Inthrough the door of life, Stern College professor Joy Ladin offers this analysis of why her colleague Moshe Tendler reacted so negatively to her announcement that she is transsexual: “Rabbi Tendler isn’t only worried about what I am; he is worried about what I mean.”

This pithy line sums up why things transgender unsettle us so. It also hints at why this book is a worthwhile read for anyone. Ladin unfolds, in essay after essay, just what it took for her to figure out what she means and come to peace with it.

As a transgender person myself, I know this particular state of disorientation intimately. As I grew up I wondered, what did it mean that I, a biological female, could be so essentially male? What did it mean that I wanted to wear boys’ clothes from the time I...

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