When Abba becomes Ima – transsexuals in Orthodox society

JPost.com – By Meira Maierovitz Drazin / JTA

Mordechai, a 31-year-old Orthodox lawyer from Toronto, gave his wife a Jewish divorce this summer.

Then he began his life as Nicole, a woman.

Nicole isn’t the first transgender person to live an Orthodox life, but as far as anyone knows she is the first Orthodox person to transition publicly and “in place.” Transsexuals may always face obstacles and taboos in mainstream Western societies, but Orthodox Jews who make the transition face even greater complications.

“I’m not challenging halachic Judaism and I don’t want it to be perceived that way,” Nicole said, referring to Jewish law. “It would be easier for me in some ways to reject Judaism and the Orthodox community, but it’s what I believe and value, and [transitioning] isn’t a rejection of any of those things but an affirmation of them.”

“Ninety-nine percent of Orthodox Jews who transition do not stay frum,” or religiously observant, said Beth Orens, the pseudonym of one Orthodox transwoman from the Midwest who is the most visible and prolific Internet presence on issues of Judaism and transsexuality. “It takes a certain amount of stubbornness to do so.