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Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner’s Thought for the Day: 9 October 2018

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner shared her particularly moving and personal Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on 9 October 2018.

Click here to listen to or download the broadcast.

Click here to read an interview with The Telegraph following the broadcast.

 

When I was just 14 weeks pregnant, the ultrasound sonographer already concluded that our eldest child was a girl. At birth, we gave her an Israeli girl’s name Tali. Tali’s body indicated that she was a girl but her mind, heart and soul weren’t female and aren’t. Now as a 27 year old, her pronoun isn’t “she” or “he” but “they”. Tali’s now Tal – a unisex Israeli name and they don’t identify either as a woman nor as a man but as a person whose gender is non-binary.

As I responded this week to the public consultation on the Gender Recognition Act for England and Wales, I was tearful. My tears were tears of protection, loss but also pride. This consultation closes next week and it revisits the 2004 Act which enabled basic rights for trans people. It considers how to make the process of gender recognition less bureaucratic and invasive and how to include broader definitions of gender.

Our views of gender are influenced by deep-rooted cultural and religious assumptions. Jews tend to read the Creation story through a gender binary prism – God made a man and then a woman. But, my colleague, student rabbi Lev Taylor points to rabbinic interpretations that overturn these assumptions. It’s unclear that Adam was the first man – as the Hebrew word “Adam”, acts as a noun, not a name. It’s from “adamah”, meaning earth. Adam, was an “earthling”. Another interpretation of the Hebrew text suggests that the original human being had one body with two sets of genitalia and two faces, a type of “primordial androgyne.”

We don’t live in a sterile Paradise, in the Garden of Eden. We live in a delightfully messy reality in which our curiosity is the real Tree of Knowledge. However this curiosity has become risky as some of the public discussion on the Gender Recognition Act is so fierce, that many people are too scared to debate it for fear of a fiery backlash.
Asking questions doesn’t mean you’re transphobic but that you may not understand definitions and experiences that are totally new to you. Whilst the anger and fear felt by trans and gender non-binary people is understandable due to years of persecution and exclusion, it’s legitimate to be curious, uncertain, ambivalent or disagree with this legislation.

When Tali, now Tal, was born they were so beautiful that as I wheeled them down the hospital corridor, people looked at us and asked, “is she really yours”? Yes, she was beautiful and they’re still beautiful and handsome and they’re still mine.

We’re so blessed by having a trans-child.

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