Keshet is a national organization that works for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life. The organization equips Jewish leaders with tools to build LGBTQ-affirming communities, creates spaces for queer Jewish teens to feel valued and develop their own leadership skills, and mobilizes the Jewish community to fight for LGBTQ justice. Keshet’s blog spotlights this work, as well as the voices of LGBTQ Jews, our families, and allies.
From my earliest memories, I wanted to have children. I even had dreams and daydreams about finding abandoned babies in the streets and raising them as my own. I hoped to marry young and have a large brood of biological and adopted children. I drew hundreds of pictures of my future family and spoke with my best friend about our plans to live near each other with an underground tunnel connecting our houses so our children could play.
I never dreamed that one day I would be an Abba.
You see, when I was a child, I was a girl. Although I wished I was a boy, at some point I realized there wasn’t anything I could do about that. I would do the best I could with being a girl. There were many female roles that I could not identify with—I never wanted to be a princess, mermaid, or diva… but I could be a mother. I could be a frum (ultra-orthodox Jewish) mother who wore baggy, long-sleeved shirts, long, flowing skirts, and a “snood” (a bag-like cloth head-covering known for its ease and comfort but not for its fashionableness).
I knew I could only have this family if I married a frum man but try as I might, I couldn’t imagine what I would wear at my wedding. The idea of wearing a stereotypical wedding gown made me nauseated long before I knew anything about being transgender. In High School, I tried to draw a dress that looked more like a tuxedo but could never quite get it to look “right.”
My story between ages 17-21 gets a little complicated but to make a long story short, I took a “break” from being frum, became an EMT in New York, and got sober. I found out what “transgender” was and despite experiencing immediate identification with the concept, I stayed in denial about myself for a while. When I finally came out as a transman in 2007, I didn’t know if testosterone would impact my ability to conceive but I knew I had to be true to myself. I started on the path of transitioning medically hoping that one day I could still conceive and birth a child.
I was very excited when the news of Thomas Beattie’s successful pregnancy came out in 2008. He had been on testosterone for 10 years before getting pregnant so there was hope that I could do the same when the timing was right. I did not feel the need to be partnered in order to have kids but I did want to be in a stable place in terms of community, mental health, and finances before attempting to become a parent.
I became a godfather for the first time in 2012, a foster father to a pre-teen in 2014, and finally a gestational father in 2015 with the birth of my daughter, Ettie. I had her brother, Bentzion, in 2018. They are fantastic little people full of personality and love. We are surrounded by friends and community. We’re making life during COVID work and they have now returned to daycare allowing me to see my clients (I’m a therapist) in some amount of peace.
I don’t identify as nonbinary but I am aware that there are aspects of my particular journey that are not relatable to most men. The words dad and father aren’t the ones that resonate most for me but they do describe my relationship to my children. As someone with strong emotional ties to my Jewish community and Israel, “Abba” as a parent name suits me best and makes my heart feel full and warm.
I am a proud, queer, Jewish, transgender, gestational dad to two young children. I now have four godchildren altogether and one former foster daughter. My family and life today may not look exactly like what I had imagined as a child, but I am thrilled to be living both of my childhood dreams after all in a way I could never have imagined possible. I’m a seahorse Abba, and I celebrate Father’s Day.