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Through The Door Of Life

by Steven Bergman
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Monday Mar 19, 2012
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What determines our gender, our bodies or our brains? Dr. Joy Ladin gives us a firsthand account of a transwoman trying to come to terms with this issue in her debut book of prose, "Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders."

Born "Jay" Ladin, she is the first openly transgender employee at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University, an Orthodox Jewish institution. The battles that Dr. Ladin has faced have been on many fronts, from her conflicted childhood with a passive mother and a loveless father, through her twenty-five year heterosexual marriage to a woman that brought three children into the world, to the internal struggle to "feel alive" while trapped in the body of a male.

One of the primary preservers of sanity and solace for Dr. Ladin has been her Jewish faith. She discusses at length her "discussions" with God, and her interpretations of His responses. Included are how her religious beliefs prevented her from carrying out many contemplations of suicide, and how those beliefs were finally able to lead her on the path to patching her life back together with her children after she had walked out on them and their mother, even as the pain of living a male existence teetered on the brink of becoming physically and emotionally unbearable.

Dr. Ladin is very honest in her self-introspection about her transition: the internal discovery that was required to deduce that her life choices were not perfect; that those she loved would be hurt by those choices, that her job as a tenured professor would be jeopardized; but that her decisions were necessary to create a world where she could literally "live" with those decisions, even if the results generated by those breakthroughs were painful to her and those she loved.

It is evident that not everyone involved in her memoir wanted to be noted for his or her opinion. Several generic anecdotes do briefly distract from Dr. Ladin’s narrative, but she is highly articulate, and her analyses of the integral moments in her life, whether during her transition or not, paint vivid and understandable images for the reader to comprehend.

She concludes with an up-to-date profile of both her love life, as she explores the transworld of dating, and her ongoing struggle to be a parent to her three children, now ranging in age from elementary to high school, as she must constantly try to balance being a parent who needs a child’s love with the children’s desire to have a "Daddy."

Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders
Joy Ladin
University of Wisconsin Press
$26.95

by Dr. Joy Ladin

Steven Bergman is a Composer / Playwright / Performing Arts Educator based outside of Boston, MA.

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