My child is 11 years old and it is time to start preparing at our synagogue for Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Joe recently told us that he is a boy and wants us to start using male pronouns and calling him by a boy’s name. We’re doing that at home and need to start making plans to do that at school. He has always worn pants, so the clothing is not a big problem. We aren’t sure what to do about the Bar Mitzvah and I haven’t discussed anything with the rabbi yet. What would be the best way to proceed?
Dear Joe’s Dad,
It sounds like you are very supportive parents and the fact that you are already calling your child by his chosen name and the correct pronouns is a very big step. This is a significant change in your child’s life that will impact you and other members of your family. You are correct in thinking that you’ll need to work with others, both at his school and your synagogue, to make things go smoothly for him. I think enlisting your rabbi could be an important first step in planning for a Bar Mitzvah. Your rabbi may not know very much about trangender people or transitioning, and you may need to be a source of information for your rabbi. There is information available from Keshet (www.keshetonline.org), a national Jewish LGBTQ educational organization, and from Jewish Family and Children’s Service (www.jfcsphilly.org). Starting far in advance of the actual celebration is also a great idea, so that you, Joe, the rabbi, his teachers, and anyone else who needs to be involved, can decide together how to proceed.
I’m glad you reached out for support. That’s another important part of this process. While you seem to be handling things very well, you may find a time that it will be helpful to have the support of other parents of trans children. Another great resource is trans youth family allies (www.imatyfa.org).
Thanks for writing and mazel tov on the Bar Mitzvah.