Telling Mom I’m a Boy, Not A Girl

The beautiful and inspiring acceptance story of an Israeli mom of her transgender boy. When Almog was too nervous to come out, the two decided that his mom Meirav would write on a note what she thinks Almog was planning to tell her, and before Almog opened the note – he’d say what’s in his heart. “I told her that ‘I was feeling that I’m actually a man inside.”  Then they opened the note that read “sex reassignment surgery.”

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“I remember that since childhood I told my parents that I refuse to wear dresses. I liked to play basketball with my dad and play with cars,” recalls Almog Keish, 23-year-old transgender man from Hadera. “I was playing basketball with a group of boys at the end of the fourth grade and they told me, ‘Honey, next year you can’t be on our team anymore, because there are leagues and there’s a league for girls. It was like a slap in the face, hearing that there’s something I couldn’t do because of my body and how people designate where I belong. One day when my grandmother took me to get a haircut, I came home with short and bleached hair and people became confused and started referring to me as a boy.”

“The truth is that we went with the flow”, says Meirav Livni- Keish, Almog’s mother, in a joint interview for Ynet, “I had a feeling that Almog was a sort of Tom Boy. I started understanding that girlie stuff does not speak to him; it’s irrelevant to him. He had very few girl friends and he was a friend of all the boys in the class. We didn’t pressure him on why he did not play with dolls and instead played with the boys. Almog’s main issue was around clothes for family events; On one hand he wanted to placate everyone and show the environment that he was a girl, and on the other hand he was very frustrated, as if he was wearing a mask.”

Alma says that his classmates did not refer to him as exceptional and his friends at the elementary school and junior high school always called him to play basketball with them. “The feeling of being different increased in high school. The separation in sports to classes of boys and girls also continued in sex education lessons. There I felt that I was not in the right place and I was afraid to talk,” he says. “As much as it hurt, I shut my mouth and I just went through those classes as they were”

Meirav served at the time as a vice principal in the school Almog attended “Here I intervened against the system. In physical education classes girls were given exercises in order to graduate from high school and I refused to let Almog be tested in things that were irrelevant to him. I wanted him to be tested in the parameters in which boys are tested but we did’t receive approval from the Superintendent of physical Education. It really bothered me, because he’s an athlete and to give him a low grade in physical education was a miss for the educational system.”

Do you remember other crises that Almog had to deal with?

“I remember the really tough debates around going on field trips when there was a tent for boys and a tent for girls. He refused to go to school trips and I didn’t understand why. We we a family who traveled and he loved nature, so I didn’t understand what the problem was.Today I understand. There were quite a few crises because when a person keeps a secret it explodes into minor and esoteric things that you don’t know to put your finger on.”

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Almog Keish works as an assistant in special education classes. After high school he joined the army and after returning home from base he came out of the closet to his mother as a lesbian but his soul had yet to find a cure. A year later he decided to talk again with his mother. The conversation began when he couldn’t speak, and the two decided that Meirav would write on a note what she thinks Almog was planning to tell her, and before Almog opened the note – he’d say what’s in his heart. “I told her that ‘I was feeling that I’m actually a man inside .” Then they opened the note on which was written “sex reassignment surgery.”

“I knew, but I was afraid that I was one step ahead,” remembers Meirav. “Almog was shocked but I was less so. When he came out as a lesbian he made change in his looks and unwittingly turned into a man, and it signaled to me that Almog was not a lesbian. But I thought maybe I didn’t see and understand it right and that I shouldn’t put the cart before the horses. It was a thought I moved around with for a while and by the time we sat down for the talk, I was completely ready for it.”

Unfortunately, this is not the typical reaction of parents when their children come out of the closet

“I think that if we look at our children, and in general at all the people around us, not through our eyes and how we would like to see them, but clean and without masks, we will discover a lot. They’re airing out the questions, troubles and desires and we need to be vigilant and to understand it and not be afraid of changes or anything they express. This way we reinforce and strengthen them.”