Crossing Borders and Demolishing Boundaries: The Connected History of the Israeli Transgender Community, 1953–86

Sunday, January 5, 2020: 1:50 PM
Gramercy West (New York Hilton)
Iris Rachamimov, Tel Aviv University
This paper covers three decades of transgender activity in Israel: from Rina Nathan's public yet unsuccessful campaign in the 1950s to permit gender confirmation surgeries in the country to the decision of the Ministry of Health in 1986 to allow surgeries in one public hospital after a lengthy vetting process that de facto held up or disqualified the great majority of applications. The main focus of this study is the generation of "founding mothers" of the transgender community in the 1960s and 1970s and their quest to obtain knowledge, medical technology and paperwork necessary for their gender journeys. It argues that decades before the creation of the internet, Israeli trans pioneers crossed domestic and international boundaries (both social and spatial) and created a network, which later generations of transgender women and men would depend on. This article relies on oral history, contemporaneous media reports and archival documents.