'Fighting for Our Lives': Over a Thousand March in Tel Aviv for Transgender Rights

March comes two days after teen's attempted murder outside an LBGTQ youth shelter

Demonstrators hold the photo of Education Minister Rafi Peretz, who openly supports conversion therapy, Tel Aviv, Jul 28, 2019.
Rami Chelouche

Over a thousand demonstrators took part in the “Fighting for Our Lives” protest in Tel Aviv, in support of transgender rights.

The protest was led by the transgender community, with protesters crying out: “There are 8 billion people in the world – why just two genders?” and “We won’t let you sleep – trans people want equal rights.” Some placards said: “Don’t look at me, see me!” and “We’re equal even if we’re not the same.”

This is the second year the march has been held. Last year it was held near the location where Maya Haddad, a transgender woman, had been stabbed earlier. This year, the community is marking ten years to the murder of two people at Tel Aviv’s Bar Noar LGBTQ youth center, and four years to the death of Shira Banki, who died after being stabbed at Jerusalem’s Pride Parade.

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The march was planned before the attempted murder of a 16-year-old boy outside an LGBTQ youth shelter in Tel Aviv on Friday. 

The boy is now in stable condition as Israel police continue to search for his brother, who is suspected of stabbing him, as well as another relative suspected of being involved in the attack.

Protesters blocked Tel Aviv’s Herzl Street chanting: “I’m an Arab trans and God loves me.”

“The stabbing harmed the body and life of one youth who is contending with the issue of his sexual and gender identity and with coming out of the closet. It rattled one family, but it’s not an individual incident," said the director of Beit Dror, Yael Sinai. 

"It’s the highlight of verbal and physical violence, the political and public violence our community is subjected to daily, coming from the Knesset, the education system, the religious establishment, local authorities and more,” Sinai added.

The 'Fighting for Our Lives' demonstration in Tel Aviv, July 28, 2019.
Rami Chelouche

80 young people passed through Beit Dror, which serves youth between the ages of 14 and 18 who have been rejected or feel unsafe at home due to their sexual orientation, last year.

In light of the September election, a few center-left politicians from Kahol Lavan, the Democratic Union and Hadash attended the march.

“I was born 27 years ago into a society that rejected me from the start” said Leila Bleilat, a trans activist in the Arab sector. She fled to Tel Aviv, ending up in a world of sexual exploitation, drugs and serious mental health issues, lasting for five years. “I was forced to ‘return to normal’, taken for tests and ‘treatments’... I escaped to Tel Aviv again, thinking I could contend with the city better than with the society I came from” she added.

“We can’t wait for a trigger any longer in order to raise our voices,” said Osher Band, a 15-year-old transgender girl who was hospitalized with brain injuries after being assaulted at school. “I don’t think the problem is a lack of awareness, but the inability to accept someone different. The nightmares still don’t let me sleep. This reality must change.”

Before the attack on Friday, organizers said they had wanted a peaceful march, with no anti-gay crime. “The attempted murder was an attack on all of us, like all previous incidents. Ten years later, gay community members still can’t walk the streets safely, even in Tel Aviv. It’s time to cry out against violence, incitement and homophobia.”