She was a yeshiva boy, now she prays from the women’s section

Transgender teen Shachar Chefer transitioned while remaining active in her small religious community.

“I was hospitalised in a psychiatric ward after I tried to take my own life. I begged my mother: ‘Mom, I can’t do this anymore, release me from this pain, I’m a girl’.”

These are the words 19-year-old Shachar Chefer, from the small religious community of Bnei Darom in central Israel, used to describe coming out as transgender four years ago.

Many religious parents reject transgender children but her mother, Liat, who wears a head covering and defines herself as a very observant person, accepted Chefer without question.

“She told me: ‘Is that it? Be a boy, be a girl, be a kangaroo as long as you stay with us and be happy.’ This was the most significant moment of my life,” Chefer said.

Chefer had been admitted to the psychiatric hospital after spending years trying to supress her gender dysphoria.

During a year in hospital, she went through a process that helped her learn to accept herself.

“There I went through a switch, from a yeshiva boy to myself. I came in there with a kippah, short hair, tzitzit and all; I walked out of there myself. I left there with makeup, with women’s clothes, with self-confidence, with belief in myself and self-love.”

That confidence has somehow enabled her religious community to accept her. She is still part of the community, prays in the women’s section and plans to marry and have children.

“When I was in the yeshiva before I came out of the closet, everyone made fun of me and humiliated me [but] from the minute I came out of the closet, and I said without a doubt that I am who I am, and that I’m not listening to what others think and not apologising, people don’t dare say anything to me.”

Navigating faith and identity: Being transgender in a religious town

Once an opponent of the pride parade in Jerusalem, I now march in it (Ynet)
After the murder of Shira Banki, I learned from those born different that same-sex relationships were their only path to happiness and fulfillment, and that acknowledging it compromises no aspect of my faith.

How Queers Are Changing Israel’s Kibbutzim (Haaretz)
Acceptance of LGBTQ people came a little late, but kibbutzim are fast becoming safe spaces for queers.

Why I, as an Orthodox rabbi, am committed to LGBTQ+ inclusion (Forward)
It’s a religious imperative for my fellow Orthodox Jews to fully embrace LGBTQ+ people.