'We Want to Be Equal'

Dozens of Protesters Demand Israel Enable Transgender Teen's Return to School

Osher Band stopped attending school at the beginning of the year after students attacked her verbally and physically, leading to her hospitalization

Osher Band, center in pink, at the protest, Tel Aviv, April 28, 2019.
Moti Milrod

Dozens of protesters gathered Sunday evening in front of the Education Ministry in Tel Aviv to demand that officials enable Osher Band, a 15-year-old transgender girl from Ashkelon, to return to school.

The school has not forbidden Band from returning but the protesters are demanding that officials find a way for Band to continue her studies while protecting her from violence and gender-based discrimination.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 25Haaretz

Band stopped attending school about six months ago after receiving death threats from other students and after s was assaulted by a girl at school and required hospitalization.

>> Read more: Israeli transgender girl hospitalized with brain injury after assault in school ■ A safe space for everyone | Haaretz Editorial ■ Dozens of Israeli Orthodox rabbis sign letter of support for bullied transgender girl

Her story was publicized in Haaretz about two weeks ago.

Protesters outside the Education Ministry, Tel Aviv, April 28, 2019.
Moti Milrod

The protesters shouted slogans including, "Education is equal for all," "the administration will not determine my gender," "Safety for children of all genders," and "transphobia in the streets, we cannot live this way."

Band, who was present at the protest, told the demonstrators, "It's really heartwarming to see so many people who came to support me. Before this, I felt very alone."

"This is a huge support for her," Band's mother, Regina, said. "I hope that the new principle will come back and teach the school how to relate to trans children, and that kids can study in peace without harassment. Osher managed to touch people and to start a revolution, with all the pain that she carries inside her."

“After a long period without support from the school or the Ashkelon education department, my community and I have been left with no choice but to protest and call for our lives to be safeguarded and the law protecting students’ rights to be upheld, and that schools not discriminate based on gender. We want to be equal,” said Band.

“Since the story was published, I feel good that everyone understands what I’m going through, although I’ve received negative responses from people who say I’m lying. I hope to find a place that suits me and other teens like me,” she said.

The protest is being organized by a group named Ma’avarim, which fights for lasting change for the transgender community.

Band stopped attending school at the beginning of the school year, after other students attacked her verbally and physically, including threatening her with a knife.

But she wasn’t able to find another school, and her mother received a letter threatening possible criminal proceedings if she didn’t return to school. Earlier this month, she returned to her school, the ORT Henry Ronson High School in Ashkelon.

But a classmate promptly attacked her and she was hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury. Band said that her teachers failed to help her. They also asked her not to come to school with hair extensions and long nails so as not to call attention to herself. The school disputes her account.

As Haaretz reported last week, the Health Ministry in cooperation with LGBTQ organizations drafted a set of procedures a year ago to help schools deal with pupils undergoing a sex change, but in January it halted the work and ended up issuing no guidelines.

In the meanwhile, transgender pupils suffer because there are no such guidelines for schools and each school does as it sees fit – even if that means ignoring the issue.

After Haaretz’s initial article was published about Band, dozens of people contacted her offering support, including Knesset members, lawyers, private tutors, social organizations, and Orthodox rabbis voicing public support for her. However, no Education Ministry representative reached out, and Band has not yet found a school to attend.