Post Strike: Israel’s LGBTQ Communities Revive Protests

July 22, 2018 can be considered one of the most important dates in the history of the Israeli LGBT community’s struggle for equality. It joins the day the legal ban on homosexuality in Israel was lifted, and the day the Stonewall riots began in New York in 1969—marking the birth of the LGBT movement.

On that day, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against the inequality, discrimination and the insecurity felt by the members of the LGBTQ community. What began as a protest against the deliberate exclusion of homosexual couples from the Surrogacy Law became part of a broader protest that tried to provide a platform for the various struggles the Israeli LGBTQ community has to face.

LGBT protests in Tel Aviv (Photo: Motti Kimchi)

LGBTQ protests in Tel Aviv (Photo: Motti Kimchi)

Last week, a special discussion was held in the Knesset about the issue, after 40 MKs signed a petition for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to attend and address the matter. Earlier, the opposition submitted five bill proposals that are meant to amend Israel’s law books in line with the demands of various LGBTQ organizations.

A few days after the historic July protest, it seemed as though the momentum had somewhat faded—the Knesset went on hiatus, the media moved on to other pressing issues, and it appeared the energy invested in bringing out tens of thousands onto the streets has run out.

Oded Frid is one of the people working behind the scenes to further advance the protest. Frid served as a parliamentary advisor and a former executive of the Aguda—Israel’s LGBTQ Task Force, and was recently appointed as the LGBTQ community’s representative in the Knesset—a position that was created following years of the Knesset’s communications with the community done through leaders of many different organizations and in a very sporadic manner.

“The main goal is to change the equation,” said Frid. “To say, ‘We’ve had it up to here! You won’t keep disrespecting us, and we won’t continue to play the game—getting up every morning, going to work, paying taxes, and just accepting things as they are … We are taking the reins into our hands,'” stressed Frid.

Some work is already taking place behind the scenes. “We are present at (Knesset) committees’ discussions and are in contact with directors-generals of various government ministries,” he explained, “Even MKs from parties that strongly oppose LGBT rights are working with us and are cooperating with the community. We don’t always agree, but we’re in the game.”

One of the most prominent things in the current protest is the voice of the trans community in Israel—which doesn’t receive much support from Israeli public or from the gay community itself, and is not heard during most discussions.

“The rally at Rabin Square was very important, but it was about the LGBT community in general, and the trans community was sidelined because a trans woman getting stabbed is a lot less sexy than the Surrogacy Law,” elaborated trans activist Ella Amst.

“We realized that if we don’t organize a major event, we would down in the noise. In the end … we organized the biggest transgender event in Israel … which was attended by around 7,000 men and women,” Amst added.

Protest for Trans Rights, Tel Aviv, July 2018

Amst elaborated on the importance of allowing trans’ voices to be heard. “The community is coping with post-trauma. Even walking on the street as a transgender can be dangerous … Many people in the gay community are struggling to save their lives—40 percent of those in the trans community describe themselves as ‘suicidal,’ and 30 percent have been unemployed or homeless at some point in their life. This is a very difficult reality to navigate,” the activist opined.

Oded Frid believes that one of the things the LGBT protest has contributed to is last week’s municipal elections. For the first time, LGBTQ candidates became prominent in various cities throughout the country, and the Aguda even went as far as to release its “Pride Platform,” which includes a commitment to work for the community in the city where an LGBTQ candidate is listed.

“It does not start with the Surrogacy Law and does not end with a strike. For the first time, municipal elections candidates are committed to the Pride Platform,” Fried emphasized.

LGBT protest in Tel Aviv (Photo: AP)

LGBT protest in Tel Aviv (Photo: AP)

The activists had final words of encouragement for those LGBTQ members who do not feel part of the struggle, or those who are not part of the community but still wish to lend a helping hand.

“Wake up and take control of your life. Even when you think that everything is fine, know that it is not the case,” urged Fried.

Read full article in YNET.