We know that this post is much longer than our usual posts. We do hope you’ll stick with it to the end – Rafi’s story is very compelling. We promise it will be worth your time!
(This talk was delivered at Bonai Shalom, Boulder, Colorado, November 2, 2012)
My name is Rafi. I am a transgender Jewish man. This means that I was born female and transitioned to male. Thanks to advances in medical science, this is not something that you can see when you look at me. I’m an appropriate height for a (Jewish) male, I have lots of facial hair and other fur, my voice has deepened to the level of a higher-pitched male. For the most part, I “pass” as a dude.
When I was a little girl growing up in Colorado, I felt there was something different about me. I yearned with all of my heart to be a boy. I wasn’t particularly masculine as a child. Although I did love going fishing and “fixing things” with my father, my favorite colors were pink and purple, I played with baby dolls almost exclusively, I loved drawing and coloring, and playing make-believe games with friends. But at night, when I was about to go to sleep, I would pray, “Dear G-d, please make me a boy,” and was disappointed when I awoke and was still very much a girl.
We became Orthodox when I was a young child. I felt very comfortable in that community and still appreciate the values I learned there. Every Purim I would dress as “a boy” and wear a yarmulke and tzitzis and would bring pieces of my long hair forward to be “payos.” When my brother had his bar mitzvah, I woke up in the middle of the night once to try on his tefillin. I felt desperately that I was missing out on something that I should have experienced as well. I feel pretty sure that at some point I expressed my desire to be male to my mother. The response I remember (which is not necessarily the response she gave me) was, “Every little girl just wishes she was a boy.” She may have said, “Every girl wishes she was a boy sometimes,” or “once in a while,” but what I heard was that being a girl sucked and everyone else knew it too.