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.”
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.