Ritual for Gender Transition (Male to Female)

The person undergoing transition and a few carefully chosen witnesses are present, including the family members most closely affected, so far as they are willing. There is a covered mirror in the room, three buckets of water, and a vessel large enough for a person to lie in (or the ritual can be done in a room with a tub or a drain in the floor). The person in transition is wearing a kittel and has washed meticulously as for immersion in a mikveh. All are seated on the floor.

Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am wretched.
       Heal me, for my limbs are stricken.
       And my life is hard stricken.
    – and You, O LORD, how long? [Ps. 6:3-4, Alter]
For the thing which I greatly feared has come upon me, and that which I dreaded has come to me. [Job 3:25]

WITNESS (A neutral witness, not part of the family):
Man is bound to bless the evil as he blesses the good, as it is said: And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. [Mishnah Berakhot 9:5]

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, shelo asani ishah.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who has not made me a woman.

Adonai, God of my deliverance, I have cried day and night before you:
let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry.
For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to the grave.
I am counted with those who go down to the pit; I am like a man with no strength;
free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, and who are cut off from your hand.
You have laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.
Upon me your wrath lies hard, and with all your waves you have afflicted me.
You have put away my friends from me; you have made me an abomination to them; I am imprisoned and cannot come forth.
My eye mourns from affliction; I have called you, Adonai, every day, I have stretched out my hands to you.
Will you work wonders for the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise you?
Shall your loving-kindness be declared in the grave, your faithfulness in destruction?
Shall your wonders be known in the dark, and your righteousness in the land of forgetting?
But I, Adonai, I cry to you, and in the morning my prayer will outrun you.
Why, Adonai, do you cast off my soul? Why do you hide your face from me?
I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up; while I suffer your terrors I am distracted.
Your fierce wrath goes over me; your terrors have cut me off.
They came about me daily like water; they compassed me about together.
Lover and friend you have put far from me, and my acquaintance into darkness.
[Ps. 88: 2-19]

He tears his clothes.
Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night when it was said, a man is conceived. Let that day be darkness; let God not regard it from above, nor let light shine on it. Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud cover it; let the blackness of the day appall it. And that night, let darkness seize upon it; let it not be joined to the days of the year, let it not come into the number of the months. Let that night be desolate; let no sound of joy be heard in it; let them curse it that curse the day, and them that lead the mourners. Let the stars of its twilight be dark; let it crave light but have none; neither let it see the glow of dawn: because it did not shut the doors of my mother’s womb, to hide misery from my eyes.
Why did I not die from the womb, perish as I came from the belly? Why did the knees receive me, or why were there breasts for me to suck? For now I should have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept. [Job 3:3-13]

He lies down. The family members tear their clothes and recite the Mourner’s Kaddish. The person in transition gives the responses.

And God created man in his own image: in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Or singing in trope: Vayivra Elohim et ha-adam b’tzalmo, b’tzelem Elohim bara oto, zakhar un’keivah bara otam. [Gen. 1:27]

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, she’asani b’tzalmo.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, ruler of the universe, who has made me in your image.

We are made in the image of someone who has no image; whose image we seek perpetually and do not find it. Our minds search the universe for a body that is not there.

O God, you are my God, early will I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh yearns for you, in a dry and thirsty land where is no water. [Ps. 63:2]
My soul waits for the Lord more than watchers for the morning. [Ps. 130:6]

Pour three buckets of water over him, as for a taharah.

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al-hatvilah.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who has made us holy by your commandments and commanded us concerning immersion.

She rises, leaves the room and dresses in new clothes, then re-enters and uncovers the mirror.

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, she’asani kir’tzono.
Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who has made me according to your will.

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, me’chayei ha’maytim.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who revives the dead.

At this point the person undergoing transition takes a new name, either through a simple announcement or through a more complex statement such as the following:

Are you the city that was called the perfection of joy?
No one treads you with joy.
Although you shout, they are not shouts of joy.
Your heart knows its bitterness, and no one shares its joy.

Do not grieve for joy.
Many weep when they see this temple, while many others shout for joy.
No one can distinguish weeping from shouts of joy
When God has filled you with joy.

Days fly away without a glimpse of joy.
You remember how you used to go, leading the procession with shouts of joy.
Though you have seen deceit in the heart of joy,
You still have this consolation—in unrelenting pain, your joy.

Do not grieve for joy.
All these things have you sacrificed for joy.
The trees of the forest weep with joy,
Anointing God with the oil of joy.

God will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with joy.
Turning and returning you to joy,
God will be your joy
When you have no glimpse of joy.

Do not grieve for joy.
The morning stars, that sing for joy,
Will remove your sackcloth and clothe you with joy.
The ache will perish in joy.

Announce this with shouts of joy:  
There is joy even where there is no joy.
Hearts throbbing and swollen with joy,
Ruins burst into songs of joy.

Do not grieve for joy.
Even sorrow shouts for joy.
When morning dawns, when evening fades, you shall have nothing but joy.
Those who go out weeping seed

Return with sheaves of joy.    [JL]

Give us joy for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for the years we have seen evil. [Ps. 90:15]

Hamakom y’nacheim etkhem b’tokh she’ar aveilei tsion vi’rushalayim.
May the Omnipresent comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

FAMILY in response:
Brukha ha-ba’a.
Welcome (feminine form)

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, shehecheyanu v’kiyemanu v’higianu laz’man hazeh.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who has kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this time.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Catherine Madsen and Joy Ladin Used by permission of authors

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