have one, she prayed that Dina should be born a girl. A miracle occurred, the rabbis tell us, and Dina was changed to female in the womb.
For that reason, this blog is named after her.
The reason we have created this blog is because of the unique challenges that are faced by this group within the Orthodox community, and the fact that frum trans people have almost no voice or visibility, individually and collectively, for the broader community to experience.
Many of the folks that will be posting here have a deep love for and commitment to Torah, Halacha, the Jewish family, the Jewish community, Jewish culture and Jewish traditions generally. Others may have had experiences that have led them to feel otherwise. Our intention is to provide a forum for open and honest expression of people’s experiences and feelings while remaining respectful of the diversity of experience, feelings, opinions and beliefs of others.
As this site grows, the administrators of this blog hope that people who are both frum and trans, or family of these folks, will share their life stories and experiences for the benefit of the frum trans community and the broader Jewish and general community as well.
We invite the community to contact the administrators of this site if you are interested in contributing (anonymously, if that is where your comfort level is at), with a few words about your background and why you are interested in becoming a contributing author.
Thank you for visiting. We hope that this site will grow and develop so as to be a source of information, support, and understanding.