Twilight Journeys: Fifty Shades of Trans – Part one

Twilight Journeys: Fifty Shades of Trans – Part one

Genderbread man!
Genderbread man!

This is a blog in 2 parts.

In this first part, Surat-Shaan tells us about the day he became a man. 

As he thinks in his heart, so he is. 

Jewish Proverb

Transgender identity is so much more complex and diverse than ‘being born in the wrong body’ argues Surat Shaan Knan in the seventh instalment of The Ponderings of a Transgender Jew.

Surat Shaan Knan is a female-to-male (ftm) transgender person on a transitioning journey. Click here for previous instalments Surat Shaan Knan

The scenario:  9.30am. A small, bare room with a desk and a few chairs. Two middle-aged men in  grey suits.  The man behind the desk is the judge. He invites me to take a seat. Smiling nervously, I greet the other court official sitting to my left. ‘This is your witness who will attest that you are male’, the judge explains. The official scrutinises me, nods and the judge stamps the certificate. Both sign. The judge shakes my hand and says: ‘Well, Shaan, that’s that. I wish you all the best.’  9.35am. The whole procedure took 5 minutes.

I step out into the waiting area where a dozen of trans* people with friends and family in tow are waiting to be called up. 

This is not a Kafkaesque short story. It’s Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) day at Court. It’s a crisp winter morning but rays of sunshine are gleaming through the screened windows.  

I’m a man.

Walking down the street towards the bus stop, I start thinking about all the personal documents I will have to get changed. Lots of stuff to sort out. Time-consuming but it’s gotta be done. All good.

Still, something is nagging me. 

Genderbread man!
Genderbread man!

It isn’t about masculinity as such. I’m pleased about my physical appearance changing toward a more masculine appearance, thanks to male hormones. It’s not even really about passing – being perceived as male in public. Well, lately, I do pass at least in 9 out of 10 instances as male.  I guess, ‘passing’ as the desired gender is one of the most important things for a transgender person, especially while transitioning. And I do not miss the ‘Miss’ for one bit.

Correcting my passport, driver’s licence and the lot does feel  like a great relief.  The burden of being ‘mis-gendered  by  default’  has been lifted off me:  receiving letters addressed to someone with my name but titled as ‘Ms’, or being called up as ‘Ms.’ in the waiting room at the surgery. Not good memories at all. I remember ridiculous things like the GP not being able to change my gender title without a legal gender reassignment certificate (even my name change via Statutory Declaration wasn’t enough i.e. I had a male name but female title). This all is past now.

It’s a happy day, but the next set of questions poses itself: what does it mean to be a man? Who and what am I now? Is being called ‘Sir’ and ‘Mr’ the only thing I wanted? What does this spiritually all mean to me?  Can I be a Jewish man without being circumcised? Should I have a belated ‘bar mitzvah’? What else should I do to mark this journey? What does this ‘being a man business’ entail?

For a start, it’s certainly rather peculiar to walk into a building as ‘female’ and five minutes later to walk out as legally ‘male’. My Court experience seems actually quite absurd. So, if I can swap legal genders in the blink of an eye, what does gender ultimately mean anyway?

I’m still at the bus stop. The bus arrives and I get on – just like I had got off only an hour ago. I got off as female and got on as male. 


Part two will be releaseed shortly!

Lost in the alphabet soup? Here are some working definitions and examples of frequently used (and misused) gender expressions via GLAAD.  & more:

Surat-Shaan Knan works for Liberal Judaism UK, and has founded the landmark projects Rainbow Jews and Twilight People. He serves as the community coordinator of Ritual Reconstructed.