Orthodox Child's Transgender Journey From Moshe to Miryam

'Hashem Knows I'm a Girl'

haaretz

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

Published June 12, 2014.
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(Haaretz) — More than most kids, Moshe, who lived with his mom and siblings in a midsize Midwestern city with a small Orthodox community, loved going to shul.

But shortly after Moshe began preparing for his bar mitzvah, he suddenly changed. From a sunny little boy to one who was withdrawn. Depressed. His grades, which had always been excellent, plummeted.

“He wasn’t himself. I didn’t know what was going on,” says his mother, Rebecca. “He started refusing to go to shul, not seeing his friends. This happened very, very quickly over about two months.”

One day, 12-year-old Moshe stood in his mother’s bedroom and said, “‘Hashem [God] knows I’m a girl,’ going on to explain that he just couldn’t do it anymore, couldn’t have a bar mitzvah, that every time he put on tzitzit [ritual fringed garment worn by men] he was lying to Hashem. It just began pouring out of him,” Rebecca recalls.

His tutor had been emphasizing that becoming bar mitzvah meant Moshe was preparing to take his place as a man in the Jewish community.

“This is when it hit him, and he couldn’t take it any more,” says his mother, adding that when Moshe “finally told us what was going on, [he] went into therapy immediately. I think I was more shocked to find out that my beautiful child with the bright and shiny neshama [soul] was contemplating suicide than I was to learn that she was a girl.”

A psychologist and a physician both concluded that Moshe was likely transgender. Moshe and Rebecca traveled to meet with Dr. Norman Spack, a pediatric endocrinologist at what is considered the leading center in the United States for transgender children: the GeMS (Gender Management Service) Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Spack gave Moshe — who is now known as Miryam — a testosterone-blocking implant. At her annual checkup with the endocrinologist this summer, shortly after she turns 14, Miryam hopes to begin hormone treatment to bring on female puberty.

Today Miryam is happy. “She has been fully transitioned living her authentic life for a year now,” says Rebecca, who decided last year not to send her daughter back to the Jewish day school.


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