July 14, 2010 | 11:57 am
Posted by Kalil Cohen
While I was dealing with understanding and accepting myself as a transgender man, and going through the process of transitioning socially and medically, I didn’t place much importance on my Jewish identity. Although it had always been central in my life growing up, coming out was such an all-consuming process that finding trans spaces and a trans community took precedence over my need for Jewish spaces and communities for several years.
I was also worried that there would be no way of integrating a Jewish and trans identity and consigned myself to only identifying as trans, and giving up my Jewish identity.
As I became more comfortable with myself as a trans person and completed all the major changes I plan on making to my body and my life, however, I was once again interested in finding Jewish community. I feel extremely lucky that as a Jew in the United States, there are many Jewish communities that are explicitly LGBT friendly, and there is so much trans Jewish visibility that I had a trans rabbi officiate at my wedding, I have a community of trans Jewish peers and mentors, and I have access to trans Jewish art.
As an artist myself, I have found that seeking out trans Jewish art has been an important part of integrating my trans and Jewish identities in a way that feels meaningful. One of my favorite trans Jewish artists is Athens Boys Choir. Although it sounds like a large group, it is actually one Jewish transman spoken word artist and musician. In one of his most poignant pieces, Mourner’s Prayer, is on his latest album, Bar Mitzvah Superhits of the 80s 90s and Today. In Mourner’s Prayer Athens Boys Choir weaves together the words of the Kaddish with a rumination on transitioning. In the piece he is mourning the divisions in trans communities between those people who choose to or have the option to medically transition and those who cannot or do not choose to alter their bodies through surgeries or hormones. As a trans Jew, his music is particularly relevant to my own experiences, many of his cultural references being familiar and comforting.
Read more about Mourner’s Prayer here: http://newyork.timeout.com/articles/gay/52351/athens-boys-choir
Mourner’s Prayer is released on Trans-Fusions 2, an awesome compilation CD of tracks by 18 trans musicians. Check it out here: http://trans-genre.net/content/trans-genre-compilation-cd-ii/
Full disclosure – I also have a track on this album, You Don’t Really Know Me by Metahuman
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