Toldot Trans: Tracing a Trans Lineage through the Torah

Elohim:
They/Them God

The first name for Hashem in TaNaKh is "Elohim" which literally means "Gods," and is written in the plural masculine form. It is paired with the verb "bara" - or 'he created' - in the singular masculine past tense. In Eytz Hayim, the conservative Jewish JPS commentary refers to this as a plural name with a singular verb form - making Elohim the first entity in the universe to use singular they/them pronouns.

(א) בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃
(1) When God began to create heaven and earth—

Adam:
The Bi-gendered Being

Our rabbis describe Adam as an "androginos", meaning an androgynous or bigendered being. Since Adam is made "btzelem elohim," in the image of God, and God Themself is first named "Elohim" - a plural name for a singular being - we know that gender-abundance, non-binariness, they/them pronouns, and more, are as old as the first human being, and God Herself.

Our Rabbis come to the same conclusion, drashing on the creation of Adam in chapters 2 and 5 of Breishis.

(א)בְּי֗וֹם בְּרֹ֤א אֱלֹהִים֙ אָדָ֔ם בִּדְמ֥וּת אֱלֹהִ֖ים עָשָׂ֥ה אֹתֽוֹ׃ (ב) זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בְּרָאָ֑ם וַיְבָ֣רֶךְ אֹתָ֗ם וַיִּקְרָ֤א אֶת־שְׁמָם֙ אָדָ֔ם בְּי֖וֹם הִבָּֽרְאָֽם׃ (ס) (ג) וַֽיְחִ֣י אָדָ֗ם

(1) When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God; (2) male and female He created them. And when they were created, He blessed them and called them Adam.— (3) And Adam lived

אָמַר רַבִּי יִרְמְיָה בֶּן אֶלְעָזָר בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן, אַנְדְּרוֹגִינוֹס בְּרָאוֹ, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב (בראשית ה, ב): זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה בְּרָאָם.

Said Rabbi Yirmyah ben Elazar: When the Holy One created Adam, He created him as an androgynous person. This is as is written (Bereishit 5:2): "Male and female He created them."

אָמַר רַבִּי שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר נַחְמָן בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן, אַנְדְּרוֹגִינוֹס בְּרָאוֹ, אָמַר רֵישׁ לָקִישׁ בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁנִּבְרָא דוּ פַּרְצוּפִין נִבְרָא וּנְסָרוֹ וְנַעֲשָׂה שְׁנַיִם גַּבִּים, גַּב לְזָכָר גַּב לִנְקֵבָה

Said Rav Shmuel bar Nachman: When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the first man, he created him as an androgynous being. Reish Lakish: When it was created, dual faces [together] were created, and it was cut, and two were made. [One] back was male, [one] back was female.

See also: Genesis 1:27, Genesis 2:22 and the rest of Vayikra Rabbah 14:1 which draws a connection to Gen 2:22

Adam to Avram:
Beyond Son's and Daughters

After Adam, Seth is born in Adam's image - which, as we now know, means gender-abundant and queer.

The generations after and including Seth are all born in this same way: a parent lives a certain number of years and begets one specific child; the parent lives a few more years and begets numerous unnamed "sons and daughters;" and then the parent's years are summed up, and they pass away.

Besides for the generations after Adam, the other place in Tanakh where we see a person set aside from, and compared to, "sons and daughters" is in Isaiah, who says that sarisim are beloved to Hashem, and will be given a "yad va'shem," a hand and a name, better than sons or daughters.

Sarisim are one of the 6 gender/sex categories laid out by our tradition. They are often referred to as "eunuchs;" they have been reclaimed as trans women; and they have the lexical foundation, from the root of the word saris, of being "uprooters," or radical presences in society.

Thus, Torah, when comparing a person to "sons and daughters," indicates that that person is distinct from the 'zachar u'nikeiva,' the male and female binary, and a trans figure themselves. Since Adam is an androginos, and Seth is made in their image and set aside from sons and daughters; and Seth's child Enosh is also set aside from sons and daughters, and so on; we can carry this through from Adam to Noach in chapter 5, and then in Chapter 11, we see the same formula - beget a named child, live a few more years, beget unnamed "sons and daughters" - carry us from Noach all the way to Avram Avinu.

(ג) וַֽיְחִ֣י אָדָ֗ם שְׁלֹשִׁ֤ים וּמְאַת֙ שָׁנָ֔ה וַיּ֥וֹלֶד בִּדְמוּת֖וֹ כְּצַלְמ֑וֹ וַיִּקְרָ֥א אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ שֵֽׁת׃ (ד) וַיִּֽהְי֣וּ יְמֵי־אָדָ֗ם אַֽחֲרֵי֙ הוֹלִיד֣וֹ אֶת־שֵׁ֔ת שְׁמֹנֶ֥ה מֵאֹ֖ת שָׁנָ֑ה וַיּ֥וֹלֶד בָּנִ֖ים וּבָנֽוֹת׃

(3) When Adam had lived 130 years, he begot a son in his likeness after his image, and he named him Seth. (4) After the birth of Seth, Adam lived 800 years and begot sons and daughters.

(ז) וַֽיְחִי־שֵׁ֗ת אַֽחֲרֵי֙ הוֹלִיד֣וֹ אֶת־אֱנ֔וֹשׁ שֶׁ֣בַע שָׁנִ֔ים וּשְׁמֹנֶ֥ה מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָ֑ה וַיּ֥וֹלֶד בָּנִ֖ים וּבָנֽוֹת׃

(7) After the birth of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and begot sons and daughters.

(לב) וַֽיְהִי־נֹ֕חַ בֶּן־חֲמֵ֥שׁ מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָ֑ה וַיּ֣וֹלֶד נֹ֔חַ אֶת־שֵׁ֖ם

(32) When Noah had lived 500 years, Noah begot Shem

(יא) וַֽיְחִי־שֵׁ֗ם אַֽחֲרֵי֙ הוֹלִיד֣וֹ אֶת־אַרְפַּכְשָׁ֔ד חֲמֵ֥שׁ מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָ֑ה וַיּ֥וֹלֶד בָּנִ֖ים וּבָנֽוֹת׃ (ס)

(11) After the birth of Arpachshad, Shem lived 500 years and begot sons and daughters.

(כז) וְאֵ֙לֶּה֙ תּוֹלְדֹ֣ת תֶּ֔רַח תֶּ֚רַח הוֹלִ֣יד אֶת־אַבְרָ֔ם

(27) Now this is the line of Terah: Terah begot Abram

(ד) כִּי־כֹ֣ה ׀ אָמַ֣ר יְהוָ֗ה לַסָּֽרִיסִים֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר יִשְׁמְרוּ֙ אֶת־שַׁבְּתוֹתַ֔י וּבָֽחֲר֖וּ בַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר חָפָ֑צְתִּי וּמַחֲזִיקִ֖ים בִּבְרִיתִֽי׃ (ה) וְנָתַתִּ֨י לָהֶ֜ם בְּבֵיתִ֤י וּבְחֽוֹמֹתַי֙ יָ֣ד וָשֵׁ֔ם ט֖וֹב מִבָּנִ֣ים וּמִבָּנ֑וֹת שֵׁ֤ם עוֹלָם֙ אֶתֶּן־ל֔וֹ אֲשֶׁ֖ר לֹ֥א יִכָּרֵֽת׃ (ס)

(4) For thus said the LORD: “As for the sarisim who keep My sabbaths, Who have chosen what I desire And hold fast to My covenant— (5) I will give them, in My House And within My walls, a monument and a name Better than sons or daughters. I will give them an everlasting name which shall not perish.

Abraham and Sarah:

Tumtumim, Aylonit

Tumtum and Aylonit are two other sex/gender categories from the talmud. A tumtum is a person of an "indeterminate sex." An aylonit is a person assigned female at birth, who then displays "male secondary sex characteristics" later in life. Tumtum has been reclaimed as a nonbinary trans category, and aylonit as a transmasculine one.

Here in Masechet Yevamoys, we see Avram and Sarai described as nonbinary, and the kashe, or rabbinic difficulty, is not whether they are trans, but what type of trans they are, since Rabbi Nahman says Sarai was not a tumtum, but rather an aylonit.

אמר רבי אמי אברהם ושרה טומטמין היו שנאמר (ישעיהו נא, א) הביטו אל צור חוצבתם ואל מקבת בור נוקרתם וכתיב (ישעיהו נא, ב) הביטו אל אברהם אביכם ואל שרה תחוללכם אמר רב נחמן אמר רבה בר אבוה שרה אמנו אילונית היתה שנאמר (בראשית יא, ל) ותהי שרי עקרה אין לה ולד אפי' בית ולד אין לה

Rabbi Ami said: Abraham and Sarah were tumtumin, as it is stated: “Look to the rock from where you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from where you were dug” (Isaiah 51:1), and it is written “Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you” (Isaiah 51:2), which indicates that sexual organs were fashioned for them, signified by the words hewn and dug, over the course of time. Rav Naḥman said that Rabba bar Avuh said: Our mother Sarah was an aylonit, as it is stated: “And Sarah was barren; she had no child” (Genesis 11:30). The superfluous words: “She had no child,” indicate that she did not have even a place, i.e., a womb, for a child.

Isaac:
A Feminine Soul

The Sochatchover Rebbe, before the first World War in Poland, said that Isaac was born with a feminine soul. To prove this, he used the phrase from Chapter 18 of Breishis, which says "there will be a son to your wife Sarah," rather than "You [Avraham] will have a son." This idea of "mother's sons" being of a transfeminine character (rather than "father's sons") will return later with Jacob.

The fact that Sarah laughed when she heard the news that Isaac would be born with a feminine soul shows that trans children can and should be a source of joy. Sarah's laughter - the tumtum/aylonit parent of a transfemminine child - carries through the trans lineage of our people to this day. It is part of the "everlasting name" promised to us in Isaiah.

Sarah laughed because she understood that her son would have an unusual soul, based upon the precise language that the angel used. The angel said, "Sarah will have a son," and not, "Abraham will have a son." From this, Sarah understood that her son would have a feminine soul

Shem Mishmuel

Rabbi Shmuel Bornsztain, the second Sochatchover Rebbe, between the years 1910-1926

Source

Rebecca:

The Na'ar

In Tanakh, Rivka is described as a "maiden," or na'arah. However, the word for maiden, every time it's used for her, is written without the final "hey," allowing it to be read as "na'ar," or lad.

This is almost-definitely a grammar quirk arising from the fact that the hey-suffix for words that end with "ah" was developed over time as the tanakh was being canonized. But since other places in tanakh do use the hey, and Rivka never has the hey used for "her," we can see a transmasculinity in her "lad"-ness.

Also: Rivka, in Chapter 25, is descibed as "akara," barren, which is the same word connected to the rabbis' argument that Sarai is an aylonit! We further note that Rivka was taken in to Isaac's life after Sara's death. More specifically, she is brought into Sara's tent, and serves as balm for Isaac's loss. So between being an akara, being brought into Sara's tent and serving as a replacement for Sara in the family, we can say that what Isaac and his servant saw in choosing Rivka as a partner, was the chance to bring another aylonit, a transmasculine person, into a family that so desired and missed that presence after the loss of Sara.

(טז) והנער טבת מראה

(16) The young man/woman was very femme-beautiful

(כח) ותרץ הנער

(28) The young man/woman femme-ran

(יט) וענשו אתו מאה כסף ונתנו לאבי הנערה

(19) and they shall fine him a hundred [shekels of] silver and give it to the girl’s father

(כא) וַיֶּעְתַּ֨ר יִצְחָ֤ק לַֽיהוָה֙ לְנֹ֣כַח אִשְׁתּ֔וֹ כִּ֥י עֲקָרָ֖ה הִ֑וא וַיֵּעָ֤תֶר לוֹ֙ יְהוָ֔ה וַתַּ֖הַר רִבְקָ֥ה אִשְׁתּֽוֹ׃

(21) Isaac pleaded with the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD responded to his plea, and his wife Rebekah conceived.

(סז) וַיְבִאֶ֣הָ יִצְחָ֗ק הָאֹ֙הֱלָה֙ שָׂרָ֣ה אִמּ֔וֹ וַיִּקַּ֧ח אֶת־רִבְקָ֛ה וַתְּהִי־ל֥וֹ לְאִשָּׁ֖ה וַיֶּאֱהָבֶ֑הָ וַיִּנָּחֵ֥ם יִצְחָ֖ק אַחֲרֵ֥י אִמּֽוֹ׃ (פ)

(67) Isaac then brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he took Rebekah as his wife. Isaac loved her, and thus found comfort after his mother’s death.

Jacob:
Femmey Drag King Momma’s-"Boy"

Jacob, the child of a "father" with a feminine soul, and a "mother" who is a lad, grows up into a physical and social transness alongside his very-cis brother. Unlike Esau, Jacob is physically hairless. Unlike Esau who hunts in the field, Jacob stays at home and is found cooking when Esau returns from the hunt in chapter 25. Jacob is describe as "his" "mother's son," much like Yitzhak is "Sarah's child", and is chosen by Rivka as the favorite.

In order to mimick Esau, Jacob, though supposedly a "man," and no less our "patriach," had to put on drag in order to have enough body hair to pass. And through all this, who does our tradition choose to lead the people? The femmey, momma's boy, "soft man," or the burly, hairy hunter? The gender-outlaw, or the cis one who checks all the boxes?

Next time you're saying the amidah, remember who gets named as Hashem's chosen stewards in the first paragraph:

A tumtum, a transfeminine soul, and a femme drag-king momma's boy!

Complicating "Physical Sex": The Hairless "Man"

(כה) וַיֵּצֵ֤א הָרִאשׁוֹן֙ אַדְמוֹנִ֔י כֻּלּ֖וֹ כְּאַדֶּ֣רֶת שֵׂעָ֑ר וַיִּקְרְא֥וּ שְׁמ֖וֹ עֵשָֽׂו׃ (כו) וְאַֽחֲרֵי־כֵ֞ן יָצָ֣א אָחִ֗יו וְיָד֤וֹ אֹחֶ֙זֶת֙ בַּעֲקֵ֣ב עֵשָׂ֔ו וַיִּקְרָ֥א שְׁמ֖וֹ יַעֲקֹ֑ב

(25) The first one emerged red, like a hairy mantle all over; so they named him Esau. (26) Then his brother emerged, holding on to the heel of Esau; so they named him Jacob.

(יא) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יַעֲקֹ֔ב אֶל־רִבְקָ֖ה אִמּ֑וֹ הֵ֣ן עֵשָׂ֤ו אָחִי֙ אִ֣ישׁ שָׂעִ֔ר וְאָנֹכִ֖י אִ֥ישׁ חָלָֽק׃

(11) Jacob answered his mother Rebekah, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man and I am a smooth-skinned man.

Gender Role-Play: The Mild "Man"

(כז) וַֽיִּגְדְּלוּ֙ הַנְּעָרִ֔ים וַיְהִ֣י עֵשָׂ֗ו אִ֛ישׁ יֹדֵ֥עַ צַ֖יִד אִ֣ישׁ שָׂדֶ֑ה וְיַעֲקֹב֙ אִ֣ישׁ תָּ֔ם יֹשֵׁ֖ב אֹהָלִֽים׃ (כט) וַיָּ֥זֶד יַעֲקֹ֖ב נָזִ֑יד וַיָּבֹ֥א עֵשָׂ֛ו מִן־הַשָּׂדֶ֖ה וְה֥וּא עָיֵֽף׃

(27) When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the outdoors; but Jacob was a mild man who stayed in camp. (29) Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the open, famished.

Jacob Does Drag: Hair and Cologne

(כב) וַיִּגַּ֧שׁ יַעֲקֹ֛ב אֶל־יִצְחָ֥ק אָבִ֖יו וַיְמֻשֵּׁ֑הוּ וַיֹּ֗אמֶר הַקֹּל֙ ק֣וֹל יַעֲקֹ֔ב וְהַיָּדַ֖יִם יְדֵ֥י עֵשָֽׂו׃ (כג) וְלֹ֣א הִכִּיר֔וֹ כִּֽי־הָי֣וּ יָדָ֗יו כִּידֵ֛י עֵשָׂ֥ו אָחִ֖יו שְׂעִרֹ֑ת וַֽיְבָרְכֵֽהוּ׃ (כז) וַיִּגַּשׁ֙ וַיִּשַּׁק־ל֔וֹ וַיָּ֛רַח אֶת־רֵ֥יחַ בְּגָדָ֖יו וַֽיְבָרֲכֵ֑הוּ וַיֹּ֗אמֶר רְאֵה֙ רֵ֣יחַ בְּנִ֔י כְּרֵ֣יחַ שָׂדֶ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר בֵּרֲכ֖וֹ יְהוָֽה׃

(22) So Jacob drew close to his father Isaac, who felt him and wondered. “The voice is the voice of Jacob, yet the hands are the hands of Esau.” (23) He did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; and so he blessed him. (27) and he went up and kissed him. And he smelled his clothes and he blessed him, saying, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of the fields that the LORD has blessed.

Trans Across Generations: Momma's "Boy"

(כח) וַיֶּאֱהַ֥ב יִצְחָ֛ק אֶת־עֵשָׂ֖ו כִּי־צַ֣יִד בְּפִ֑יו וְרִבְקָ֖ה אֹהֶ֥בֶת אֶֽת־יַעֲקֹֽב׃

(28) Isaac loved Esau because he had a taste for game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Jacob's blessing: "Mother's Sons"

(כח) וְיִֽתֶּן־לְךָ֙ הָאֱלֹהִ֔ים מִטַּל֙ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וּמִשְׁמַנֵּ֖י הָאָ֑רֶץ וְרֹ֥ב דָּגָ֖ן וְתִירֹֽשׁ׃ (כט) יַֽעַבְד֣וּךָ עַמִּ֗ים וישתחו [וְיִֽשְׁתַּחֲו֤וּ] לְךָ֙ לְאֻמִּ֔ים הֱוֵ֤ה גְבִיר֙ לְאַחֶ֔יךָ וְיִשְׁתַּחֲוּ֥וּ לְךָ֖ בְּנֵ֣י אִמֶּ֑ךָ אֹרְרֶ֣יךָ אָר֔וּר וּֽמְבָרֲכֶ֖יךָ בָּרֽוּךְ׃

(28) “May God give you Of the dew of heaven and the fat of the earth, Abundance of new grain and wine. (29) Let peoples serve you, And nations bow to you; Be master over your brothers, And let your mother’s sons bow to you. Cursed be they who curse you, Blessed they who bless you.”

Esau's Blessing: Living by the Sword

(מ) וְעַל־חַרְבְּךָ֣ תִֽחְיֶ֔ה וְאֶת־אָחִ֖יךָ תַּעֲבֹ֑ד

(40) Yet by your sword you shall live, And you shall serve your brother

Ish Tahm Mightier than Ish Sadeh

(כג) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהוָ֜ה לָ֗הּ שְׁנֵ֤י גיים [גוֹיִם֙] בְּבִטְנֵ֔ךְ וּשְׁנֵ֣י לְאֻמִּ֔ים מִמֵּעַ֖יִךְ יִפָּרֵ֑דוּ וּלְאֹם֙ מִלְאֹ֣ם יֶֽאֱמָ֔ץ וְרַ֖ב יַעֲבֹ֥ד צָעִֽיר׃

(23) and the LORD answered her, “Two nations are in your womb, Two separate peoples shall issue from your body; One people shall be mightier than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.”

See also: Genesis 32:25-31 where Jacob gay-wrestles an angel

Joseph:

Beautiful Queer Youth Scorned

Joseph is a gender-bender par-excellence.

In one of the more famous queer instances of Torah, Joseph gets handed a multicolor gay dreamcoat (a 'ktonet pasim') in an intergenerational trans-ference from their 'father' Jacob. The only other time ktonet pasim is used as a phrase in TaNaKh, it is defined as "what virgin girls wear" in Shmuel Bes.

Joseph is then spurned, like in many queer stories we know, by their brothers, and thrown out of their home.

In being described as beautiful, the Torah uses the same phrase for Joseph as they do for their mother Rachel, and Jacob is said to gaze upon Joseph to renew himself because Joseph looks like Rachel so much.

In Breishis Rabba, Joseph is described as doing "girlish things" for their beauty: like donning makeup and doing up his hair and wearing heels.

He's beloved by pharaoh and pharaoh's wife. And as we all know dream-teller was an ancient trans vocation.

Just trans in so many many many ways!

Y'Phat To'ar Vi'Phat Mareh: "His" mother's beauty

(יז) רָחֵל֙ הָֽיְתָ֔ה יְפַת־תֹּ֖אַר וִיפַ֥ת מַרְאֶֽה׃

(17) Rachel was shapely and beautiful.

(ו) וַיְהִ֣י יוֹסֵ֔ף יְפֵה־תֹ֖אַר וִיפֵ֥ה מַרְאֶֽה׃

(6) Now Joseph was "well built and handsome." (i.e. shapely and beautiful)

Whenever Joseph would walk by Jacob, he would look at Joseph, and his (Jacob’s) soul would be restored, as if he was looking at the mother of Joseph, for the beauty of Joseph was similar to the beauty of Rachel.

[Zohar 216b]

Multicolor Intergenerational Femme Dreamcoat

(ג) וְיִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אָהַ֤ב אֶת־יוֹסֵף֙ מִכָּל־בָּנָ֔יו כִּֽי־בֶן־זְקֻנִ֥ים ה֖וּא ל֑וֹ וְעָ֥שָׂה ל֖וֹ כְּתֹ֥נֶת פַּסִּֽים׃

(3) Now Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him an ornamented [flamingly gay, femme and sparkly] tunic.

(יח) וְעָלֶ֙יהָ֙ כְּתֹ֣נֶת פַּסִּ֔ים כִּי֩ כֵ֨ן תִּלְבַּ֧שְׁןָ בְנוֹת־הַמֶּ֛לֶךְ הַבְּתוּלֹ֖ת מְעִילִ֑ים

(18) She was wearing an ornamented tunic, for maiden princesses were customarily dressed in such garments.

(כג) וַֽיְהִ֕י כַּֽאֲשֶׁר־בָּ֥א יוֹסֵ֖ף אֶל־אֶחָ֑יו וַיַּפְשִׁ֤יטוּ אֶת־יוֹסֵף֙ אֶת־כֻּתָּנְתּ֔וֹ אֶת־כְּתֹ֥נֶת הַפַּסִּ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָלָֽיו׃

(23) When Joseph came up to his brothers, they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the ornamented tunic that he was wearing

Queer Youth Kicked Out by Siblings

(ד) וַיִּרְא֣וּ אֶחָ֗יו כִּֽי־אֹת֞וֹ אָהַ֤ב אֲבִיהֶם֙ מִכָּל־אֶחָ֔יו וַֽיִּשְׂנְא֖וּ אֹת֑וֹ וְלֹ֥א יָכְל֖וּ דַּבְּר֥וֹ לְשָׁלֹֽם׃

(4) And when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of his brothers, they hated him so that they could not speak a friendly word to him.

Make Up and Heels

(ז) יוֹסֵף בֶּן שְׁבַע עֶשְׂרֵה שָׁנָה וגו' (בראשית לז, ב), וְאַתְּ אָמַר וְהוּא נַעַר, אֶלָּא שֶׁהָיָה עוֹשֶׂה מַעֲשֵׂה נַעֲרוּת, מְמַשְׁמֵשׁ בְּעֵינָיו, מְתַלֶּה בַּעֲקֵבוֹ, מְתַקֵּן בְּשַׂעֲרוֹ.

(7) "Joseph was seventeen years of age, etc" (Genesis 37:2), and it further says "He was a youth" (ibid.), rather that he did youthful things. He touched up his eyes, he picked up his heels, he fixed his hair.

Potiphar and Potiphar's Wife Loved Him

ויקנהו פוטיפר סריס פרעה אמר רב שקנאו לעצמו

“And Potiphar, an officer [seris] of Pharaoh’s, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the hand of the Ishmaelites, who had brought him down there” (Genesis 39:1). Rav says: He purchased the handsome Joseph for himself, for the intended purpose of homosexual intercourse, but was unable to fulfill his desires

(ד) וַיִּמְצָ֨א יוֹסֵ֥ף חֵ֛ן בְּעֵינָ֖יו

(4) Joseph found grace in [Potiphar]'s eyes [...]

(ו) וַיְהִ֣י יוֹסֵ֔ף יְפֵה־תֹ֖אַר וִיפֵ֥ה מַרְאֶֽה׃ (ז) וַיְהִ֗י אַחַר֙ הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה וַתִּשָּׂ֧א אֵֽשֶׁת־אֲדֹנָ֛יו אֶת־עֵינֶ֖יהָ אֶל־יוֹסֵ֑ף וַתֹּ֖אמֶר שִׁכְבָ֥ה עִמִּֽי׃

(6) [...] Now Joseph was well built and handsome. (7) After a time, his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph and said, “Lie with me.”

Rabbi Yochanan:

A Women's Beauty, like Pomegranate Seeds

Rabbi Yochanan is transfemminine. And Bava Metzia 84a reveals this in so many ways.

Yohanan is said to have beauty-of-a-woman by their lover/hevruta Reish Lakish, who jumps into a river after "mistaking" them for one. In the description of their beauty, they are a bountiful silver goblet filled with pomegranate seeds and rose petals. Yohanan wasn't on the list of "beautiful men" in the Talmud because, she doesn't have a beard. They are described as sitting at edge of mikveh, in the cusp between a woman's place and the male public domain. When they bring Reish Lakish to the world of Torah, they do so by bring them under wings of Shechina - the feminine aspect of God.

And in the final connection for toldoys trans: When asked why she doesn't invite the evil eye on herself, by describing herself as beautiful so often, she responds that she is immune from the evil eye, because she is from the "seed" of Joseph.

Thus we have an unbroken chain from Elohim to Rabbi Yochanan that carries transness through the Torah to our rabbis.

And this, we know, is no the end. After Rabbi Yochanan comes all the queer and transness of Judaism since - the yeshiva bochurs cavorting on the roofs of their study halls; the trans rabbi of the Betul"a" of Ludmir; the gay love poetry of Sefarad; Magnes Hirschfeld and his archives; Leslie Feinberg; and yes - you <3

May this sheet keep you rooted in the ancient radicality of your transness. And spur us to a gayer world for ourselves and our transcendants to come.

"His" physical beauty: Pomegranates, Red Roses and Rivers

אמר רבי יוחנן אנא אישתיירי משפירי ירושלים האי מאן דבעי מחזי שופריה דרבי יוחנן נייתי כסא דכספא מבי סלקי ונמלייה פרצידיא דרומנא סומקא ונהדר ליה כלילא דוורדא סומקא לפומיה ונותביה בין שמשא לטולא ההוא זהרורי מעין שופריה דר' יוחנן

With regard to Rabbi Yoḥanan’s physical features, the Gemara adds that Rabbi Yoḥanan said: I alone remain of the beautiful people of Jerusalem. The Gemara continues: One who wishes to see something resembling the beauty of Rabbi Yoḥanan should bring a new, shiny silver goblet from the smithy and fill it with red pomegranate seeds [partzidaya] and place a diadem of red roses upon the lip of the goblet, and position it between the sunlight and shade. That luster is a semblance of Rabbi Yoḥanan’s beauty.

יומא חד הוה קא סחי ר' יוחנן בירדנא חזייה ריש לקיש ושוור לירדנא אבתריה אמר ליה חילך לאורייתא אמר ליה שופרך לנשי

The Gemara relates: One day, Rabbi Yoḥanan was bathing in the Jordan River. Reish Lakish saw him and jumped into the Jordan, pursuing him, in lust after Rabbi Yohanan's physical, feminine beauty. Rabbi Yoḥanan said to Reish Lakish: Your strength is fit for Torah study. Reish Lakish said to him: Your beauty is fit for women [i.e. a woman].

See also, the section right before this that begins "א"ר יוחנן איבריה" where they talk about the size of various rabbinic phalluses, noting that feminine beauty and the presence of a phallus, can be and are combined

Yochanan: So femme, gets own transfeminine beauty list

איני והאמר מר שופריה דרב כהנא מעין שופריה דרבי אבהו שופריה דר' אבהו מעין שופריה דיעקב אבינו שופריה דיעקב אבינו מעין שופריה דאדם הראשון ואילו ר' יוחנן לא קא חשיב ליה שאני ר' יוחנן דהדרת פנים לא הויא ליה

The Gemara asks: Is that so? Was Rabbi Yoḥanan so beautiful? But doesn’t the Master say: The beauty of Rav Kahana is a semblance of the beauty of Rabbi Abbahu; the beauty of Rabbi Abbahu is a semblance of the beauty of Jacob, our forefather; and the beauty of Jacob, our forefather, is a semblance of the beauty of Adam the first man, who was created in the image of God. And yet Rabbi Yoḥanan is not included in this list. The Gemara answers: Rabbi Yoḥanan is different from these other men, as he did not have a beauty of countenance, i.e., he did not have a beard.

Sitting at the Edge of the Mikveh

ר' יוחנן הוה אזיל ויתיב אשערי טבילה אמר כי סלקן בנות ישראל מטבילת מצוה לפגעו בי כי היכי דלהוו להו בני שפירי כוותי גמירי אורייתא כוותי

The Gemara continues to discuss Rabbi Yoḥanan’s beauty. Rabbi Yoḥanan would go and sit by the entrance to the ritual bath. He said to himself: When Jewish women come up from their immersion for the sake of a mitzva, after their menstruation, they should encounter me first, so that they have beautiful children like me, and sons learned in Torah like me. This is based on the idea that the image upon which a woman meditates during intercourse affects the child she conceives.

Offspring of Joseph

אמר להו אנא מזרעא דיוסף קאתינא דלא שלטא ביה עינא בישא

Rabbi Yoḥanan said to them: I come from the offspring of Joseph, over whom the evil eye does not have dominion

See also: Yochanan brings Reish Lakish under the "כנפי השכינה", wings of the feminine Shechina. And the deep, queer, star-crossed love story between them that begins with "יומא חד" and goes until the end of the amud.

Summary:

  1. Adam is bi-gender and in god's image
  2. Adam begets Seth in "his [bigender] likeness and image" separate from other 'sons and daughters', a lineage which continues until Avram
    1. See: difference between "sons and daughters" and sarisim in Isaiah
  3. Abraham and Sarah are tumtumim, Sarah maybe an aylonit
  4. Isaac has a feminine soul, Rebecca is a na'ar
  5. Jacob takes on feminine appearance and gender roles and is chosen by "his" "mother," and the tradition, vs. the masculine ideal in Esau
  6. Joseph is beautiful like "his" mother and chosen by "his" "father" to carry the femmey dreamcoat, ultimately stripped away by queerphobic brothers
  7. Yochanan is "in the line of Joseph," and just transfemme on so many levels it's ridiculous

Credits:

Rabbi Dev Noily

Abby Stein
Maggid Jhos Singer

Micah Bazant

Rabbi Elliot Kukla

Kehilla, Jenna, Queer Torah class

Benay and Svara, always

Keshet, Ariel, Gene

My mom and gammy

The trans Jewish community here in the Bay - full of living-dreams and future-elders

Sojourn Blog

chabad.org (yes, truly)

transtorah.org