Transgenders In Israel

Image by Yael Meiry

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When you think of Israel, transgenders might not be the first thing that comes to mind, because even though the country is 70% secular, it is still very much ruled by the minority, but powerful ultra-orthodox, who have a “final say” monopoly on matters regarding birth registry, eligibility to marry within Israel, and divorce via the rabbinate, not to mention the ultimate determination of who is a Jew.

With those kinds of religious controls and dominance, the country called the Holy Land doesn’t seem to be the sort of place where you would think transgenders would be accepted or accommodated, but then Israel has always been full of contradictions.

It’s been a startling transition for a country which has, yet, to accept Jews of every stripe as bonafide members of the tribe, who come here to obtain citizenship, especially those who do not adhere to the Jewish faith but were, nonetheless born to Jewish parents or grandparents.

Perhaps it’s because of such glaring contradictions, which still exists in Israel, that it’s not so shocking to read the article which appeared, just a few days ago, in news1.co.il stating, “The Ministry of Health estimates that between 33,000 – 63,000 transgender people of various ages live in Israel.”

Who would have thought? In keeping with this surprising, and unexpected news, the article went on to say that “40% of these transgender people, in the country have attempted suicide.” Of course, such a disturbing statistic speaks to the fact that individuals, who are contemplating suicide, are deeply unhappy, very troubled and conflicted and have been unable to find a way to co-exist within tendencies that they believe are warring inside of them.

But this is not unique to Israel. In a study conducted in 2018, by the American Academy of Pediatrics, it was revealed that “alarming levels of attempted suicide among transgender youth – with the highest rates among transgender boys and non-binary youth.” (New Study Reveals Shocking Rates of Attempted Suicide Among Trans Adolescents, www.hrc.org, 9/12/18). The article suggests that “the findings emphasize the urgency of building welcoming and safe communities for LGBTQ young people, particularly for transgender youth.”

Another similar article, which appeared online states, “The numbers are stark, worrisome and should set off alarm bells: 52% of all transgender and nonbinary young people in the U.S. seriously contemplated killing themselves in 2020. (“Terrible Time for Trans Youth: New Survey Spotlights Suicide Attempts and Hope, www.forbes.com, 5/19/20)

Yet, given the fact that Israel, even with its strict adherence to tradition and religious observance, decided, as early as 2005, to accommodate an annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv which, then, eventually became a yearly event in what is considered to be Israel’s holiest city, Jerusalem, would point to clear evidence that, despite the dismay of many within the ultra-Orthodox sector, the gay and trans community has been afforded their own place of distinction which many other marginalized groups don’t enjoy.

Not only that, but, these days, rainbow flags, representing the gay/trans community are displayed throughout Israel’s major cities, both in businesses, cafes and from the balconies of apartments, loudly letting everyone know that this particular community is widely accepted in our country.

It’s curious, then, to understand why the Ministry of Health feels an urgency to, “re-educate Israeli society to recognize and accept gender reassignment and the ‘shattering of stigmas’ (per the news1.co.il article) many years later, when, there has never seen so much visual support of this community as there has been in the last couple of years.

It’s important to note that Israeli law allows for gender reassignment for anyone over the age of 18. In fact, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) is willing to pick up the tab for soldiers who desire to undergo the transition from one gender to another. The phenomenon of transgenders in the Israeli army, actually, made its way to a five-part television documentary series called, “Transkids,” which aired in 2019. The program showcased young people who suffer from gender dysphoria with one such participant who subsequently drafted into the IDF in 2020. Consistent with the disturbing statistics, he, also, stated that “he doesn’t know of any transgender teen who has not, at some point, thought about suicide.” (TimesofIsrael.com, 4/24/20)

One Israeli grandmother, for this article, revealed to me that two of her granddaughters, as well as their friends, are presently serving in the IDF. Those girls mentioned how uncomfortable they, as straight girls, feel, when some, in their unit, have been provocateurs, for the sole purpose of trying to get a rise from those who don’t share those sentiments. Afraid to say anything, due to the army making special provisions for these individuals, they tend to be quiet and only mention their discomfort to family members, not wanting to be looked upon as intolerant.

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But with ever-increasing numbers of gender-conflicted individuals, mostly involving young people, which seems to be growing, largely fueled by a very obviously calculated agenda being pushed by the media, educators, politicians and others stirring the pot of sexual identity confusion, it’s reached a point where kids are being told that they must explore whether or not their body types match their inner feelings. And herein lies the problem.

It doesn’t matter that most of us possess attributes that are both gentle and also aggressive (which some would try to ascribe to a specific gender), those characteristics are being magnified and argued as evidence that one’s gender is not, at all, settled. It is no wonder, then, that so many young people have been put in a position where they feel that defending their own personal sense of settled gender, largely based on the body parts they acquired at birth as well as their own objective feelings, will result in the violation of another who has fallen prey to the gender confusion which is constantly being sown in their hearts and minds.

What is obvious to me, and many others with whom I’ve spoken, is that a suicide rate of 40% or higher, among this segment of youth, shows that years of attempts to accommodate individuals, who doubt their gender, has not, at all, helped them to come to an acceptance of who they think they are instead of how they were born. If anything, there is a terribly disturbed and distressed emotion, within them, which, apparently, needs another course of treatment other than making sure that society is more sensitive to them.

This dangerous and menacing push to harass youth who, up until now, have never had to deal with this newly-manufactured societal pressure, encouraging them to go with what is becoming a vicious trend, intended to eat away at the self-confidence and assuredness of those whose promising futures lie ahead, needs to come to an end. One could say that there is almost a level of recruitment which is taking place in order to buck the conventional norms of gender which have existed throughout time, and those efforts seem quite intentional.

For those of us who are “awake” enough to see what great harm this is doing to the next generations, supported by credible statistics of disturbing thoughts of suicide, we parents and grandparents need to vocally express our outrage at this merciless onslaught against vulnerable and impressionable kids who have the right to grow and mature without being placed under a microscope at every turn.

Being silent is not an option in the face of such ominous statistics – not here in Israel and not elsewhere. It is my hope that others will feel the need to speak out to protect our children and grandchildren and do all they can to fight those who are seeking to undermine a new generation of the children of Israel. May the Almighty guard us from an existential evil which has discovered a new way to destroy us, as a people, through thoughts of suicide.

By the way, there are no homophobic feelings by this writer. There is, rather, a deeply felt concern for kids who are obviously struggling with an issue that has only recently come up, as it blankets today’s youth, adding to any doubts and uncertainty which is generally already prevalent among this age group. It should not and must not lead any of them to consider ending their precious lives.

For those who are struggling with gender confusion, rather than continuing to feel badly about themselves, to the point of the type of turmoil which would cause them to consider suicide as a preference, my hope is that they will seek sound and loving counsel from trusted individuals who are able to affirm that, perhaps, they actually were born the right gender. With help, they can be encouraged to explore ways that will strengthen their belief in themselves through constructive and validating means. After all, they deserve to peacefully live happy and fulfilled lives as they come to the conclusion that, perhaps, they almost believed a calculated lie meant to injure them by those who just didn’t care!

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