Being Transgender in Israel: Current State

A Trans Art project to mark the 2017 Transgender Day of Remembrance presented the current state of the transgender community in Israel in the fields of employment, medicine, personal security, religion and more.

“Over the past two years, there have been 325 reports of murder attempts against people from the transgender community,” explains Niki Sever, the campaign’s initiator. “In the last two years there have been 4 known cases of suicide in the transgender community, so it’s important for us to mark this day and draw a picture of the current situation of the transgender community in Israel, in order to raise awareness of the things that need to be changed for a better future for all of us.”

The 2017 report is accompanied by photographs were taken in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem.

“When we went to take pictures at the Western Wall, we walked through the diverse market in the Old City and heard some really unpleasant comments: one vendor even spat on the floor and said, ‘gross, homo’ or something like that. It also represents the different places and the different attitudes, and the importance of visibility and educating. I do hope that the situation of the transgender community will only improve in the future.”

The Transgender Community in 2017, current state:

Changing the sex clause on the identity card.

Until 2015, the sex change on the identity card was made possible only after genital surgery. In 2015, the Ministry of Health issued a statement from the head of the Medical Administration stating that it is possible to change the sex of a person on the identity card even if the person did not undergo an operation. The Committee for the Examination of Approvals for Sex Change without Surgery, consisting of a clinical psychologist, a psychiatrist and an endocrinologist, issued a certificate attesting to a change in sex even without an operation by which gender can be changed in the registration at the Ministry of the Interior. The Population and Immigration Authority stated on March 9, 2017 that there was no change in the procedure.

IDF service

The IDF is among the progressive armies in its attitude toward the transgender community, and accordingly, the number of transgender people who are either enlisted or already serving in the army is constantly rising. In a meeting between senior mental health personnel in the army and Dr. Ilana Berger, a professional who specializes in the trans community, and a representative of the Aguda, agreements have been reached that are important for the welfare of transgender soldiers, and it is agreed that transgender men and women will be able to receive assistance and guidance in the process of sex change during their military service, and the army’s approach to newly recruited soldiers will be in accordance with the gender they feel, even if they are in the early stages of the transition.

Academic studies

The economic situation of many people from the transgender community does not allow the possibility of academic studies. One of the first signs of change is the cooperation between the organization Maavarim, the LGBTech association of high-tech professionals who support the community, and Microsoft’s research and development center in Israel. These three bodies joined together to offer scholarships to members of the transgender community. 2017 is the second year that these scholarships have been offered. Adalom, an information security company founded by Assaf Rapaport and acquired by Microsoft, participated in the first round.

Hormonal treatments

According to a recent study, 45% of transgender women began to take the hormone treatment without prescription after obtaining the hormones on the black market. “The population, especially young transgender women, feels that they can not get the services they need from the health system today,” explains Dr. Ruth Kophen of the LGBT Medical society. “There are big barriers that do not allow transgender women to go to the doctor and get the prescriptions. Some of them are unaware of what they are entitled to in the medical setting and find themselves buying hormones on the black market. ”

Employment

According to a study conducted two years ago, transgender people often experience significant difficulties both in the workplace and in the hiring process. Only 40% hold full-time positions, 30% are part-time employees and 30% are not employed at all. It also emerges that among employed persons, the majority, about 57%, earn the minimum wage.

Personal security

According to a study conducted in 2015, 70% of transgender men and 76% of transgender women reported verbal abuse against them. In addition, 48% of transgender men and 55% of transgender women reported being victims of physical violence because of their gender identity.

Religion

A transgender Jew who wants to live according to Jewish law is forced to deal with many challenges: From the Morning Blessings (“for not making me a woman”), through the daily life in the community (can he hear a woman’s voice; can he join a minyan and testify?), in the synagogue (praying in the men’s or women’s section) and also in death (Does he need purification?). Today only the Reform movement in Judaism provides solutions for this problem. What would all those interested in an Orthodox way of life do? Good question. 

Struggles in the Knesset

Prohibition of discrimination.

In March 2014, the Knesset passed an amendment to the Student Rights Law, which would include a prohibition against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. This is the first time that a ban on gender discrimination appears in Israeli sex legislation and gender identity. In addition, the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee on Legislation passed a preliminary reading in the plenum of two bills that sought to determine that in any place in Israeli law where discrimination is prohibited, an interpretation prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity will automatically apply. So far, these bills have not been promoted.

Transgender parenting

There are many cases of people who have come out as transgender after they have already had children, and are in divorce disputes with the former spouse who is opposed to their relationship with the children because of the sex change. According to an article in Haaretz, in any case of this kind, which comes to the Family Court for hearings on custody and in the framework of the procedures for seeing the children, the court seeks professional evaluation from a social worker regarding the procedures of the local authority. Although this is not an official policy of the Ministry of Social Affairs (which has not set special provisions or provided training in this matter), in many cases the social workers whose decision is at their discretion recommend that the best interest of the child is with the non-transgender parent.