Winnder Abu Hanna in the final round of Miss Trans Israel.



Israel Held Its First Ever Transgender Beauty Pageant, And It Was Amazing

Ta’alin Abu Hanna just made history by winning Miss Trans Israel, Israel’s first ever transgender beauty pageant, held in Tel Aviv. Along with the crown–and pride–the 21 year-old from Nazareth also won $15,000 worth of plastic surgery for further gender transitioning including accommodation during the recovery. Abu Hanna, an Arab-Israeli Christian, is proud of her heritage, but well aware of the danger she faces. “If I had not been in Israel and had been elsewhere — in Palestine or in any other Arab country — I might have been oppressed or I might have been in prison or murdered,” she said.

REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Contestant May Smadja points to the women’s sign as she enters the restrooms.

Although the traditional purpose of a pageant is for a winner to take home a crown, Miss Trans Israel is more about promoting tolerance and coexistence. The 12 finalists varied in religious, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds, including Muslims, Christians, and Jews. They all share common stories of struggle, hardship, and acceptance regarding their transitions. Caroline Khouri, a Muslim contestant, shared a rather disturbing story. “My cousins, my father, my brother-in-law all came and beat me and took me by force and cut my hair, tied me to the bed and left me there for three days with no food.” Khouri was eventually rescued by the police, and she has cut ties with her family.

Miss Trans Israel finalists pose during the swimsuit round of the pageant.

Even though Abu Hanna has won both the title of Miss Trans Israel and the acceptance of her peers, she doesn’t feel like she can go home to Nazareth, known as the Arab capital of Israel. She feels that the community, as well as her father, will not accept her. Many Arab communities are extremely conservative, and gender dysphoria is seldom addressed. Although Abu Hanna says she can’t return home, she still speaks to the relatives that have accepted her.

Abu Hanna crowned after winning Miss Trans Israel. AP/ODED BALILTY.

“Our country deserves to come out on top,” said Abu Hanna. “Our country allowed me, a Christian Arab from Nazareth, to end the war between my soul and my body. So if it made peace for me, our country is only a country of peace.” Hanna will go on to represent Israel at the Miss Trans Star International in Barcelona later this year in August. Spain is the world’s second most gay-friendly country, according to 2015’s World Economic Forum. We’re excited to see what she does next.

Images via the Associated Press and Reuters

Stay tuned to Milk for more positive beauty pageants.

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