LGBT, News

Trans activist encourages community to keep up fight in current political climate

Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 12.42.43 PM.png

Abby Stein, a transgender woman, spoke at the university's Hillel about her path from uncertainty to acceptance. Photo credit: Carlen Dickerson

One year ago, the United States elected its 45th president, who would advocate for various policy changes affecting transgender people in America. Two years ago, Abby Stein was an ultra-orthodox rabbi struggling with her self-identity while living a secluded life that made finding the answers to self-acceptance and understanding more challenging. Now, she is a proud transgender woman.

“I am standing here … And I can’t believe that a year has passed,” Stein said. “A year has passed and fortunately … We have managed to put up a fight.”

Stein, 26, came to UM earlier this week to share her story of self-acceptance at an event hosted by UM Hillel as part of its empowerment series. Although the event was meant to be an open forum with opportunities for attendees to ask questions, the talk became increasingly political as Stein spoke about LGBTQ and women’s rights issues. Topics ranged from sexual assault and the #MeToo campaign to the need for anti-discrimination laws at a federal level.

Stein was raised in a Hasidic Jewish community, a conservative sect that shuns the modern world. She described it as growing up geographically in New York but culturally in a “pretend 18th century Eastern Europe.” Being cut off from the modern world meant that she had never been on the internet, only spoke Yiddish and was oblivious to the culture of television, movies and music with which people her age grew up.

For Stein, the way she felt – being a stranger in her own body – was something she did not understand. It wasn’t until she used the internet for the first time at 20 years old that she began understanding her gender identity.

Her road to self-discovery began when Stein typed, in Hebrew, “a boy turning into a girl” into Google. The search engine led her to a Wikipedia page about people who identify as transgender, a gender identity that differs from their assigned sex at birth. The web also led her to an anonymous online Israeli forum for the transgender community.

For the first time in her life, she did not feel alone.

On Nov. 11, she will celebrate two years of officially being Abby.

Stein’s life has changed in many ways, including divorcing her wife in 2013, leaving her family and the only community she had ever known. She also began furthering her education at Columbia University in New York. But despite these drastic changes in a few years, Stein said she is still the same person at her core.

“I was always a girl, that part hasn’t changed,” she said.

For Stein, the transformation she has undergone – externally as well as internally – has encouraged her to share her story. She shares it not for the sake of attention but bring light to the issues plaguing trans men and women around the world, she said.

In July, President Donald Trump announced his intention to prevent, or ban, transgender people from serving in the military. For Stein, the current stigma and political climate makes her message that much more important.

“The more important it is for us to shine that light,” she said. “The more hateful you are going to be, the more we are going to talk.”

Throughout the event, she emphasized her decision to “not shut up” in difficult conversations, and that sentiment was shared by many people in the room.

Jeremy Penn, a UM alumnus who identifies as transgender and attended the event, said Stein’s message resonated with her as one of visibility.

“Bang the pots and pans and say, ‘You’re not going to get away with ignoring this,'” said Penn, former president of SpectrUM.

Approximately 70 percent of people said simply knowing someone who is LGBT has helped make society more accepting, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey.

Rabbi Lyle Rothman, UM’s campus rabbi, said he was excited to hear Stein share her message, which he said comes down to “basic human rights and human dignity.”

“In light of what is going on in the world today, people are not treating each other with that dignity and respect, and they are not seeing that God-given spark in each person,” Rothman said.

November 10, 2017


Kayla Haley

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Happy Thanksgiving! I started this while I was sitting in Washington-Dulles Airport awaiting my seco ...

This is how extraordinary the University of Miami football season has been: When the Hurricanes won ...

A six-pack of Hurricanes nuggets on Thanksgiving: • There’s no doubt that UM’s home field advantage ...

You’ve got to expect the Las Vegas sportsbooks to come strong and smart with two days of Florida col ...

Here’s why UM moving up to No. 2 in the CFP poll was important, for reasons that extend beyond Canes ...

At the entrance of the University of Miami’s Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic S ...

UM Police Department's Innovative Fundraiser Sells Abandoned Bikes to Support United Way ...

The 41st annual conference on the Caribbean and Central America held a special program at the Univer ...

The Finker-Frenkel Legacy Foundation gift will establish the Business Plan Competition Endowed Fund. ...

C. David Naylor, a UM Presidential Scholar and public health policy expert, provided insight into he ...

Here are three matchups to watch as the No. 2 Hurricanes face Pitt with a chance to finish the regul ...

The tournament will be played in Southern California next November 22, 23 and 25. ...

Dewan Huell scored a career-high 16 points as the Canes defeated La Salle in Reading, Pa. ...

The University of Miami volleyball team had to break a 10-year-old record to overcome sturdy Georgia ...

The Hurricanes jumped o to No. 2 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday, e ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.