Transgender Christian-Arab Model Talleen Abu Hanna at Northwestern University

Talleen Abu Hanna, Miss Trans Israel 2016, is currently in the United States for a 10-day speaking tour. Yesterday, she shared her remarkable story with students at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois.

This event, organized by Wildcats for Israel and A Wider Bridge, was a chance to meet Talleen and ask questions about LGBTQ life in Israel.

Talleen opened the evening reading a beautifully written account of her journey, starting at the very beginning with her birth in Nazareth.

“To me I was born a beautiful baby girl.”

“However to everyone else, I was born a baby boy. Basically, I was born in the wrong body.”

Talleen’s story was poignant and inspiring. You can watch her tell her story in the video below.

Watch Talleen tell her remarkable transitioning story and how Tel Aviv saved her life.

During the Q&A period, Talleen was asked whether she faced discrimination as an Arab woman in Israel. She said that her friends are both Jewish and Arab from the LGBTQ community in Israel, and she feels completely welcome in this circle. She pointed out that “we love Israel, this is where we were born.”

“I found the peace here. I found the big peace between my body and soul.”

Talleen said that attitudes towards trans folk have improved greatly in the past year. “I go back to Nazareth and people accept me, and even take pictures with me.”

Talleen reflected that while it would be hard to live as an Arab trans woman in a very conservative Arab city like Umm al-Fahm, even there you can visit. “People might look at you as weird or strange, but not come and kill you. People are starting to understand that we are human like everyone else, and we are living here too.”

“I am lucky to be an Israeli because being an Israeli means being truly free. Our country allowed me, a Christian Arab from Nazareth, to find peace with myself. “

“I see the future of LGBTQ people living in Israel to be at peace. I hope my story is a source of hope for you all. This beautiful girl blossomed, despite all the challenges.”