Transgender shock waves aren’t just covering the United States but now a report from the Middle East is indicating that Israel is now placing one particular transgender in the spotlight. In Tel Aviv this year the beauty pageant became historic. That’s because Miss Trans Israel was the country’s first-ever transgender beauty pageant. In May, 12 contestants, selected among hundreds of women during three rounds of auditions, competed for the title. And the winner, 21-year-old Ta’alin Abu Hanna, a Christian Arab-Israeli ballet dancer, will represent the country at the Miss Trans Star International pageant in Barcelona this September.

In most Middle Eastern countries, homosexuality is, at best, not tolerated and, at worst, punishable by death. But in Israel, the government acknowledges transgender women as their chosen gender and allows them the same benefits as the rest of the country’s female population. And Tel Aviv, the second-most populous city, boasts a thriving gay community. But despite official tolerance, the pageant contestants say they still struggle with acceptance from their families and the community in general. CONTINUE