I Visited Israel - Here’s Why as a Trans Queer Person I Identify with the Palestinian Struggle | Opinion

  • This story is for OutFAU, our student publication covering Florida Atlantic University. To see more from OutFAU click here

Courtesy of Ximena Dipietro.

Last September, 24 prominent members of the FAU student body and myself participated in a trip visiting Israel-Palestine to learn about the conflict.

I was the only transgender (MtF, for context) individual and one of a handful of queer participants. In preparation for the trip, the organizers advised me that I ought not to dress femininely, particularly while visiting places of religious significance. They specifically mentioned that the Western Wall was explicitly segregated by gender, and that I would likely have to visit the men-only section of the Wall, or perhaps visit the egalitarian/co-ed section of the Wall, provided enough people would go with me.

When the day came for us to visit the Temple Mount, I decided to suck it up and put on a shirt and jeans and visit the men’s section of the Wall. While walking with a friend to the Wall, I had forgotten to put on a yarmulke (it is customary that all men, even those who are non-Jewish, to wear a yarmulke while worshiping at the Wall). An Orthodox Jewish man ran up to me and spoke to me in broken English, and told me where the woman’s section was; I had shaved that morning, and I’ve always grown my hair out, so it is understandable that he perceived me as a woman at that moment. This was not an uncommon experience for me, even before I realized I was transgender: men letting me know I was in the wrong restroom, boys telling me I was cute before recoiling once I told them I was a boy as well.

When the man at the Wall directed me to the women’s section, for a moment I thought about going along with it. But then I remembered another thing the organizers had told me: the women who maintained the women-only space were “vicious,” that they would shame and turn away women they thought to be too immodest or improper, I could only imagine their reaction to an openly transgender woman attempting to enter the women’s section. In the end, I put on the yarmulke and prayed at the men’s section.

Several days later we visited Tel-Aviv, and we went out drinking and partying; I wore a simple skirt, with flats and a purse. Nothing terrible happened, people stared but people always stared, I had a good time that night. Tel-Aviv is a strange cross between Wilton Manors and South Beach, a lively night scene on the beach with pride flags hanging in front of various establishments. I only mention this because I want to show Israel/Palestine is both a place of deep religious significance (and conservatism) but has its own queer spaces where we can exist.

Perhaps after reading this, you are probably wondering about my thoughts or feelings about the ongoing conflict. You might expect me, a trans woman, to be thankful for the State of Israel’s existence, for being a place where I could exist in a region that is not known for its acceptance of queer and trans people. I am thankful, but that thankfulness pales in comparison to the rage I have for the Israeli state, for its historic and ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people. At its core, the Palestinian cause and the struggle for queer and trans liberation are about one thing: autonomy. We, as queer and trans people, are fighting for our autonomy, to love who we want, to exist as who we are, without the fear of being harmed or murdered by religiously motivated bigots and an increasingly fascistic Republican Party.

The Palestinians are facing a similar fight and their goals are similar to ours as well: autonomy to move and live where they choose, to decide their own fate without being killed or dispossessed by religiously motivated settlers or the increasingly far-right Israeli government. “Ximena,” you might say, “how can you support Palestine when it is such a hostile place for trans and queer people? Don’t you know you would be killed if you went to Palestine as an openly trans woman.” My answer is this: Palestine is a society, just like the US and Israel, which will come to terms with its queer/transphobia. My support for the liberation of Palestine is not a contractual or conditional agreement; it is something that I believe in for its own sake, because it is the right thing to do. Thus, I write this in solidarity with the Palestinian people, not in spite of, but because of my identity as a transgender woman.

The views and opinions of this personal essay are solely those of the author and do not represent the official viewpoint of OutFAU.


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