Dr. Joy Ladin, an English professor from the Jewish Yeshiva University, was at USF last Wednesday to discuss her intricate, lifelong, relationship with God and her transition from living as a man to living as a woman.
She read portions of her essay, “The God Thing,” and then told of her journey to find her true self. She explained that since birth she had always had “an unshakable lifelong sense that [she] was female.”
A large portion of Ladin’s presentation was centered on her family—the wife and three kids she ended up losing, at the cost of finding herself. There was palpable emotion as she talked about her relationship with them, especially her son. She alluded to her children’s expectations when she said she was supposed to help them grow up, not have them watch her grow up. Her presentation was rife with brutally honest anecdotes. However, she summarized those experiences by saying that her gender quandary “sucks.”
In spite of all this, relating to God was always a refuge for Dr. Ladin. As a child she found many similarities explaining, “Here’s somebody else who doesn’t have a body and doesn’t know how to get along with people.”
She said that since her transition her relationship with the Jewish community has diminished but continues to have strong faith.
Dr. Ladin’s life story is readily accessible on Google. That can be attributed in part to the New York Post, which published a vilifying story about her return to Yeshiva University after her transition. By Ladin’s count she is the only known transgendered professor at an orthodox university. In the summer of her transition, Dr. Ladin was notified she had received tenure. However she had applied while she was still a man, putting university administrators in an unprecedented position when Professor Jay Ladin came back as Joy.
The scandal has now settled and Dr. Ladin feels grateful in her present situation. She said, “I feel seen and I think that’s a gift”. With a small smile Ladin told of the first time she realized she “had made it” as a female, when an auto mechanic tried to rip her off.
Sophomore Jewish Studies and Social Justice minor Chelsea Mandell said, “It was really eye opening to listen to her talk not only about transgender issues but about transgender issues in the Jewish community, because that’s a whole other element that you never really hear about.”
The event was co-sponsored by the Jewish Studies and Social Justice Program as well as the Department of Theology and Religious Studies.
Organizer of the event and Jewish Studies Professor Aaron Hahn Tapper said, “As someone without awareness regarding gender variance issues prior to the last few years, I am committed to focusing some of my social justice activism on this important issue.”