Abby Stein grew up in an insular, Hasidic community in Brooklyn. When she realized she wanted a different kind of life, she contacted Footsteps, an organization that helps formerly ultra-Orthodox Jews integrate into mainstream society. It turns out, that would be only her first transition. This story begins with Part One.
I had a summer job working at Camp Ramah, and while I managed to stay afloat, I think, I was socially very awkward. I think everyone just assumed I’m gay. But really I wasn’t in the mood to think of sexuality while I was still working out gender. I got back from camp in July and my depression hit me again, really hard. I live in a Co-Op, we have a kitchen where there’s always food, so I never had to leave the house. It was really bad. That’s not a life. I was used to it being a cycle, battling gender dysphoria every few weeks, but this time it didn’t get better. So eventually I gave up. I went back to the LGBT Community Center and saw a doctor.
My last 10 weeks, for the first time since I remember, I have not had to battle that depression. Ten weeks ago I started Hormone Replacement Therapy.
I slowly started coming out to close friends.
I sent an email to the other members of the Co-Op where I live, and I came out to a few other people who are close to me, like one of the rabbis at my campus Hillel. I came out to some people at Footsteps, and I’ve been going to trans events at the LGBT Community Center, at Nehirim, and at JQY.
Finally, last week I came out in public, or as some would call it, I made it “Facebook Official.” The love and support I have received since has been above anything I ever imagined.
I would not let how my parents react be an obstacle. But I have been in touch with them since I left the community, and they’ve come a long way. I wouldn’t call them accepting, but they are making their peace with it.
They think of having a child who has left the community as being like having a child with cancer: am I going to reject him? Of course not. I don’t go there that often, but I visit for a Shabbat three or four times a year, some holiday meals, my siblings’ weddings. Because I felt like they deserve to hear it from me, last week I came out to my father. He took it very badly. He said, and I knew before that he might, that he has to think about it, but it is possible that the family will not be able to stay in touch with me. It is hard, but I can live with that.