Trans­gen­der Charedi loses court bat­tle

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY SI­MON ROCKER

A HIGH COURT judge has re­jected the re­quest of a trans­gen­der fa­ther — who has left the Charedi com­mu­nity and now lives as a woman — to have di­rect con­tact with his five young chil­dren.

Mr Jus­tice Jack­son said he had reached “the un­wel­come con­clu­sion” that there was a risk of the mother and chil­dren be­ing marginalised or ex­cluded by the strictly Or­tho­dox com­mu­nity if they saw their fa­ther face-to-face.

While fam­ily court pro­ceed­ings were held in pri­vate last year, Judge Jack­son pub­lished his judg­ment on Mon­day on the strict con­di­tion the fam­ily’s anonymity was pre­served.

He ruled the fa­ther could have “in­di­rect con­tact” with the chil­dren — such as writ­ing let­ters — four times a year for their birthdays or Jewish fes­ti­vals.

The judge found it “a very trou­bling case. The chil­dren are caught be­tween these two ap­par­ently in­com­pat­i­ble ways of liv­ing, led by tiny mi­nori­ties within so­ci­ety at large.

“Both mi­nori­ties en­joy the pro­tec­tion of the law: on the one hand, the right of re­li­gious free­dom and, on the other, the right to equal treat­ment. It is painful to find these vul­ner­a­ble groups in con­flict .”

While the fa­ther had been raised as male, she had ex­pe­ri­enced a “con­sis­tent nag­ging feel­ing of in­con­gruity” since early child­hood, had sought to de­lay mar­riage and had tried to kill her­self.

She left her fam­ily two years ago, lives as a woman and is con­sid­er­ing hor­mone ther­apy and surgery. She be­lieves her­self to be “the first trans­gen­der per­son to have left a UK Charedi com­mu­nity”. Ac­cord­ing to the judge, the fa­ther had of­fered to see the chil­dren un­der su­per­vi­sion and “a re­quire­ment to as­sume, so far as pos­si­ble, her pre­vi­ous male ap­pear­ance in the early stages”.

The judge said the mother of the chil­dren had re­lated how her hus­band had “ex­pressed feel­ings of be­ing un­happy in his body” dur­ing their mar­riage, but she had“thought it was a re­li­gious cri­sis, not a gen­der is­sue”.

If the chil­dren had di­rect con­tact with their fa­ther, the par­ent body of their schools would not al­low other chil­dren to play with them, the mother had warned.

On be­half of the mother, Rabbi An­drew Op­pen­heimer said, if the chil­dren had con­tact with the fa­ther, “the fam­i­lies around them will ef­fec­tively os­tracise them. The im­pact on the fam­ily in such cir­cum­stances in terms of so­cial iso­la­tion will be dev­as­tat­ing”.

In ev­i­dence, Rabbi Op­pen­heimer made clear that in To­rah law to be gay or trans­gen­der is to be a sin­ner. He cited sup­port from Rabbi Shraga Feivel Zim­mer­man, head of the Gateshead com­mu­nity, and Dayan Yis­roel Licht­en­stein, head of the Fed­er­a­tion Beth Din.

Rabbi Zim­mer­man stated sex-change pro­ce­dures vi­o­lated Jewish law, while Dayan Licht­en­stein said Jewish law did not recog­nise any change of gen­der.

But Rabbi Ariel Abel, the rabbi of a regional cen­tral Or­tho­dox com­mu­nity, said on be­half of the fa­ther there was no rea­son that chil­dren who are trans­gen­der par­ented could not have a “full and sat­is­fy­ing Or­tho­dox life”.

The re­li­gious stud­ies head at the school of the fa­ther’s el­dest child said a meet­ing with his fa­ther “would cause unimag­in­able and ir­repara­ble dam­age ”.

Judy Henry and Emma Mor­ris, ther­a­pists from the Anna Freud Cen­tre, said the chil­dren’s cul­tural con­text should be taken into ac­count. “If the chil­dren run the risk of be­ing de­nied places at good schools and yeshivas and are be­ing shunned and os­tracised… this will have a neg­a­tive im­pact on how they func­tion in the widest pos­si­ble sense both now and in the fu­ture,” they wrote.

Judge Jack­son said his de­ci­sion was not “a fail­ure to up­hold trans­gen­der rights… but the up­hold­ing of the rights of the chil­dren to have the least harm­ful out­come in a sit­u­a­tion not of their mak­ing.” Alma Re is el, a so­cial worker and a trustee of Keshet UK, a char­ity pro­mot­ing equal­ity in the Jewish com­mu­nity for LGBT+ peo­ple, said the im­pli­ca­tions of the case were “fright­en­ing”.

She said: “This judg­ment will in­crease fear that com­ing out could re­sult in the loss of fam­ily as well as com­mu­nity.”

She sought to de­lay mar­riage and tried to kill her­self’ The im­pact on the fam­ily would be dev­as­tat­ing’

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