Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I Have Daddy and Mommy Issues: Yet I Am Finally Proud With It. A Trans Woman Coming To Terms With Rejection

“Mom, our family is breaking up because I’m a transsexual, and I can’t live as a man anymore.”
Years crowded into silence between us, years long gone and years yet to be lived. I thought I had prepared myself to lose her. After all, I told myself, you’ve never really had her. But, in that phase, when truly motherless years were only a breath away, I realized that I had never stopped clinging to the hope of her.
“I’ve heard about this,” she said at last. Her voice, rich and low, trained for a radio career she had never had, was thick with feeling. “I know that you have to be who you are, and, no matter what that is, you will always be my child.”
The air above my head felt empty. The sword that had always dangled above me, the terror of what would happen if my mother discovered what I was, was gone.”
Anyone who has been following my life experiences, in person, online on this blog, on different media outlets, or just via social media, knows that I rarely talk about my current relationship with my family (besides one genetic post I wrote over Hanukkah). That is not in any way because there is nothing to talk about; there is a lot to talk. Neither is it because I don’t care; I care more that I care to care. Rather it is because I can’t, I just cannot bring myself to talk about it. It hurts so much, so strongly and so deeply, yet (at least until now) I feel numb. I wanted to cry, just cry aloud like a newborn child, but my feelings are (/were) hard as a stone. On the other hand, I would rather describe it as deeply hidden beneath a rock. A Rock so big that the weight of it is more than any human being should ever have to carry.
          Today, as I read these above paragraphs, I managed to break through my stone-hard heart. I cried for over an hour, and I am in tears while I am writing these words.
          Since I was a child writing was my best therapy. I always used it to explain my inner feelings - to myself. Sharing it in public will help me more, and hopefully others who struggle.
These are some of my thoughts about my parents and family. Some of the reflections and heartaches I would like to get off my chest:
This is my way of doing it. The support I got until now from so many beautiful people in this beautiful world has been lifesaving, and I am counting on that even more. At the same time, please respect my families and my own privacy, and don’t ask for details I have not shared, as I don’t plan to share too many personal details, but rather emotional.
My father, maternal grandfather, and my great uncle, the Bobov'er Rebbe
On my third birthday
          If someone would ask me how I would describe my relationship with my parents, and even more specifically my father, prior to 2012 when I left religion, I would have to come on with a new term. Father-son relationship wouldn’t do justice. My father was one of my best friends; my father was probable one of the only people on earth who understood me in some way. For example, through my entire teenage years he was one of the only people who sincerely believed that there is something more going on beneath my identity struggles; and he was right. However, that this struggle might have anything to do with gender identity did not cross his mind,[1] because to him, cross-gender identity was a hypothetical idea discussed only in Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism). My father was the ONLY person in the world with whom I knew I can always be honest (not that I was, but that is a separate conversation), no matter what. He was the ultimate embodiment of the superficial “father figure” - but in a close reality. We had a lot of hiccups throughout the years, as my identity struggles all so often manifested in different ways, but we only grew closer.
          My parents have 13 kids, with eight of them marries that makes it 21, and tens of grandkids (I lost count), yet they both (used to, by now they only speak to twelve of them) speak with all of them every day. Growing up I thought this is how it is in every family. My father spoke to his parents[2] every day, it just felt ‘normal’ that we do the same. Until I went to boarding school at age 15 and I realized that this is not the norm, and in most families, kids speak with their parents a few times a week at most. Up to a few months ago, or to be exact, up until I came out to my father, I spoke with them every day. We disagreed on everything in life, but we were on the phone every day.  
My mother with my son on his third birthday
          My mother was kind of my doctor. She always said that having raised thirteen kids made her a better a doctor than a medical school ever could, and she was right 90% of the time. Whenever we (my siblings and I) wouldn’t feel well, she would know what it is just by looking on us. We would go to the doctor, but when we came home, she knew what the doctor said before we had a chance to tell her. Until two months ago, she was the first one to know when I was not feeling in best, and she was accessible by phone 24 hours a day, six days a week. I always knew that I can’t call her at three in the morning hoping that if she asleep she just wouldn’t pick up, because her phone was never on silence. She has thirteen kids, eight in-laws, tens of grandkids, and she knew every time one of us went on a doctor’s visit. Just like my father, she was - to me - the ultimate embodiment of the Mother figure.
          Throughout my life’s transitions, the thought of losing my relationship with my parents was always on top of my list of possible “Side defects” to living a self-determined life. It is one of the reasons I pushed off every change - especially to the big changes of leaving my ultra-religious community and coming out as a woman - until the last minute. However, it gets to a point where one realizes that “You cannot be a family member, you cannot be a child or sibling, if you are not you.” I always waited until I was a point where I simply wasn’t. When it got to a point where it was my sole existence and survival versus endangering my relationship with my parents, the option was clear. If I don’t exist, if I am not alive physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, I have lost my family anyway. That was the belief and underlying understanding in family relationship that guided my actions, and is guiding them until today.  
          When I came out to my father as an Atheist, I was ready for the possibility that he will reject me outright. Yet to my great excitement his response was pretty much like the one of Joy Ladin’s mother in the abovementioed quote. His exact words were: “No matter what happens, no matter how you are, you are still my kid[3] (okay, he said son).” I continued to speak withboth of my parents almost every day, I still visited on holidays and family weddings, and so on.
          That all changed on Wednesday November 11th, the day I came out to my father.
          As much as when I came out to my parents as non-observant I was a point of knowing that I cannot pretend to be religious anymore, coming out as a woman was when I was already at a point of no return, after two months on HRT. I knew that I had to come out to my parents if I don’t want them to hear it from other people, I owed them that much. I knew it is going to hurt them deeply, I knew that the shame in a community that is not ready in any way to accept anything outside of its White Hetro-Normative lifestyle, put aside gender transition in a radically segregated society – is going to be close to unbearable. Yet at the same time I knew that I am not doing anything wrong. Wrong would be for me to continue to be in the closet until I would die physically and/or emotionally. As my therapist kept on telling me, and I know it is true, “they are doing it to themselves.” I had to tell them.
          I chose the most appropriate way to do that. I called my father and told him that I want to tell him something, but I want to do it in front of a rabbi. He came down to the house of that Rabbi, and we both spoke to him in the most Jewish, Hasidic[4] and Kabbalistic way possible. I was not expecting acceptance, well, I was prepared for utter rejection, but I was secretly hoping for a similar response to until now. Think that I am sick, think that I am crazy (for now), but talk to me.
          His response was: “You should know that this means I might not be able to talk to you ever again.” When I told him that the attempted suicide rate for people of trans experience is high, in a society that still has problems accepting us, and I asked if he would prefer me dead, he said “I am not going to response” - this killed me internally. Finally, he said “I will find a way to let you know what I decide (regarding staying in touch)” and for the first time in my life, he left me without even a handshake. THAT WAS THE LAST TIME I HEARD FROM MY PARENTS.
          Naturally it bothered me in the beginning, but when after an hour it stopped bothering me whatsoever, it bothered me that I am not crying. I can cry while watching Boy Meets Girl or Transparent, but my mind and heart were numb when it came to my parents. The fact that I felt like I don’t care while I knew I cared, bothered me more than anything, I knew it is unhealthy, I knew that I have to cry it out, but I couldn’t.
My parents, my son, and myself, on my son's third birthday
          Today I mourn the loss of my dear parents. I know this whole post sounds like a vigil journal entry, which is about right. This is how I feel. Today I celebrate in the most non-celebratory way possible a sad milestone. A milestone of realizing, coming to terms, and starting to heal the loss of my family. I don’t give up, I hope that they will come around in some way, but for the first time in months I feel like I have my family back. It is a family that is still lost, it is a family to whom I am still lost (at best), but it is a family that is openly on my heart, it is a family that I am no longer numb to. I DO NOT REGRET MY DECSION, EVERN IF I WOULD HAVE KNOWN CLEARLY THAT THIS IS GOING TO BE THE RESULT. More than ever, I know and feel that I have a family that I am trying my best to be part of.
          I am writing all of this not just to cry about daddy and mommy issues that I proudly have. I am writing to help myself make sense of all of this, and to tell the world, and others that are struggling that “You cannot be a family member, you cannot be a child or sibling, if you are not you. If your family gets hurt by you living a self-determent life, know that they are doing it to themselves. You are not doing anything bad to them.”
Writing in tears of longing and relief combined,
Abby @ The Second Transition

[1] And even when I tried telling him when I came to him that daddy you were right, something was going on, and this is what it is, he refused to accept it.
[2] Who also had ten kids, and by now have hundreds of grandkids and great-grandkids.
[3] He did add an ‘explanation’ that he looks on it as if I am sick, and if his kid gets cancer he is not going to reject them. It bothered me the way he looked on it, and for the next four years we had a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell relationship, but we had a relationship.
[4] For reference how much Hasidic Judaism means to my father: He is the tenth generation of the founder of the Hasidic movement, Rabbi Israel Ben Eliezer - the Ball Shem Tov, in five different ways, and he always preached that to us, non-stop.


  1. As they say, no one is an atheist in a foxhole. Having said that, if something bad were to happen to you, guaranteed that pintele yid in you would surface and it would be to HIM that you would reach out and pray...
    And it is He that created you and brought you down into HIS world with a tafkid, and all the tools you need to create yourself into the person you need to become.To that end, he decided that you are assigned a specific we all are.
    We all have different struggles in this life, different nisyones, turmoil and cinfusion..It is our job to gain clarity ,not by changing who we are, but by identifying the weakness in ourselves and working toward strengtgening that which keeps us stuck and clouds our vision our judgement from seeing the truth.
    Self determined life ...vs Hashem determined life.We are Eved Hashem...he determines and we heed his will.Nothing happenes without his will..
    Self determined would bring chaos into this world, as we see from History...destroyed the world. That would mean, whatever I feel is good for me, works for me, goes....
    Heaven forbid, we all decide what works for me goes...the world would be upside down.
    Hashem, in his infinite wisdom brought order into the world by his laws...otherwise the world would cease to exist.
    Imagine you decide you're in a rush to get somewhere and there is no need to follow the laws...its self determined that you need to get where youre going...would you just bypass the rules? You may, but you'll pay the price. .. Hashem has a price for those by-passing his rules..
    And the chance that you may be wrong is 50/50 (for the unbeliever) because you can't prove something that doesn't exist...
    So after 120, are you willing to chance that you may be wrong? What will you do then?
    My dear brother...Hashem loves you even in your pain...never forget that His door is always open to you.Yes, you have choices...It's called bechira. ..we all do.But that's not the same as self determined.
    I know that you are going through a difficult confusing time, but change in this manner is not self determined.It is self destructive...
    Hoping that Hashem gives you clarity and peace of mind...
    From the bottom of my heart, I hope you will find the light.Hashem is the him and you will find him...I promise.
    Hashem is always waiting for us to come back home...he has patience...lots of it.He is a Keil Rachim V'chanim...

    1. Boker tov Abby. I wondered is it difficult for you still be a Ultraortodox? Why atheist? Being transgender isnt that difficult to are still you.and i understand that its many emotions and feeling around matter are still important to Hashem.And the second thing you mourn over loss over your family.i can for many reason understand you(i lost mine when i found out that the family i grew up with wasnt my biological when i was five)family is important ultraortodox or just Hasidic,you know.I know because im Hasidic as well and grew up in europe.But it will always be a bond there.I know you know. Never give up on to be reconnected with your family. Abby we are not biological family but still(if you don't feel the same way,think about that ;other people has feelings to)we are family.and i do love You..and put a smile on your face once in while.i understand you mourning,feelings and everything.your eyes is like a much sorrow,sore feelings..I understand how you struggeling and fighting about this transition. But know that people fighting beside you.And i will not only hope but pray Your family talk and contact you and respect the choise by you telling the truth about you self. Bless you Abby.

  2. There is one thing that is written into your DNA and into every jewish can never (really) come to term with what you do. It is Hashems way of keeping your options and the door open...There is no way you can wake up every day, look at your body and feel like you belong...your body is a constant reminder of your old self...and will follow you along wherever you go. You can talk yourself into the fact that you are at peace with your decision...but I doubt when you reach 90, you will have forgotten the old you.I know of few jews who at the end of their lives, having lived secular lives, dont go out begging for forgivesness and as they get closer to the day of reckoning, are consumed with fear and panic...All my cousins,who strayed from the path after the war, or for whatever reason, sought comfort in Hashem and died with Hashem Echod.
    Why wait....after the damage is done.
    You can only be in the next world what you are right here...wake up ...let that voice hidden in your soul..buried as of now, be your guide.
    P.S. Hashem is not angry at the sinner..he is,angry at the sin.

  3. Abby, First off what respect I have for your parents, as you so nicely wrote about your mother's instincts and her ability in proper diagnosis. Your father too, how he was in daily contact with all of you. You truly come from a very cosy, family minded, respectful, healthy, home.

    There are a few points I want to highlight;
    1- It has taken you years to come to gripes with yourself why would you judge anyone else on hearing your gender change decision and outright accept it, especially if its a family member! No this is not the normal routine life has run, although in this great country we have the freedom to experiment - and you have chosen to do just that - still you out of all people shouldn't judge how people should react.

    2- Your Father reacting to you as if you are sick, is his way of holding on to anything not to lose you. it was his way in coping with your extended family and keep it unified, as you yourself so eloquently wrote of your parents unique personal healthy way of holding the family unity!

    3- Your parents are human and have feelings too ( Abby, I know you are hormonal these days, but your parents are too) your father has no coping method how to handle this weird shock to him, something that never entered his mind, him not speaking with you is actually very healthy, no fighting, no arguing, no daily reminders from you and your transition state. He got no interest in that !!!
    4- Its you that has to give respect to your parents, Your parents owe you nothing at this stage, nothing more then to any other jew, (albeit the mitzva of no showing a blind eye to your own flesh) they have done a wonderful job, based on this posts writing.

    I would love to see how you are dealing with respect to your parents, what is it that you have done, or are doing, to give them respect, and dignity, while doing what you feel compelled to do for yourself.
    Change your outlook !! your a big girl?! its fierce out there ! fight the healthy way, don't cry about others dealing with others, show how to do it!
    Get this respect and acceptance issue correct ( kids respect parents, not vise versa ) and you will live a lot more true and I assume healthier...

    1. Thank you (brother?), I agree with most of what you said. All I said in this article is that it bothers me that they don't talk me. I am not blaming them in anyway, in this post.

    2. Abby, by your response I feel you connected to what I wrote and i appreciate it.
      You have to know that this feeling is mutual, it bothers your parents too that they can't speak with you.
      The question is what will happen in time, it may be that it will stop bothering both of you, or if "you" want that they should eventually reconnect ( and that may take some time) you have to never let this NOT bother you.

    3. Why CAN'T they speak to her? Is it like radical Islam where they feel she's brought shame to the family. I can understand they're not accepting immediately. Many parents need to process when a child comes out as gay, lesbian or Trans. But they've both had time. I don't know if Abby has reached out & they just refuse her. I would hope a parent would love the child no matter what. I know my late dad didn't understand about my being gay but he hugged me when I came out & said he'd love me always. He actually got mad when he found out I had stuff in my car thinking I'd be rejected. My parents cried, didn't understand & it was never really talked about. I wish I would have had a serious boyfriend I could have invited to a holiday to see how they would have reacted. The don't ask/don't tell secrecy always still made me feel less than. I'm not a parent but I've seen many parents of Trans kids interviewed & over time, most seem to realize that they love their child and want them happy vs dead. It might be different when you have 13 children. It does take both sides to give and I hope if Abby wants a relationship with her parents that some ties can be re-established. Otherwise, her parents will be missing out. I'm sure it's also hard for them since Abby has been so public. It would be great if they all could sit with a family therapist (maybe a Jewish one) and openly discuss these things vs shutting the other out

  4. Thank you for sharing your story Abby.

  5. Just found your story after watching Dark Net. Best of luck in your journey and I admire your strength.

  6. Do you still have a relationship with your child? You said you're atheist so do you have no connection at all to Judaism anymore? Not even Reform or Reconstructionist? It's time for their to be a Trans version of the powerful movie Trembling Before God about frum gays & lesbians. I wish you the best. At least you're in NYC which gives you the best opportunities for acceptance and support. It sounds like you have good friends too. I'm not Trans but a gay jew with severe treatment depression now made worse by multiple physical illnesses. I don't have support and haven't even left my house for weeks. I havent 'lived' or been happy for decades - just existed and get worse yearly. Can't sleep and the only connection I had was with a dog who recently died. I don't know what I'll do as I don't see a Way out & have dug myself into a deep hole. I'm even allergic to my house so now have 24/7 headaches. Family is what you create. I know it's hard. I lost my dad in my 20s & he honestly was the only one who cared and would intercede. I could be dead and probably no one would realize for months. Good luck. I hope sharing your story has helped you & others in the similar circumstances. I went to Orthodox school and saw how judgemental frum people could be - whether it was LGBT issues or just dealing with a kid whose family wasn't orthodox). Its sad how religions seem to cause so much damage in our world when if you believe in God, you'd think God would want the best for everyone and would represent compassion. שלום

    1. I like to keep my son out of public eye, so I prefer not to talk about him in public.
      I do identify wirth the Jewish Renewal movement, and relate to Judaism in a cultural, and some spiritual way.

  7. Abby. Thank you for sharing your story. I am frum and bisexual and struggled for a long time until I could finally be comfortable with myself. I have insights I would love to share with you as well as questions to ask. You are a remarkable person and have a remarkable family.

  8. the reason why you became like this it's because your parents uncles are ruling and judging in בית דין pro woman .. feminist.... מידה כנגד מידה you became a woman ... now let's see how they're going to judge you .. and all of a sudden??? So the תיקון to this is to denounce and stop this funny court system

    1. Gotta love hearing that it has nothing to do with me...

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. As the mother of 3 sons and grandmother of one grandson, I feel and mourn your losses and your parents', son's and siblings' loss of you. I will hold out hope for their return to you.

  10. Hi Abby
    Your story is one that many families struggle with, frum or not. First of all you are incrediby brave for coming out and being completely honest. This alone is huge...for your own sanity above all. Our neshamot inhabit bodies and it's not always black and white as to who we really are. Whether your family will reach out in the future who's so hard for them to comprehend now and the shock is deep. Once they realize that you are you no matter what kind of a body you inhabit they will come around. In the meantime be happy, continue to be a mentsch as you obviously are and find your happiness in the tochen of who Abby is.

  11. The use of "dead names" is not welcomed.

  12. Dear Abby;

    I found your interesting story but am confused with the header and article. Why would you have parents issues if Abby Stein never had parents and certainly not the ones pictured? Those people on your site have already come to terms with the loss of their son - which you admit - and they have, no doubt, already observed the mourning period for him. No reason to open their wounds again. You need to be realistic and considerate and not impose your views on them. Why would those guys want to have contact with a woman who claims to be their daughter when they know they never had a daughter by the name of Abby? It's time you move on and come to terms with the fact that these people are not your parents and acquire for yourself surrogate parents to make you feel like Abby belongs to someone.