In 2012, Rafi Daugherty got up in front of Congregation Bonai Shalom in Boulder, Colorado, and spoke from his heart, reflecting about his family, identity, community, and change. Daugherty’s moving speech, “My Jewish Transgender Journey,” was published on the website My Jewish Learning, and details Daugherty incredible story, told within the framework of religion. And it just became even more inspiring.
Daugherty’s journey has taken him from Colorado to Israel to New York and back to Colorado once again; from Orthodoxy to progressive Judaism; and from identifying as female to identifying as male. “When I was a little girl growing up in Colorado, I felt there was something different about me,” he said. “I yearned with all of my heart to be a boy. At night, when I was about to go to sleep, I would pray, “Dear God, please make me a boy,” and was disappointed when I awoke and was still very much a girl.”
As he grew older, Daugherty left Orthodoxy for more progressive streams of Judaism, and with nothing holding him back, began transitioning shortly after his 25th birthday. In his speech, Daugherty notes that since this decision, “Life has been life!” And indeed it has. On Friday, JTA ran a feature about Daugherty that explores his past trials and tribulations and introduces his newest challenge: fatherhood
About 5 months ago, Daugherty gave birth to a daughter, Ettie, fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a parent. Originally hesitant to transition for fear of jeopardizing his chances at parenthood, Daugherty was inspired by Thomas Beatie, a transgender man who made headlines in 2008 for being the “first” pregnant man. With the help of a friend who doubled as his sperm donor, Daugherty was impregnated via artificial insemination last year. Now, he and Ettie, named after both Daugherty’s maternal grandmother and great-grandmother, are embarking on their own journey together.
Daugherty told the JTA, “I’m getting used to saying, ‘I’m transgender and I gave birth to her’…so that Ettie can be empowered to know her story and share her story, and not feel like it’s something embarrassing or weird.” And from the acceptance and love both father and daughter have received from the Boulder Jewish community at large, it seems like the empowerment is working.
As has been noted, 2015 was a big year for transgender visibility and progress in Judaism—from the Reform movement’s adoption of a “Resolution on the Rights of Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People to Jeffrey Tambor’s Emmy win for portraying Maura Pfefferman, an older transgender Jewish woman in the midst of transitioning, on Amazon’s hit series Transparent. And if we’re lucky, stories like Daugherty’s will continue to be told, meaning that 2016 could be a fantastic year.