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Forward 50 2012

Joy Ladin

When prize-winning teacher and poet Jay Ladin got tenure at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women in 2006, he knew he could finally have the gender reassignment procedures that would free him from a body he had never felt at home in, without risking his job. Life was tough as a man, but there’d be new challenges to face when Ladin returned to work at the Orthodox Jewish college as Joy Ladin. The New York Daily Post heralded her return with the front-page headline “Ye-She-Va.”

And yet she has endured, publishing her dignified testimony this year. Ladin, now 51, is heartfelt when she says, “I am surrounded by love.”

With the release of her memoir, “Through the Door of Life,” Ladin, who holds the David and Ruth Guttesman Chair in English at Stern College, has luminously expressed her situation and has become an advocate of transgender rights and issues in the Jewish world.

Reviewing the book in the Forward, Naomi Alderman wrote: “Ladin is a lyrical writer, and there are some beautiful and moving passages in the book. She is achingly honest about her children’s difficulties in accepting that their father is now their ‘parent.’”

Ladin’s world is a spiritual one filled with responsibilities to others. Using the publicity around the launch of her book, Ladin has had a platform to help others by talking about her diverse experiences. As she said in interview with Capital New York: “I know that in the Orthodox world, even though I’m not Orthodox, I am this beacon of hope for transpeople and queer people in general.”

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