Former ultra-Orthodox rabbi opens up about transitioning into female
Abby Stein grew up in a strict Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn, being the eldest child in her family which included 13 kids. By 18 she was already a rabbi, she had a wife and a little child. Having a child was the turning point for Stein, she realised that she was actually female and decided to come out as transgender.
“It felt like my gender was punching me in the face. Everyone had told me that I was a boy, but it didn’t feel right,” Stein revealed to CNN, “As a child, I remember saying, ‘I’m a girl, right?’ but no, everyone said something else. It was a hard experience growing up and not having any outlet. Not having any way to express myself.” But her religious upbringing did not give her an opportunity to understand who she was and how to express it. At age 12, Stein had decided that she understood her gender, but denied it because “LGBT people of any form just don’t exist in that community.” At 20, she began to realise more about the transgender identity after she first had access to the internet and googled “a boy turning into a girl” and she understood she was not the only one in it, but it meant leaving the religious community she was brought up in, and to her it was even harder and more painful that transition itself. Since then, Stein has split with her wife, attended Columbia University and legally changed her name to Abby – reminiscent of a Bible character who is the “source of joy” and “one of the seven most beautiful women to have ever lived in the world”. She still sees her son and some of her siblings, but her parents have not spoken to her after she came out. Now, she is working on a memoir and growing a network of trans people from strict religious backgrounds.