Iconic transgender pioneer Gila Goldstein was laid to rest on Monday afternoon at Yarkonim cemetery. More than 300 members of the LGBT community showed up to pay last respects. Over the past few days many of them have been sharing stories about Gila, about her life, about what she had done, said or how she helped, how she laughed and how she cursed. Here are selected quotes.
Lilach, a transgender activist:
“Transgender Day of Remembrance, 2008. After we marched from Sheinkin to the then-newly built LGBT Center in Meir Park, one of the organizers thought he could give you the microphone and you’d talk for five minutes. You talked and told stories for about half an hour, because only a fool thinks to give Gila Goldstein the stage and she wouldn’t grab it to the last drop. A Diva.
After they gently took the microphone back from your hand, you went out to smoke a cigarette. I stood there at some distance from you, too shy to approach. After all, I was a trans woman making my way in baby steps, standing in front of the godmother of all trans women in Israel. You saw me and yelled at me “Come on, come here, what are you afraid of?! What’s your name?”
I mumbled my previous name.
“No! It’s a man’s name! What’s your name?”
I told you I didn’t know yet. I had considered several options and I think I liked the name Lilach.
“Lilach. Li-Lach [‘to me, to you’ in Hebrew]. I love it. It’s both giving and receiving. I like it. This is what you’re being called now.”
From that day on, my name has been Lilach.
You didn’t have an easy life, but you lashed out as only a diva from the movies can, you drew every ounce of fun and glamor from life, and didn’t let anyone get you down. I find it hard to imagine that one day there will be a generation of transgender women who grew up and came out of the closet and never got yelled at by Gila Goldstein, but I assure you they’ll know who Gila Goldstein was.
Good night, larger-than-life woman. If there is justice in the world, so in these moments you are in heaven. Open your mouth at God the way only you can, and as always, protect us.”
Amit Alexander Lev, a gay volunteer:
“My favorite Gila story I actually heard from a Presser on an El Al flight. He told me that every morning Gila used to come to Cafe Nordau (which was the closest thing to a Gay bar back then) after a “shift” at “Tel” (Baruch), take out a stack of cash from her bra and hand out money. She handed out money to the one who had no food, to the one who had a problem with the rent, to the one whose parents threw him out of the house because he was gay. Money to him, and money to her and money to the Aguda.”
Daniel Mariuma, a pansexual D.J:
“…She asked me every holiday, Passover and Rosh Hashanah to bring her baked chicken – “Because I Love it.” I later learned that it always went to other people who needed something to eat. [We spent] hours and nights among the various cafes in Tel Aviv, fights, arguments, and eating mashed potatoes at Streets Cafe… but underneath the madness of this woman there was a heart that was stronger than half the people in Tel Aviv.”
Yoni Shain, a gay makeup artist:
“…You had depth. How much soul and how much love and patience you had, to listen, to advise and to teach, and how many times you encouraged me. How many times I cried to you , only to you. I never cry to anyone. You hugged me and encouraged me and calmed me and I always felt very close to you. You knew everything and shared everything and it was only with you that I felt confident and loved.”
Kim Levi, prominent transgender figure:
“I first met Gila Goldstein in the early 90s, the day of the funeral of Ada Valery Tal. Among all trans women who were there, Gila stood out: she was sitting on a big chair with a little black dress that didn’t hide any part of her body. She spoke loudly and cynically … she asked for my name and then made sure I had where to sleep… Today I am saying goodbye to the woman, the friend, the doting mother who I could always call on with any question, at any hour, and always get an answer. Gila my love … Thank you for everything,
Thank you for always being there for me…”