Deva Torah Haftorah Shofteem:
You Afflicted and Drunk Without Wine
This Torah and Haphtarah is significant to me for a number of reasons. Shofteem occurs on my father’s birthday according to the Hebrew Calendar, his mother’s yortsite, the approximate date of my other grandparents’ wedding anniversary and was the Haphtarah my ex and I read the day before our wedding. As a former folk dancer, both international and Israeli I recognize in it Mona Vu, an Israeli folk dance. I have used Shofteem as the title of one of my short stories. It also has significance to me as a transgendered individual containing the phrase: You (are) afflicted (and) drunk without wine.
That sums up not only my experience, but also almost all transgender experiences. We start out early being ostracized by the other kids because they know we are different. If our brain is female the boys don’t want to hang around a sissy and the girls don’t want to be with an icky boy. If we have a male brain and a female body the girls don’t want to be with a pushy boy and the boys see just a girl. Occasionally there may be a girl who sees the girl in us, or a boy who sees the boy in us and becomes our friend.
As time goes by we get verbally and physically abused. This abuse comes from
“friends,” peers, siblings and parents. It may occur from total strangers and often goes a far as rape and murder.
We question ourselves with “What’s wrong with me?”, knowing, but still not accepting the unthinkable cruelty of being in the “wrong body.” We are alone thinking that we are the only person alive who has this kind of feelings.
We pray and ask G_d or another deity to change us or we try to use magic so what is between our legs finally matches our mind. Disappointed and frustrated, we are still in the wrong body.
We also get that “What’s wrong with you?” “discussion” that is really a speech, resulting in being coerced into playing football and learning how to fight because dad wants to “make a man” out of us or mom makes us learn how to cook, sew, clean house and other feminine things so we will become good housewives. Sometimes trying to fit in, we do it to ourselves, usually without success. But that doesn’t mean we can fight our way out of a paper bag or boil water without burning it.
Then our bodies betray us. We become that big hairy clod instead of the pretty petite girl we see in our mind’s eye. For a male in a female body we are still 5’ 2”, 98 lbs. soaking wet after bodybuilding.
Many of us learn to hide our true selves by pretending to be the sex our body says we are. Often we marry and have children. But we are not honest. We are false witnesses. Internally, the male and female parts of our bodies and minds are constantly fighting so we never get that inner peace called contentment.
Some of us suppress our need so strongly that we tell the world that we are not transgendered. Yet, we feel a need to crossdress. Some of us may need to have someone else tell us, or even force us to crossdress.
We hide in other ways, too. Some hide with death. I am proud of those who have kept their promise to me not to commit suicide. One recently asked me to release her from that promise. I had to tell her only if she had a medical condition that warrants “Do Not Resuscitate.” We might also do self harm, a “minor” form of suicide. I have heard of some of us that cut off their testicles, or tried to. Some of us hide by having unsafe sex resulting in gonorrhea, syphilis, or AIDS. In other words: a slow form of suicide.
Or we hide behind drugs. Hopefully those of us that go that route end up in Alcoholics Anonymous, Synanon or other treatment centers before we either end up in jail or die.
We often develop various forms of mental illness, as a product of the extreme shame or bewilderment we have. We are admitted to psychiatric treatment centers or at least, being driven by guilt or unable to accept the unacceptable, we talk to psychologists or psychiatrists. Many of us are depressed and end up on anti depressants.
We also don’t know how to relate to others. We are alone so we don’t pick up the interrelationship clues that other teens learn because they are with friends. As adults we don’t know how to deal with people so find ourselves alone or, because we are afraid of people gravitate towards rural areas because there are less people to deal with or major urban areas because there everyone is anonymous.
Many of us are “read” and caught out partially because we are fearful of being read and caught out. We also might be read because there are few genetic 6’ 2” women. Even after transition we may be mentally looking over our shoulders to see if anyone is outing us, either maliciously or unintentionally. Either way we could be hurt and humiliated if it happens.
In addition to being gender dysphoric we may also have age dysphoria. I have seen the tears in the eyes of one physically adult “little girl” I call daughter when we are in the company that includes real children. It is then that I wish a miracle would happen so I can hug her, dry her eyes and tell her to go play. It tugs at my heart that it will never happen.
We are also more likely to have heart attacks and other diseases caused by stress due to the never ending battle between the male and female within us. This stress, beginning in early age, can result in poor education that leads to low paying jobs with low or no medical coverage. This leads to our inability to get proper medical care, even for medical issues not connected to transgender or age dysphoria, creating still more stress. Our desperation to transition is so great and our finances so small we may resort to self medication, sometimes through the internet. Yet, the use of these drugs needs to be monitored or we run the risk of hurting ourselves or dying.
In the end some of us decide to transition, trying to make our bodies match our minds, even though it is like building a house starting on the second floor. Others decide not to. That is O. K., too. As noted before many of us cannot afford the many expensive procedures that are necessary to truly transition. We often transition with great difficulty. The woman trapped in a male body has to somehow hide her beard. A female to male still has breasts to deal with.
Yet at this time we begin to choose life, and most of us gain that inner peace because we can be our true selves. It is strange that this is the time others tell us we are going to Hell when, in reality, we have just gotten out of it. The hate they give us is sometimes greater than the contempt that should be reserved for murderers. But they forget that “we have not come into being to hate and destroy, (but instead) to praise, to labor and to love.” The hate goes so far that some religious institutions have barred us from even entering their houses of worship or require us to wear “gender neutral” clothing.
Sometimes there is the issue of how we are addressed. For example, some of us have been asked, “What does your son or daughter call you?” One child of a male to female woman stated that she is his father. Both are proud of that statement. The daughter of another referred to her now female father as mom and both were happy with the reference. The pronoun used by the child, parent or sibling may give pride, as in these examples, or it may hurt the transgendered individual.
In public the male or female reference to us may be at times different. To the same individual sometimes the “sir” or “madam” may not be important other times it is. It could even hurt, especially when it comes from “friends” and family.
Many of us have lost family and friends and have been ostracized by some that never took the time to get to know us. As a result we often band together to form our own family. Personally, I am one of those who created a group called the Evil Witch Family consisting of mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, nieces and grandchildren. Some of my family and some outside our family have a goal to create a transgender shelter and information center. If we can, then there would be a safe environment so a person could safely transition if needing to. Then to paraphrase that same Haphtarah: we would have taken out of their hands “the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of fury.” They would “never drink it again.”
I’m not saying that my pain is greater or less than yours. I AM asking you to follow the words that are almost in the center of the Torah: to love your neighbor as you love yourself. It is a hallmark of the Western religions and many of the others. The rest is just commentary.
Biblical quotes paragraphing and references:
Haphtarah reading: Isaiah: 51:12-52:12, specifically: 51:21-22 and Mona Vu 52:7
Others: Exodus 20:13 Leviticus 19:18 Numbers 6:25 Deuteronomy 30: 15-19
“The rest is just commentary”
is from a quote in the Talmud from Hillel the Great who lived about 2300 years ago. A man went to Hillel as challenged, “If you can tell me the whole of the Torah while standing on one foot I will become a Jew.” Hillel responded, “What is hateful to thee do not do to another. That is the whole of the torah. The rest is just commentary. Now go study.”
“To hate and destroy …”
is a slightly rephrasing of part of the prayer for peace by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov as told by Rabbi Nathan.
“Building a house …”
a comment by Kaitlin Thompson, an author of transgender fiction and a member of the “Family”
is a book by Mildred L Brown and Chloe Ann Rounsley. I have been told it is one of the best of many books on the transgendered condition. I have not read it.
Accepting the unacceptable/Enduring the unendurable:
is part of and paraphrasing a quote by Hirohito in his message of surrender ending WWII: “We have resolved to endure the unendurable and suffer what is insufferable.”
I thank Holly Hart, Allysson de Merel, Nori Herras, Angela Rasch, Donna Riley and Heather Rose Brown for their comments, suggestions, editing and proofing.
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