‘Family in Transition’: A modern Israeli love story
one family’s journey when the patriarch BECOMES a woman in conservative Israel.
In Nahariya, an Israeli coastal town of about 50,000 people where deeply religious and traditional views prevail, the Tsuk family is the ultimate anomaly.
At age 40, Amit, the father, decided to undergo gender reassignment surgery to become a woman. Galit, Amit's wife, stood by her childhood sweetheart, transforming the couple, as well as their four children, into a new family unit.
“Family in Transition,” the documentary following their story, has received critical acclaim at film festivals in Israel and the United States. In the film, Galit cares for Amit during her surgery in Thailand and her subsequent rehabilitation. The women even remarry in white dresses.
But things take an unexpected turn when Galit goes through her own metamorphosis and the family undergoes a second transition: the parents’ divorce.
LURE spoke to Galit and Amit as they look back on the film and their extraordinary love story.
Galit and I were together for 27 years. We were in school together from the seventh grade and started dating when we were 15. We were always joking. She sat in front of me in class and I would pull on her bra strap. She said now she knows why: I was just interested in having my own bra!
The first time I saw the film, I cried a lot. I wanted to watch alone without the kids. Suddenly I saw myself three years earlier during the process, which was the hardest time of my life. I don’t remember anything from the first two weeks after gender surgery because I was on drugs, but then I saw it all.
I saw the love story that I started to forget. And I saw the divorce situation, which was even harder than my transition, for us and the kids.
“I THINK THIS IS THE HARDEST PROCESS A COUPLE CAN GO THROUGH.”
Nobody really knew why Galit left me. It was really a great love story. Until the last days of our relationship, Galit always told me, “I will stay with you forever." Even the director was sure he was directing a love story. He was as shocked as we were - me and the kids. I think Galit had her own process, and when she felt that I was at the end of mine, it was the right time for her to begin her own.
She’s with a woman now. It is easier for me to deal with Galit being with a woman. I’m still asking myself why, but I think that in some way I feel good that I was the only man in her life.
Galit is an adrenaline junkie. She always searches for it, and my process was the biggest hit. After we came back from the surgery, after the film, everything calmed down. She had two friends, two lesbians, that I think took advantage of her weakness instead of helping us to go through the hard times because they were interested in her. Back then, I was so weak in my rehabilitation period, I couldn’t fight, and in some place I lost her then. If I was strong like now, maybe the end would be different.
I think this is the hardest process a couple can go through. I wish sometimes we had been more under the radar. We did the film and we were in every newspaper in Israel. The noise helped us go through the process, but perhaps if we were quieter, there would have been a better end.
"I DELETED THE WORD ‘FOREVER’ FROM MY DEFINITION OF LOVE.”
After the relationship with Galit ended, I didn’t really know what to do. I searched myself. I began to study myself: What I love and hate; if I loved women or men. And then I found my wife, Shirli, on a relationship website.
In Israel, you can’t get married if you are of the same sex. You have to go abroad. We went last year to Denmark and got married in Copenhagen. It’s a great love. I think she is the most beautiful girl on earth.
We are planning to have a baby. Unfortunately, it’s not from my sperm, I didn’t think back then that I would need it. Three of the kids are living with us and work is great, the film is doing great. I am traveling abroad a lot to promote it. I also have a show, Blessed Is He Who Created Me A Woman, which I’m performing regularly.
I think that in any relationship you need to fight every day. I deleted the word “forever” from my definition of love. As a young man I thought it could last forever, but now I know that nothing is for sure. It takes hard work.
It’s also about fulfilling yourself, being who you are. You have to accept yourself and your partner, because in any process – not just a gender-change process – if she or he is a happier and a better person, they will also be a better husband or wife.
Galit and I are really trying to be friends because we share four amazing kids and one amazing film. Sometimes we need to appear on the same stage. But our lives are totally separate. I am happy she is happy, though. I will always keep a place for her in my heart.
I dreamed that after Amit’s surgery she would be a happy woman. I waited for her for two-and-a-half years throughout her transition, thinking, “If she will get the right body, she will be okay.”
But coming out of the surgery, she was afraid I would leave her for a man now that she was a woman. I understood that after this process, I would have another process to go through with her for another two, five, 10 years, to prove to her that I love her.
I didn’t have the power to do it. All my life, I just worried about Amit and the children. I wasn’t happy, and I could not deal with her unhappiness. "Your happiness is not my problem, it’s yours. I already did everything for you,” I told her. I knew I had to take care of myself and find myself now.
Amit was the only man I have ever known. If it could happen to Amit, it could happen to anybody. I would run by the sea, seeing guys with great bodies, imagining them wearing dresses or even bikinis! I was going crazy. I couldn't help thinking, “You could be a transwoman in the closet and your wife has no idea.” I didn’t want to be touched by another man again. I’m still in therapy. I will be there for my whole life I think.
Leaving Amit was difficult. I cried a lot and didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t have work or money, a house or car. The path was dark – I just had to believe that my thoughts were leading me in the right direction. I just felt that it would be okay if I followed my heart.
“Some people say if you have a career, you don’t care about the spaghetti for dinner.”
In Israel, it’s still like hundreds of years ago, where the wife is just taking care of the children, cooking and everything. Some people say if you have a career, you don’t care about the spaghetti for dinner. But my children every day are fed and watered, they get their love and hugs. It’s not about the hours I spend with them, it’s about the quality of the time together, even if it’s just one hour a day. They know it’s better than 10 hours a day when I’m unhappy and unsatisfied with my life.
I started working as a sales manager in a large company. I’m working with the CEO. It’s hard work, long hours, but I’m very happy. Before I was working in Amit’s business, and of course we were married so it was our business, but she managed the books and everything. Now I work for myself and my children. The salary is all mine, nobody else’s, and I make it with my own two hands.
I also wrote two books about what I went through, and it’s very exciting to see them sold in bookstores. Since the film came out, lots of people are reaching out and saying how inspirational we are. Some call me an egoist and a bad wife, but I don’t care. Nobody can judge me. Nobody was in my shoes.
I am bisexual. I didn’t think that I would become attracted to women, nor marry a woman. But I did and I am very happy with my wife. I met her through [Israeli feminist activist] Heidi Moses. Back then, Heidi said that every woman can sexually be with a woman, even if you’re not a lesbian.
We were friends for three months before we actually ended up getting together. That's when I thought, “Maybe I haven’t got this right after all.” But the relationship didn’t work out because she lives in Tel Aviv and I’ve got the four children in Nahariya. But Heidi said she knew a woman who was my type, and we ended up falling in love. My life is full of surprises!
Amit and I are trying to be friends. Sometime it works, sometimes not. I think she is a little angry to see me so happy. I don’t think it’s the final happy story that she wanted – she wanted us to stay together.
But now she has Shirli. I told Shirli: "You are the best thing to happen to Amit – well, after me, of course." And I told Amit she should thank God she met her – I don’t know if she will have another love like this in her life. If Amit is happy, I’m happy, and I hope they will have many years together. All I want now is my quiet.
Israel is a tiny country packed with diverse people and polarizing beliefs. That can spark tensions, but also create incredible love stories.
In LURE’s Issue 10 “Make Love Not War,” we explore the unique ways Israeli couples of all walks of life express their love. Check out more from Issue 10 below, including our newest original film“Love In Israel.” And be sure to discover more stories of love in Israel on our Instagram.