The Tel Aviv deputy mayor said the treatment of trans people was an “urgent problem.” (Chen Arieli/ Facebook)
Chen Arieli, the new deputy mayor of Tel Aviv and the first openly gay person to hold the position, says that Israel’s treatment of transgender people is an “urgent problem”.
Before becoming deputy mayor, Arieli was one of Israel’s most famous LGBT+ activists and was formerly the chairperson of The Aguda – Israel’s LGBT Task Force.
She told queer history podcast LGBTQ&A that in Israel “religion is managing our lives”, and that ultraconservative religious groups were holding back progress for LGBT+ and gender equality.
Arieli said: “The core subject of Israeli society, and not just in the terms of LGBT+ rights, is the lack of separation between religion and the state… There’s not just one way to practice Judaism.
“We’re not in the old ages anymore. I can choose the way I practice my beliefs, and my beliefs are freedom and choice and peace and safety.”
Chen Arieli says people in Israel are more likely to march for “white privileged” reasons.
Last year, Arieli helped to lead a 100,000-strong strike and rally to fight for gay men to be able to use surrogacy to have children, but she said that wasn’t all it was about.
“It’s not the most urgent problem,” she said. “Transgender people are still really unsafe in the public arena.
“It’s the most sensitive community for suicide and for violence and for oppression and discrimination.
“It’s a wider example of Israeli culture and why we succeeded in having the biggest demonstration ever. Because the most core value in Israel society is family, no matter which community you’re coming from.
“We strategically used that to promote this big demonstration. That’s always what pulls us out to the streets: gay issues, not lesbian, trans, bisexual, queer [issues]. We come out to the streets for white privileged reasons.”
She said that while the issue surrogacy made the rally possible, six out of 12 speakers to take to the stage were trans.
She added: “We had an elderly trans woman, one of the pioneers from the trans community in Israel. This really brave young transgender female spoke and shouted her pain, and this speech got into so many houses. This for me is radical.
“I think we need to be much more political and smart in our fight, not just in Israel, all over the world. If you want to write history, you need to be brave with what you think.”