BitterSweet New Year

Read this moving poem by writer Hayden Cohen.

April 17, 2024

By Hayden Cohen

Download this poem as a PDF


I knew I didn’t want to wear a skirt, I wanted to
wear pants and a shirt so I did.
I added extra eyeliner and a pair of earrings
for some flair and I was ready to go
I looked like the definition of gender confusion
and envy mixed into a queer Jew
I got into shul and couldn’t figure out what I
had done was wrong

Some people recognized me and said hi and
had quick small talk
Some new people thought I was a man or just
couldn’t figure it out
Some people who had known me since I was
2, wearing a dress in a stroller didn’t recognize
me at all.
The greeting “chag sameach” spoken from
the mouth of other men no longer meant
“happy holidays”. “Shana Tova” no longer
meant “have a sweet new year”. It now all
meant “I perceive you as a man”.
The mothers chatting to me no longer meant
they were being friendly and nice. It now
meant “I perceive you as a woman”.

But I was there to listen to the Shofar
I stood outside the doors of the sanctuary
I knew my way to the women’s side but what
about all the people who thought I was a man.
Do I go the men’s side? Of course not
I was paralyzed with fear outside of the doors
of the shul, unable to decide where to go from
I stood there as they blew the shofar because
it was a way I could listen to it but I wasn’t on
one side or the other






Hayden is a student at Houston Community College. They were a steering committee member for the Virtual Shabbaton in 2021, co-chair for the Midwest Shabbaton in 2022 and has led several other Keshet youth programs. Hayden has led their school’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance for 3 years and founded a coalition of GSAs in the region that work to educate, advocate, and support LGBT+ students. In their spare time, they either prepare for upcoming political/queer events, hang out with their dog, Fozzie, or try out new coffee shops.