Relaymedia

Amid Global Debate On Transgender Right, Israel Holds First Transgender Beauty Pageant. Sacrilegious or Legitimate Recognition for Coexistence?

( [email protected] ) May 30, 2016 12:25 PM EDT
Israel flaunted what advocates thought LGBT discrimination is hideous, successfully hosting its first ever Miss Trans-Israel 2016.
Taleen Abu Hanna, 21, and a Christian Arab, won the crown of the first transgender pageant in Israel. She will represent the country in the Miss Trans International pageant in Barcelona in September. Photo: Reuters

Israel flaunted what advocates thought LGBT discrimination is hideous, successfully hosting its first ever Miss Trans-Israel 2016.

"Transgenders are loved by Israeli people, although they don't know much about it," Efrat Tilma, one of the pageant judge, told reporters at the wrapped up of the activity held in Tel Aviv's Habima National Theatre.

The pageant, best described by many as an ethnic "mosaic", had 12 contestants from the Holy Land's main faiths including a confectioner from an Orthodox Jerusalem family, a Muslim belly-dancer from Tel Aviv and a Christian ballerina from Nazareth.

Transgender is becoming a tangible global political issue, both in government and in the church. In U.S, the Obama administration is locked in a legal battle on its "transgender bathroom policy."

The Church of Scotland, on the other hand, is still divided whether to allow people in same-sex marriage to continue with their ministry service. Advocates around the world have been pressing for equal recognition, and the right for matrimony.

Carolin Khoury, a Muslim contestant, said she hopes Friday's contest would send a message to religious communities in Israel and abroad "to accept us."

Taleen Abu Hanna, 21, and a Christian Arab, won the crown, and will represent Israel at the Miss Trans International pageant in Barcelona in September.

"Our country deserves to come out on top," Hanna said, adding the pageant allowed their kind to demonstrate to the world their real gender both soul and body.

Israel is long been recognized by its liberal laws on sexual identity, openly accepting gay and transgender to its military, but homosexuals often feel the animosity from religious conservatives in the Jewish majority, and Muslim and Christian Arab minorities.

Last year in Jerusalem, an Orthodox Jew was arrested and charged in the murder of a teenage girl in a stabbing spree at the gay pride parade.

"Among us are judges, doctors, lawyers... I mean people like us that are in top positions. There are even those that are aspiring to reach to Israeli parliament," Tilma said.

Khoury, despite her failure to get the crown, said she is contented and happy for what she has in life, recalling her difficulty in overcoming the violent opposition to her gender choice from her family that even took her to ask for Israeli police assistance to move her out from home.