TORA, the organization of Traditional Orthodox Rabbis of America, notes that a group of Christian and Muslim faith leaders issued a thoughtful statement on sexuality and gender deserving broad attention (“Created Male and Female,” Dec. 15, 2017). We encourage the community to engage every individual with respect and compassion, especially when that individual experiences pain and confusion. The existence of people experiencing pain and confusion over gender adds to the importance of sharing the historic and eternal viewpoint of the Torah on this timely matter.
Talmudic law does not recognize the ability of people to change the sex with which they are born. In some cases, surgical intervention is forbidden; in others, it is of no consequence. While some would like to believe that all things are possible — that there are no givens, and no absolutes that cannot be broken — those who believe in a Creator affirm that He built a great deal of specificity into His creation. Ignoring fundamental truths about our world will not bring greater happiness to Mankind.
In that spirit, we affirm that every human being is endowed with the Divine image. The sex God assigns to each individual is part of who they are, helping them locate their physical and spiritual place in the world. Like in Talmudic times, the special cases today fit into the male-female dichotomy. And like in Talmudic times, we must listen with respect and compassion to those who feel they do not fit into this dichotomy. We welcome all Jews into the Jewish community and embrace all humanity as our fellows.
We reproduce here a portion of the aforementioned statement:
A person’s discomfort with his or her sex, or the desire to be identified as the other sex, is a complicated reality that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and truth. Each person deserves to be heard and treated with respect; it is our responsibility to respond to their concerns with compassion, mercy and honesty. As religious leaders, we express our commitment to urge the members of our communities to also respond to those wrestling with this challenge with patience and love.
Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can “change” their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults. Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of “first, do no harm.” Gender ideology harms individuals and societies by sowing confusion and self-doubt. The state itself has a compelling interest, therefore, in maintaining policies that uphold the scientific fact of human biology and supporting the social institutions and norms that surround it.
The movement today to enforce the false idea — that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa — is deeply troubling. It compels people to either go against reason — that is, to agree with something that is not true — or face ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation.
We desire the health and happiness of all men, women, and children. Therefore, we call for policies that uphold the truth of a person’s sexual identity as male or female, and the privacy and safety of all. We hope for renewed appreciation of the beauty of sexual difference in our culture and for authentic support of those who experience conflict with their God-given sexual identity.