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How one controversial Tel Aviv clinic is helping transgender youth

A special clinic in Tel Aviv has quietly treated transgender youths for the last three years while Israeli society gradually warms to the idea of gender reassignment.
Members of the Israeli transgender community march during the annual Gay parade in Jerusalem on June 25, 2009. More than 2,000 people took part a toned down Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem which drew only muted protest, in contrast to the violent controversy the event had stirred in the past.  AFP PHOTO/MARCO LONGARI (Photo credit should read MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

The Channel 2 network recently received an unusual complaint: A viewer of the reality show "Big Brother" claimed that her feelings were hurt when a participant was shown putting on tefillin, small boxes containing Torah verses worn by observant Jews during weekday prayer. For the viewer, the problem was that this participant, Michael Elroy, is transgender — a man who was born a woman and changed his gender. Even though Judaism does not forbid women from putting on tefillin, most of the Orthodox public holds that this deed is reserved for men only. And so, according to the complainant, Channel 2 “enabled a woman to ridicule Jewish values and the holy books.”

The station's franchisee, Keshet, which broadcasts the program, fully backed Elroy. “He was born female but in the course of his life made a sex change and today he’s a man,” the company stated to the network in response to the complaint. “Therefore, how he relates to himself is how we relate to him, and how we expect society to relate to him.”

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