Ultra-Orthodox and trans: “I prayed to God to make me a girl”

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When Abby Stein came out as trans, she sent shock waves through the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community. A direct descendant of Hasidic Judaism’s founder, The Baal Shem Tov, Abby’s parents considered her their first-born son and a future rabbi – but she was adamant that she was a girl.

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Ultra-Orthodox and trans: “I prayed to God to make me a girl”

My dad is a rabbi, and having a son was a big deal. He would always tell me that after five girls he had almost given up on having a boy, and how much it meant to him. I almost felt bad for him throughout my childhood – a feeling of: “I’m so sorry, but I can’t give you what you want.

"Everyone had told me that I was a boy, but it didn't feel right," Abby Stein said.
Abby Stein/

I didn’t know there were other people like me, but I knew what I felt – I just saw myself as a girl.

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I sometimes wish that I’d had a teacher who was transphobic, because that would have meant I knew trans people existed. In the Hasidic community they simply never spoke about it.

Meet Abby Stein, the transgender activist helping people who want ...
Abby Stein/

What kept me sane during my childhood was my imagination.

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When I was six I started collecting newspaper clippings about organ transplants – lung, kidney, heart and so on. In my mind, the plan was simple: one day, I would go to a doctor, show them my impressive collection of newspaper clippings, and they would perform a full body transplant, turning me into a girl.

When I got a bit older, I realised that wasn’t realistic, so I came up with my next idea, which was to ask God. I grew up in a very religious family, and we were told God could do anything.

So, aged nine, I wrote this prayer that I said every night: “Holy creator, I’m going to sleep now and I look like a boy. I am begging you, when I wake up in the morning I want to be a girl. I know that you can do anything and nothing is too hard for you

If you do that, I promise that I will be a good girl. I will dress in the most modest clothes. I will keep all the commandments girls have to keep.

  • “When I get older, I will be the best wife. I will help my husband study the Torah all day and all night. I will cook the best foods for him and my kids. Oh God, help me.”

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