I don’t claim to understand a person who identifies as transgender; I have no idea what goes on in their mind or in their heart. I’ve heard tons of different theories regarding transgender people — that they’re doing it for attention, that their soul was really put into the wrong body or that they’re suffering from a mental illness and by allowing them to mutilate their bodies, we are condoning mental behavior. The term transgender has been thrown around more and more the past few years as the topic becomes more mainstream with celebrities such as Bruce Jenner coming out as transgender. But even more recently, the Jewish community has been forced to face it with people such as Abby Stein, a transgender ex-chasid, and Yiscah Smith, a ex-orthodox Jewish activist who now lives as a woman in a Israel. Many applaud them for their bravery in coming out as transgender and many berate them for being who they are. I don’t know what is right and what is wrong but what I do know is that there is a major problem with gender as a whole.

The main problem with gender is that we allow it to mean something. We allow the gender to determine how a kid will act. I’ve heard things like “Wow you have three boys! You must have a madhouse!” or “You’re so lucky you only have girls, they’re so much better as babies!” I’m a girl. I was the worst baby out of the 5 kids my mother has, the other four being boys! How can we generalize things based on what body parts a baby has. Some of you will argue now that girls are quieter, boys are more wild… but, besides for that not being totally accurate, maybe that’s because they think they should act that way. If a boy is wild and starting fights, you’ll hear parents saying “he’s just being a boy” but if a girl is being wild and starting fights, then parents will think something is wrong. Parents will see their 2 year old boy play with a doll or put on a princess dress and worry that he’s a girl inside. Parents will see their little girl play with toy trucks and they’ll start wondering if she feels more like a boy. Let the boy wear a dress, let the girl play with trucks… I’m not arguing that transgender doesn’t exist but I am saying that maybe it wouldn’t be so prevalent if we just let every gender do whatever the hell they want.

In the stories of Abby Stein and Yiscah Smith, both reference hard times in which they didn’t feel like the gender they were born as. Yiscah has said that as he (when she was still a he) was waiting for his wife to walk down the aisle, he wanted to run away, mostly because he felt like he should be wearing the wedding dress. Why can’t he just wear a wedding dress then? It might sound crazy to some people because the bride “should” be wearing the dress, but if that’s what a boy wants to do, why can’t he just do it? People of both genders are suffocating because they feel like they have to act like their gender. They don’t!

It is also interesting to note that although every group has its transgender individuals, it seems to me (and I may be wrong) like a lot of the Jewish people coming out as transgender are from the Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox communities which both promote very strict gender roles, gender dress codes, and gender limitations. Thankfully, the Orthodox community is starting to open up more and we’re starting to see many different kinds of families in which the parents don’t adhere to these gender roles so strictly and instead do whatever works for their family.

I know it’s a lot more complicated than this and it’s definitely not as clear cut as I’m making it sound but my main point is that not everyone has to identify with their gender (or gender role). This obviously won’t fix the sudden explosion of people wanting to switch genders but if we stop forcing each gender to act like their gender “should,” maybe people in general would be happier. It’s a little like reverse psychology in which you tell a kid he cannot do something and then he wants to do it. If we make kids act a certain way based on their gender, they may want to get out of that role. I’m a girl. I like cars, I love sports, I eat more than most boys, and I’d rather climb a tree than play with a doll. I’m still a girl. I’m happy being a girl. But maybe I’d want to be a boy if I wan’t allowed to do those things growing up.

Just something to think about.