Sunday, March 20, 2022

Trans People Shouldn't be Lectured About Anything, Including "Biological Reality"

Biological reality is not the only reality that matters when we talk about trans people. There is also the reality of how trans people see themselves. Why is one reality more important than the other?

Let's say your family and your community all expected you to adhere to certain norms. Let's say they all expected you to wear a reckle and a beard and become a Torah scholar. Would you be "denying reality" if you wanted to wear jeans and become a pilot instead? Of course not.

Same here. All of society is expecting a trans person to act and dress and live one way but the trans person doesn't feel it and wants to live another way instead. You can call it denying reality if you want but I think it's actually called "being true to yourself"

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

What about Vashti's Tail?

Let's talk for a few seconds about Vashti's infamous tail.

First the source material:

״וַתְּמָאֵן הַמַּלְכָּה וַשְׁתִּי״. מִכְּדֵי פְּרִיצְתָּא הֲוַאי, דְּאָמַר מָר: שְׁנֵיהֶן לִדְבַר עֲבֵירָה נִתְכַּוְּונוּ, מַאי טַעְמָא לָא אֲתַאי? אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹסֵי בַּר חֲנִינָא: מְלַמֵּד שֶׁפָּרְחָה בָּהּ צָרַעַת. בְּמַתְנִיתָא תָּנָא: בָּא גַּבְרִיאֵל וְעָשָׂה לָהּ זָנָב .

The verse states: “But the queen Vashti refused to come” (Esther 1:12). [The Gemara asks] Since we know she was immodest - as the Mar said above: The two of them had sinful intentions - why didn't she come to the party? Rabbi Yosei bar Ḥanina said: This teaches that she broke out in leprosy, Or, alternatively it was taught in a baraita: The angel Gabriel came and fashioned her a tail.

Now the stray observations:

1) This midrash isn't a lesson, or a message. Its just an attempt to work things out in light of things we think we know. In this case, we know (from the verse) that Vashti refused to go to the party which we know (from another midrash) was basically an orgy, but we also know (from other midrashim) that Vashti was not averse to orgy-ing - so (here's the problem) why did she refuse the invitation?

2) So, the sages seem to think the answer is that something was wrong with her body.

3) Leprosy, the first attempted answer, is hinted to via the words "אשר נגזר עליה" which are used both to describe Vashti later in the megilla, and to describe King Uzziah who suffered leprosy. But what about the tail?

4) Answer #1: According to Tosafot HaRosh אשר נגזר עליה means a "tail was decreed upon her" which wokd if you spell the word עָלֶיהָ with an aleph instead of an ayin. That can be read as אַלְיָה which means tail.

5) Answer #2: Any appendage can, theoretically, be called a זָנָב so perhaps what the baraita means, when it used the word, זָנָב , is something like some extra weight or a zit or something else that made her embarrassed to join the orgy.

6) We don't have to believe that any of this happened, of course, but it seems clear as day the sages are struggling to understand why noted-party-girl Vashti was uneager to join the bacchanalia. According to Rabbi Yosei bar Ḥanina she passed because she had, really and truly come down with leprosy, while according to the baraita the reason was she sprouted a זָנָב whatever it might have been.