“People think we wake up and decide to be trans”

Surat-Shaan Knan, project manager for Liberal Judaism, was among five people who shared their transgender experiences with mainstream British newspaper The Guardian: “We are created in the image of God. I am part of that as a trans Jew.”

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I didn’t really know anything about gender identity until quite late, when I was in my mid-20s. I also come from a secular Jewish family, so I didn’t know much about what it means to be Jewish either.

I identify as non-binary, trans-masculine. Being trans and Jewish seemed a complete oxymoron. I thought, it can’t be, I have to decide between them. But I had this wonderful community here to give me all that space and time to come out.

I feel very blessed that everyone, including family and friends, have been extremely supportive throughout. I haven’t had to go through what many trans people have to go through.

Years ago when I came out I went to the wall [Western Wall in Jerusalem]. There are three sections – the male section, the female section and an ungendered section. Now I would probably go to the ungendered section, but it was my first time presenting as male in such a holy place and I went to the male section of the wall. It made me so happy to do that, to go to the part of the wall I wanted to. I was transitioning medically and spiritually and it was one of the most important moments of my life.

A Jewish online magazine reported on that and it sparked off online, I got really abusive messages. I thought, these people don’t know me, I don’t think anyone should be able to tell you who you are and how to live your life. Yourself is yourself, even in the religious community.

Read the full story on The Guardian