Dana International was born anatomically male, but from early childhood felt she was female, leading her to seek hormonal and surgical intervention to better present herself as female. The medical term for this is 'transsexuality'. Transsexuality is a very complex phenomenon, and there are different ways of looking at it. As I am not transsexual myself, I would like to refer you to a number of sources where you can learn more about the subject.
1. People I have met on the internet and who themselves identify as transgendered:
- The utterly wonderful Miss K & her Dragnet shows how far a little glamour and a huge dollop of esthetics can get you. She was also instrumental in the publishing of the now-defunkt TG web magazine Anon. Finally, she is the one to thank for the new location of this website!
- Janet has a website not only on Dana International, but also on T*rights.
- Marie gives us a very candid insight in her own personal experience.
- One of my first web sources of information on Dana was Amanda who is British, but lives in the Middle East. Her site included info on transgender issues in the Arab world, but has now disappeared unfortunately.
- Michelle B has posted a reaction to Dana's only pre-operation interview on the Dana International-list she has allowed me to post it on the site, you'll find it in the media section.
- Jennifer is Canadian and has two extensive sites, both accessed through the preceding link. Her personal site contains information about Dana, including material on Judaism and politics as they relate to Dana. Her educational site contains information and links about transsexuality and gender identity disorder.
Jennifer is close to gender reassigment surgery herself and looks forward to the day she too steps into the limelight
- Maya Rose used to run the Israeli T* website Banot which included the only Dana website in Hebrew. The site has unfortunately disappeared.
2. General web resources on transsexuality and transgender issues:
3. I have also personally learnt and benefitted a lot from two books written by the Canadian author Kate Bornstein:
- Gender Outlaw On men, women and the rest of us -New York: Vintage Books 1995- ISBN 0-679-75701-5
- My Gender Workbook -New York: Routledge 1998- ISBN 0-415-91673-9
The first book is a fairly autobiographical account of hir stand on transgender issues. The second is a more playful version of self-help books with the goal of making you think seriously through gender issues. Have fun and learn about yourself and society at the same time! Now, Kate's views are fairly radical compared to those of many other TG people but ze'll be the first to tell you so. Enjoy!
4. Judaism and transsexuality
Lemuel Shattuck has provided the following statement on transsexuality and the Jewish Law (Ha-halakha). These are the answers to a question put to Rabbi Bauer, and were published on www.viejuive.com.
Question: Since Israel's victory at Eurovision, the question of transsexuals has become current. What does the Torah think of it?
Answer: We will base our response to your question essentially on the response of Rav Valdenberg in Tsitst Eliezer t. 11 sect. 78 and t. 10 sect. 26:
- It seems that according to the Torah sex is defined only by the external genital organs.
- Jewish law envisages the material possibilty of changing sex. It thinks, however, that in our days we are able only to change appearances, and not sex. In any case, if the means were developed to effectively change sex, Jewish law would not permit it for the sole aim of changing.
- Certain persons are born with anomalies of the genital organs. They present the appearance of both a man and a woman (androgyne-hermaphrodite). In this the possible cases are numerous. For example, an overgrown clitoris with the appearance of a penis can be cut off; the individual would then be a woman. Another example: a person effectively having the genitals of both sexes could be operated on to appear as a man.
- Without being familiar with a person's medical history it is impossible to say whether that person has the right to change sex. We cannot, then, under any pretext, permit ourselves to judge her.
- It is astonishing that a medical problem of such severity could be presented as a social issue. We should not confuse philosophy and medicine.
Lemuel has also directed my attention to an article in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, Blessed art thou who made me a man and a woman, which also debates transsexuality and androgynity from a Halakhi point of view.
5. Transsexuality in the Middle East
The Arab news magazine ash-Shuruq ran an article on transsexuality in July 1998. It contains a token picture of Dana, but is mainly included because it sheds a lot of light on the situation of transsexuals in the Arab world. It is available in both Arabic and my English translation. (Thanks to Nizar for scanning the article and e-mailing it!)
I am looking for more material on T* issues in the Arab world, especially concerning the case of 'Sally' in Egypt and any fatwas issued on the topic. Please mail me if you have any information!
I will take this opportunity to thank my friends Amanda, Emma Psyche, Miss K, Michelle B, Janet and especially Ina for fruitful e-mail discussion on TG issues as well as life in general. I have learnt a lot from all of you!