August 20, 2014 / 24th of Av, 5774
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11/16/2011
Mazel Tov! It's a Miracle!

This Sunday, I recently learned, is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day dedicated to memorializing the victims of transphobic violence. I’ve been impressed by Keshet’s resource guide encouraging the Jewish community to mark this day and create safe space for trans people.

I’ll be spending Sunday evening in a Birth Circle, with a group of women, reflecting on and anticipating the miracle of birth, and experience of motherhood. It feels important to open this space, to affirm the power of women’s experience, to facilitate connection around this moment in life. Yet in light of Transgender Day of Remembrance, I am poignantly aware of the luxury of being able to convene a group along ostensibly easily drawn gender lines. I am reminded that while I spend time concerned about women’s voices being heard and mother-friendly maternity care, there are others whose struggle has further to go.  

The Birth Circle’s theme this month is Fear & Faith. As I prepared to birth each of my sons, I addressed various kinds of fears and worries that came up. I had some worries around the process of pregnancy and birth, about the medical system, about what I would do with a new baby, about how our family dynamics would change.  

One thing it never occurred to me to worry about was the possibility that the baby could grow up to have a gender identity that would cause me to fear for his or her life. The issue is not usually on my radar screen. My kids are two and four years old now, and blissfully unaware of gender conformity issues in our society.  

When I was pregnant with each of them we didn’t want to know the baby’s gender. For me, the choice wasn’t just about the fun of the surprise. I didn’t want to start “bonding” with the baby based on assumptions I might make based on sex. I wanted to get to know my baby’s individual personality.  

Before they were born, we asked our birth attendants not to announce the sex of the baby, but to let us discover it ourselves. With the first, I remember being so in awe, so absorbed in holding the baby, wondering how this whole little person had just come out of me, that it was several minutes before anyone thought of checking for sex. By the time we thought of it, we’d had a chance to meet the baby, to start bonding, and in those moments, it truly didn’t matter if he was a boy or a girl. In those moments he was simply a miraculous human being.

I feel lucky to have had the experience of meeting my children first without gender. My hope and blessing for Transgender Day of Remembrance, this Sunday, is that with the hard work and advocacy that organizations like Keshet are doing, with legislation like the transgender equal rights bill passed this week in Massachusetts, and with changing attitudes, my kids and their generation can grow up to a world where whatever their gender, they will be seen for their inherant miraculous humanity that is so apparent at the moment of birth.

Rabbishirazshazeer
Rabbi Shira Shazeer is Founder and Director of the Jewish Birth Network.
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Create your Community, Mold your Miracle. Connecting emerging families with resources, skills and community to make individual choices.

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