Torah, From a Transgender Perspective

From The Tablet:

Joy Ladin’s new book, ‘Soul of the Stranger,’ explores her intimate connection with God

By Shoshana Olidort
November 15, 2018

“If I were God, and I wanted to invent religion, and the material I had to work with was a patriarchal society, I would make the religion as patriarchal as I could,” Joy Ladin told me when we spoke by phone recently. This may seem like a surprising comment coming from a transgender Jewish poet and scholar, but Ladin is a person of faith and this stance informs the trans theology at the center of her new book, The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective, in which Ladin offers close readings of key biblical passages to question pervasive assumptions about a religiously mandated gender binary. For Ladin, God is not particularly invested in gender, and the patriarchal language of the Torah reflects a pragmatic rather than an ideological choice, a strategic move motivated by the need to perpetuate religion in a world in which, as she went on to explain, “people won’t transmit texts that deal with gender in ways they don’t understand.” Her statement echoes Maimonides oft-cited assertion that “the Torah speaks in the language of men.”

But while the language of the Torah is fundamentally patriarchal, Ladin’s reading reveals a surprising degree of flexibility and openness in the Torah’s treatment of gender. At the same time, Ladin—who has published 10 books of poetry and a memoir, as well as numerous essays—insists that her reading here does not aim to “queer” the Torah. “My goal isn’t to produce a different Torah,” she said. “I love the Torah as it is, in all of its strangeness, and I strongly feel that the greatness of the Torah is that we don’t have to change it for our perspectives to bring it to life and enable it to grow.”

Ladin’s book is hard to categorize: Neither strictly scholarly, nor purely autobiographical, The Soul of the Stranger defies boundaries as it moves between and across multiple genres, drawing on personal experiences to illuminate sacred texts, and using Torah as a mirror to reflect the complexities of human life. Reading the story of Jonah from a transgender perspective, Ladin suggests that the prophet’s predicament is one that resonates with the experience of transgender individuals who are desperate to “avoid living as the person (in Jonah’s case, as the prophet) they know themselves to be.” But Ladin is careful to point out that the trans experience, for all its particularities, is not something apart from but rather intrinsic to our shared humanity. “Trans experience is human experience,” Ladin said, because “everyone has experiences of not fitting assigned roles and definitions.”

Analyzing the creation narratives in Genesis, Ladin demonstrates that “Adam is human before he is gendered,” and that even when the Torah asserts the gender binary in Genesis 1:26-27, it does so without attaching any meaning, symbolic or otherwise, or assigning specific roles to gender. Ladin’s trans-reading of these texts seeks to foreground what she sees as the Torah’s fundamental ambivalence about the gender binary, a binary she sees “not as a divine decree but as a human invention.” Read through this lens, transgender identities, though they may seem “new and startling,” are in fact, according to Ladin, “direct descendants of the biblical genesis of gender.”

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Torah, From a Transgender Perspective


From Facebook:

Aidan Comerford
Nov. 26, 2018

Us Irish have taken on a lot of British culture – their language, their football teams, their willingness to go into the ballot box and shoot themselves in the feet, stomach and face – but now there is something new rising up in British culture, that we must erect a hard border against: TERFs.

“What’s a TERF?” you ask. It stands for Trans-Exclusionary-Radical-Feminist.
TERFs don’t like the term, and I tend to agree. It’s not a good description, because there is nothing radical or feminist about them. Just as God-fearing Creationism was re-branded as cuddly Intelligent Design, TERFism is just good-old-fashioned transphobia, re-packaged with oh-so-rational bows.

Essentially, what we are looking at here is “Homophobia: Season Two.” Luckily, for Irish trans people, this movement is currently as British as Jacob Rees-Mogg’s monocle, but if the TERFs have their way, this show will soon be coming to an Ireland near you. (I think they might be trying to get us back for the whole “Jedward” thing.)

TERFs are doing cover versions of all of homophobia’s greatest hits. Stop me if you’ve heard these ones before:

– “Beware the trans agenda! Trans-acceptance is a cult!”
– “They’re using social media to groom the kids!”
– “Allowing trans people to use words like “women,” diminishes our womanhood.”
– “Transgenderism is a mental illness that can be cured without transitioning.”
– “No, this isn’t trans-conversion therapy, we’re just teaching kids not to give in to their…urges.”
– “Some of our best friends are trans people, and they agree with us.”
– “If we let boys identify as girls, it’s a slippery slope: should we buy kennels for kids who want to identify as dogs?”

I could on, but those are some of the classics.

TERFs also say that a proposed British “self-id” law, to make legally transitioning a little easier, will turn Britain into a dystopian landscape, with rapists in dresses roaming un-tethered through women’s safe spaces. There’s just a slight problem with that theory: Ireland has had a trans self-id law since 2015, and men continue to not require the right shade of lippy to abuse women.

In fairness to Irish people, unlike our British-Brexit-Brethern we have been doing a bit better in the ballot box of late. When we were warned that accepting gay marriage would turn Ireland into Sodom and Gomorrah, we collectively replied, “Turn Ireland INTO Sodom and Gomorrah?! You’ve clearly never been in a Galway Supermacs at 2am,” and, to our credit, we voted to support the LGBT community.

Now we need to redouble our support: British TERFs are coming to warn us that trans-acceptance isn’t actually decent or sound, it is, in fact, leading us into a misogynistic, patriarchal, fetishistic hellhole. We should answer them loudly, with one voice: “NO! That’s not trans-acceptance. That’s “Athlone” you’re thinking of.”

Unfortunately, to our shame, the current King of British TERFs is an Irishman: Graham Linehan. Yes, THAT Graham Linehan, the writer of “Father Ted.” Graham has mis-gendered and dead-named trans people on Twitter. Dead-naming is calling a trans person by their birth name, and it is equivalent to using the “F” word to describe gay people.

“No, not “fabulous,” Dougal.”

Perhaps, in Graham’s case, we could get the British to continue their fine tradition of claiming our successful writers as their own?

“Sure, there’s always one,” your Ma would say, and she would have been right, I think, except that this week Channel 4 aired a documentary called “Trans Kids: It’s Time To Talk,” by Stella O’ Malley, an Irish psychotherapist and writer.

Like me, Stella grew up in the 70s and 80s in Ireland. Like me, she thought she was a boy. She said, though, that around her mid-teens, her “gender confusion” was finally fully cured…by a good haircut – “it changed my life,” she says herself. (I’ve always had a bad haircut, which must be why I still feel like I’m a boy.)

Stella worried aloud that if she were growing up now, with all this new-fangled trans-acceptance, she would probably have transitioned, and then had to de-transition, even though kids’ haircuts are WAY better now.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on TERFs: IT’S TIME TO TALK