Sunday, August 30, 2015

The realization: It Is Time for The Second Transition

“We will describe the world from the woman’s point of view such as it is offered to her, and we will see the difficulties women are up against just when trying to escape the sphere they have been assigned until now.

-          Simone DeBeauvoir, The Second Sex

There is something amazingly relieving about ‘knowing’, knowing and coming to terms with the reality I have been trying to run away from for years - I am a girl.
Since I remember myself, I wanted to wake up one day as a girl. I was very far from the typical ‘masculine’ boy, even in a community where masculinity is not a discussion topic, so to speak. I was never interested in typical boy stuff, and I was always told that I act, and talk with the manners of a girl. On top of all this, I would have all different kind of imaginations how I can be a girl. Yet, until I was 19, I did not know that there is even something like that - someone assigned boy at birth who is actually a girl, in mind and spirit. To me this says something deeper. No one put this idea into my head. Something internal told me that the Me is not the - successful - boy it appears to be. The Me was a trapped girl. I was convinced, or rather convinced myself that I am crazy for having these weird thoughts.
Let me backtrack for a minute, and write in form of one paragraph, what the community I was raised in was like - in my personal experience (being aware that some people in the community might have had a different experience):[1]
Ultra-Orthodox Judaism believes that are whole life has to be devoted to God, and that we have to shun the outside world. Growing up this belief affected and dedicated my life in every small part of life. I was raised in New York City, not being able to have a conversation in English, my first and only (conversational) language was Yiddish, and the extent of my secular education was solving a long division. We had no access to anything related to popular culture, such as movies, TV, magazines, music, or theater (the first time I watched a Broadway show was at the age of 23). Marriage - an arranged marriage - is standard procedure at around age 18 (if you are still single at 20, you are sadly old).
This is a miniature description of the community I was raised in.
Back to my story: Feeling like a girl, was not only something I could not explain, but also something I was convinced is a sign that I am insane. Therefore, I never ever mentioned it to anyone in the world. For myself, I had all different kind of imaginations how this would be possible. I did not know any science, and for a while, the only possible solution seemed being born again. I can write a whole novel on how I drew this scenario in my mind…. (Who knows maybe it will make a best seller). Other times I would imagine having a full body transplant (I did know that much about medicine), and I had a whole collection of books and (Yiddish) newspaper articles about different organ transplants, hoping that with all of them combined I can have a full body “transplant” from male to female. At the same time, I hated myself for thinking like that.
However, running from one’s self, is, besides exhausting, impossible, and overtime I learned that it is dangerous - mentally and physically.
At the age of 20, I was, in outside appearance, a Hasidic Jew, a Husband, and a father to a two beautiful kids, but none of these labels felt like ME. I had questioned my faith for a long time, and at that point, I was almost fully an atheist. Now, while my questioning religion in several different ways had nothing to do with my gender identity, I do think it was triggered by an inner discomfort with myself. I felt that something is off, but I convinced myself that it cannot be that I am a girl, and therefore I was searching for something else. Throughout the whole time of my (what I call now -) First Transition, the process of leaving the Hasidic community, I knew that as much as I do not identify with my community, I also do not identify with my given gender. Nevertheless, as the wonderful Jennifer Boylan puts it in She’s Is Not There: A Life in Two Genders, I convinced myself that “How is it possible that you can could believe, with such heartbroken convection, something that, on the surface if it, seems so stupid?
For that time being, I taught myself to believe that once I leave the community, and I do the - with no doubt necessity - transition into the secular world, I will get over this “stupidity” of being a girl. I had to believe so, because as hard as it was to leave the community, I could not imagine how it would be to leave the male gender. Mentally and physically, I would not have survived, if -while going through the aches of leaving the community and starting my life from scratch - I had known that there is a second, longer, and harder transition awaiting me.
So, three years ago I was finally living full time in the secular world. Life was great. I started school, and I was trying to be happy.
That is when reality - in form of dark mental periods, and the incapacity to continue living as a man - hit me. I learned it the hard way: I CAN NOT RUN FROM MYSELF.
I am a girl, and if I ever want to have a normal life, it is as myself.
This is in short the background story that brought me to the realization that I have to start The Second Transition.

On that and on the amazing steps that life has for me in the next few months and years, I will write here.
I hope to write a weekly update post on how the transition is going, as well as reflection post from time to time.
I am writing for two main reasons:
  1.     For myself: it helps me tremendously to come to terms with what I am going through.
  2.     For others: they are so many people, of every community and race that struggle with these issues, and I hope that sharing my experience will help other people with their experiences.
Comments here, or by email, are warmly welcomed!
With Love and Hope,
A Girl @ The Second Transition
PS: I also started recording monthly transition videos, but as I don’t have to courage to come out yet, I will have to publish them when I am ready.

[1] I am not going to go more into my community background. It is a long conversation, and it will take away the focus from my “Second Transition” that I want to talk about on here. Maybe one day I will get to write more about my “First Transition.”
For now, here is a short incomplete list for these who want to explore this topic further.
Two of my friends published books on this subject, generally called going Off The Derech, Derech is Hebrew for path):
Shulem Deen, wrote an amazing book about his experience, called All Who Go Do Not Return. His story is the closest to my experience growing up.
Leah Vincent, wrote her own experience in the well written Cut Me Loose.
Also, check out the wonderful life saving organization, Footsteps which helps people raised in Ultra-Orthodox communities transition out.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


There are a lot of good books about people like me now. There are memoirs and textbooks by Jamison Green​, Leslie Feinberg​, Helen Boyd​, LaDonna Rose​, Susan Stryker​, Julia Serrano​, Chaz Bono​, Deborah Rudacille​, and many, many others. All of these stories have helped change trans issues from something extraordinary to something more commonplace, from a single, simple narrative to a series of messier ones, moving up toward s time when, as Robert Hunter​ once wrote, "things we've never seen will seem familiar."  
- She's Not There: A Life In Two Genders
This amazing book by my hero Jennifer Finney Boylan​ is heart warming to me, and I believe it is to everyone who is going through transition. As s he writes, today we have more resources, and more stories were written then ever.
However, I feel that in my case, No one has ever written about this combination. There is a lot out there written about the Off the Derech​ community - people leaving the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish world, and there is a lot written about people transitioning into living their respective self-identified gender.
But I haven't found anything written about a dual transition.
Therefore, I have decided to start a blog, and write down my own personal experience, and weekly updates. It will help me foremost reflect on my experiences, and hopefully help others in where ever they are in life.
I hope to post the first post tomorrow!