Adjust size of text


Follow us and continue the conversation

Your saved articles

You haven't saved any articles

What are you looking for?

Trans rabbi excavates ancient Judaism’s many genders

TJI Pick
Print this
Trans rabbi excavates ancient Judaism’s many genders

Published: 3 October 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

Rabbi Elliot Kukla has written a blessing sanctifying gender transition as a holy act.

Growing up, Rabbi Elliot Kukla practiced just about every religion except for Judaism.

“I didn’t have language like ‘cultural appropriation,’ of course, but I had this sense that there was something missing in terms of connecting the dots between my cultural identity and the religions I was being raised with,” he said.

As a teenager, Kukla set off on the path that would lead to his eventual enrolment in an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva and later to being ordained by the Reform movement, then pushing at the edges of the Reform movement to try to find a queer and trans Judaism.”

“My entire journey through Judaism has been a series of slamming doors and then opening them,” he said.

“It matters so much right now to send a strong message that being trans is not new nor unnatural, that it does not go against religion nor nature. That voice coming from the Christian Right is being internalised by young people, even if they’re not religious. In fact, there are these rich spiritual histories in which we not only exist but are fully integrated into holy texts. And you don’t have to be Jewish for this to be important, to find comfort in the knowledge that trans people, nonbinary people, intersex people, people who exist beyond the binary have always been a part of our history. Personally, it was finding these characters that actually supported me in coming out as trans.

“In Jewish holy texts, there are six genders or sexes; the distinction between social behaviours of gender and the biological notions of sex wouldn’t have made sense 2000 years ago. These four characters beyond male and female appear all the time — hundreds and hundreds of times.”

Rabbi Elliot Kukla wants us to remember the many genders of ancient Judaism (Them)

Photo: Rabbi Elliot Kukla (Sarah Deragon, Them)

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

Enter site