“All the Rest is Marketing”

Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha’Olam Sh’hechianu v’kimanu, v’higiyanu, la’zman hazeh

Blessed are You, Eternal One, Our G-d, Ruler of time and space, who has kept us alive and sustained us and helped us to arrive at this moment.

This prayer comes from transtorah.org, the relatively self-explanatory website that saved my life this summer. The words were intended to mark a monumental occasion in transition such as the first shot of hormone therapy or the day of surgery. For me, it marked every morning I battled through self-doubt and rose to see another day. I will make no concession about my struggle with depression and doubt. It was so real.

I believe that repetition is not insanity but persistence. From the moment I wrote down this prayer until the very second from which I write to you today, I have recited these words in the hope that this moment would come. Who knew it would be gender theory that did it? Readers, you are probably not surprised.

I have spent the last several weeks reading Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein. When it was lent to me, I noted here that it was done so to keep me from feeling that I needed to fit into a man box – because I was so committed to a passing male presentation that I was willing to put myself in harm’s way to use the restroom. After that post, my significant other and I conversed about what gender means for each of us. I stated that I have worked so hard to feel entitled to use the men’s restroom so I do it whenever I can. There are some things I have to deal with to move through this world, I maintained. But, too often I have done so without a conscious understanding of my actions. Why?

Gender Outlaw so moved me that I broke out the research note cards to bring Bornstein’s words closer to me. Five or six points that particularly resounded with me have been recorded and added to my wall of quotations. Towards the end of the book, Bornstein includes her play Hidden: A Gender and it was in this passage that the very crux of gender systems was exposed to me.

“Oh! You think male and female is gender!

Nah, that’s not gender. Gender is the feeling that you need to be one or the other. Gender is the need to belong – it doesn’t matter to what. Gender is the need to fit in, to be part of something. All the rest is marketing.” First Actor, Hidden: A Gender

As soon as my eyes had taken in these lines I picked up my phone to share them. I sat alone as the words settled in my mind. How a literary work gets under your skin and makes you feel closer to yourself, I will not pretend to understand. In this moment, I wanted to cry for the beautiful knowledge I had just attained. I read on feverishly. Pages flew by and I read through the acknowledgments out of hunger. The pages ran out and I closed the book as the last sound breaking the silence around me.

Blessed are You: I stared at the ceiling. My heart opening and baring my soul to something greater than I. “G_d”, I said, “if that’s your real name. G_d this gender thing wasn’t your idea, was it?” visions of myself wrapped in prayer shawls at my future bar mitzvah filled my head. My name echoed loudly between my ears. Something I had written many months ago returned to my consciousness; “this child grew up to be called home to Kentucky, to his spirituality by the Torah, and to himself through transition.” I hear you now, G_d. I understand.

This moment is one that feels like, years from now, I will call it the first day of the rest of my life. For years I have told people that I plan to convert to Judaism but the time was not right. I have been feeling lately like I have wanted more and it has fallen into my lap. The time is right. Let’s go.

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