Yahoo news published an article about Yiscah Smith, a transgender woman in Israel who used to be a Chabad Shaliach. The article is neither here nor there for me. I respect Ms. Smith very much and I have heard wonderful things about her. The article itself is fine. Not earth shattering. I thought it ended prematurely, content-wise. Feel free to read it.
Once again, I’m going to bring up one of “those” famous Facebook threads. The post was made by Eliyahu Fink who has, in my opinion, proven himself as an Orthodox Rabbi who is an ally for LGBT people and who has continuously shown a great level of sensitivity and care for this population in the Orthodox community. I am generally not someone who likes to read things that aggravate me. If something comes up on Facebook that I know will piss me off, I usually do myself a favor and hide that post as soon as I see it because I know that no good can come from me being annoyed simply because I don’t agree with someone else. So why do I read threads like the one mentioned above? I think I read them because within the 234 comments that may include 150 ignorant, homophobic,mean-spirited and bullying comments, there are also 84 comments that are supportive, sensitive, informative, and surprising in a good way (no I didn’t count, I’m offering a ballpark estimate). So it’s a cost-benefit analysis for me. I have to read through the horrible stuff in order to find the things that give me hope.
Having said that, this thread was awful. Every terrible thing that you would think would be said was said. In the name of religion. Out of ignorance. Out of homophobia. You name it. But I realized something. I realized that I’ve become very comfortable with the concept of people being transgender. Not to say I was actually ever uncomfortable, but it has become part of my normal lexicon as well as my part of my proverbial wheelhouse. I don’t look at transgender people as “sick” or as having had made a choice. I’m comfortable using pronouns that a transgender person prefers to use for them. So why am I telling you this? It’s certainly not to toot my own horn, this would be a ridiculous thing to brag about, it’s a statement of fact. But I’m telling you this because It’s possible to go from a level of some awareness but not a lot, to not only familiarity but comfort.
Why am I now more comfortable with this? It’s not because my son is gay. Gay and transgender are two very different things, as much as they are grouped together in the world’s mind. But through this journey I have met several transgender individuals as well as a fair amount of parents of transgender people. These people are regular folks. Like you and me. They didn’t do anything “wrong”. They aren’t freaks. They are not people who just like to dress up like people of the opposite gender. They are not just cross dressers. They are not drag queens. They did not “choose to change genders”. The word transgender itself encompasses a large spectrum and knowing that someone is transgender does not allow one to make ANY assumptions on whether they have had gender reassignment surgery or not.
So maybe I drank the kool-aid that leads one down the “liberal politically correct slippery slope”. And if that is what first hand knowledge of a situation does, I’ll drink it again. I hope that the haters are able to look past their ignorance, homophobia and generic “ick” to realize that there are people behind the stories and that it is quite possible to get to know one of these people and realize that their struggles may not be so different from anyone else’s struggles. Their struggles just present in a different way than most people are used to. Then maybe the Kool-aid will become more palatable for them too.