Monday, November 05, 2012


Re-writing my journalism assignment on a talk given by Dr. Joy Ladin, I found myself very intrigued by the intersection of gender, sexuality and religion. For my final paper I am going to be taking a very different approach to looking at the same intersection. Rather than transgender identity and Judaism I will be looking at youth college student identity and Catholic school, USF.

It is so cool how all of my classes seem to be overlapping this semester and I am really looking forward to the body of work that it is going to produce for me as a reflection on my last semester as a college student.

Here is the assignment I have written and submitted about Dr. Joy Ladin:

She’s the Man
 “My kids call me daddy”, Dr. Joy Ladin said, talking about her young children since she made the transition from man to woman in 2007. After feeling trapped in the wrong body for decades, Ladin changed everything. “I was a good man”, she said. Though, to her, that meant being a bad person. On October Second, Ladin, English Professor at Yeshiva University and author of seven books, spoke to USF students about her relationship with herself, her God, and the world, reading excerpts from her autobiography and creating a dialogue with the audience, as well.
Growing up as a Reformed Jew, Ladin said she was drawn to Orthodox Judaism and felt a special relationship with her version of God and the Jewish scriptures of the Torah. She is the first openly transgender person to be employed by an Orthodox Jewish institution. To many, her transgendered-ness and Judaism are mutually exclusive, yet Ladin read and continues to read the Torah, her way. While the Talmud, Torah and Judaism itself, alienated her, it also comforted her a great deal. She said that a lot of trans children feel a closeness to God because God has no physical body, so the sense of being created in the image of God really resonated with her. Also, she believes that since God made her, she is therefore accepted for who she is and especially who she is not.
            Ladin said: “after being a persona, I wanted to become a person”. She understands her transition in terms of learning and becoming fluent in a new language. That language is gender, the way people understand who they are in relationship to themselves and the world. She quoted the Talmud, saying: “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?” This helped her realize that she could never actually be in a state of being until she was for herself and truly became the woman she always knew herself to be.
The transition that she eventually made after marrying and fathering two children, was far from resolving the “problem” of finding a self-identity. “I had to remake myself in the eyes of others”, she said, explaining how difficult this can be. Gender is indeed, a performance with many parts. For instance, becoming the woman she always knew herself to be, meant changing the clothing that she wore everyday, shaving her facial hair and speaking with a different tone of voice.
When a student asked her if she had changed her genitals to fully become a woman. Ladin responded: “It’s important for me to not answer”. She acknowledged that it was a good question and a typical one, but not natural or fair. She explained that when she made her transition, she felt as though it was a trade for her right to having a private self.
            It has not exactly been easy for her family, either. Ladin’s nine year-old does not want ‘daddy’ to come to her school because she does not want to have to explain why daddy identifies and dresses like a woman, to her friends. Ladin does not regret or wish that she were born a woman in the first place. “If it had been any other way, they wouldn’t exist”, she said of her children.
Her autobiography, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey between Genders, explains that if identity is a combination of being and becoming. While others spend a lot of time being and very little, becoming, she said she is “always going to be a process of becoming with a little bit of being mixed in”.

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