Talleen Abu Hanna, 21, from Nazareth was crowned the winner of the first Miss Trans Israel pageant on 27 May. Wearing a white bridal gown and looking very much like a biblical princess, Hanna came in first out of 11 contestants gathered in Tel Aviv.
In an interview with Time magazine, Hanna reflected on the status of Israeli LGBT people: ‘There is still room for improvement, and still some rights we deserve.’
She also stated that she was ‘really lucky to live in a country where they bring everything to you on a silver platter,’ referring to her ability to transition and be respected within Tel Aviv.
Israel has often been praised for its record on LGBT rights, seeming to be a haven in the socially conservative Middle East. Yuval Egertt, director of an LGBT community centre in Tel Aviv, has spoken on numerous occasions about the state of Israel’s LGBT record: ‘It’s only open here in the bubble, in the State of Tel Aviv.’
In the past few years, there have been several high-publicity attacks on LGBT people in Israel, including a series of assaults in Gan Meir park in 2011, and a fatal stabbing attack by a radical Orthodox man in 2015’s Gay Pride Parade. These have somewhat tarnished the perspective of Israel’s relationship with LGBT people.
The ‘gay cure’ industry is also said to be thriving in the country, while LGBT activists have called for boycotts of the country because of its human rights record against Palestine. Activists have dubbed Israel’s simultaneous acceptance of LGBT rights and its own violations of human rights in Palestine and the Gaza Strip as ‘pinkwashing‘, although commentators such as Allison Kaplan Sommer argue that it’s possible to celebrate a pro-LGBT stance while also condemning human rights violations.
Hanna, however, goes on to state, ‘I wouldn’t be alive if I grew up in Palestine. Not as a gay man, and definitely not as a transgender woman.’
In August, Hanna will go on to represent Israel at the Miss Trans Star International pageant in Spain.