This New Documentary Tells the Story of an Israeli Trans Woman and Her Family
I recently had the honor of seeing Family in Transition, a documentary by Ofir Trainin that centered on a family living in Nahariya, Israel, called the Tsuks. In this town of just 56,000 people, the Tsuks stand out as the only family with a parent who is transgender (Amit).
The film chronicles the challenges that Amit, her former wife Galit, and their children endured during Amit’s gender transition, while showcasing the beautiful diversity within the Jewish world. I had the chance to sit with Amit and others involved with the film to discuss how her story can inspire the Jewish community to be more audaciously hospitable to transgender Jews.
“I lost some close people during the process [of transitioning],” Amit told me. “I lost my father and my uncle and the entire family, except my wife and children and my mother.”
As she speaks, I’m reminded of painful images from the documentary: strangers riding past Amit on bicycles shouting slurs; family members not showing up to Amit’s daughter Agam’s bat mitzvah; a family friend writing a tearful letter to Amit explaining why his parents won’t let him come over anymore.
Despite all of this, Amit never gave up hope.
“I never stopped looking for my happiness,” she said. “I understood that if I will manage to go through the whole process, I will be happy. And if I will be happy, I will be a better person and a better mom for [my children] and a better wife to my wife, and that was the thing that guided me through the whole process.”
It is this love for her family, and their love in return, that was the highlight of this documentary. Amit told me that while living as a man, she spent more time with her son, but now that she lives openly as a woman, she’s developed a newfound closeness with her daughters. “It’s like I discovered my femininity through my daughters, and I became a friend to [them]…It was easier for me to talk about makeup and dresses and things like this.”
“She’s an amazing mother for us,” her daughter Yuval told me, “and she loves us, and we can be a normal family even with the process and everything we’ve been through.”
Judaism also plays a critical part in Amit’s self-affirmation. In the film, Amit and Galit renewed their vows as two brides, and instead of the Jewish wedding custom of breaking glass, Amit broke a porcelain painting of a mask.
“I felt that all my life, I lived in a costume and I put a mask on,” she recalled. “I think that the first things that I wanted to remove from my life were all the masks that I put on, and in the ceremony with all the people looking, I think it was the best way to explain that I will never put a mask on again in my life, no matter what I’m going to lose.”
During Amit and Galit’s wedding dance, we see Amit’s back tattoo, which reads, “Blessed Be He Who Made Me a Woman” in Hebrew, subverting the blessing that Orthodox Jewish men say every morning thanking God for not making them women.
“I am Jewish, but I am a Jewish woman, and I thank God that I am a Jewish woman,” she proclaims. “God loves everyone, no matter what, and if you want to be a better person, you have to love [others] first. It doesn’t matter the gender; what matters is the person you’re talking to.”
This film has provided Amit the opportunity to help others going through similar experiences, as well as their families. She told me she was contacted by the family of a transgender girl who was greatly inspired by her story, and director Ofir Trainin mentioned that a viewer was inspired to fly to New York and visit his estranged gay son and meet his grandchildren for the very first time.
“The [film’s] message,” Ofir says, “is to accept others, and the other is to be yourself.”
Tal Barda, the film’s producer, told me that in addition to the film’s message of inspiring love and acceptance for our trans family, “There is also a big message here that has to do with education.” She says that “one amazing thing is that Galit and Amit educated their children, and you can say no matter what, they succeeded in [teaching them to] accept others.”