Ta’alin Abu Hanna, a 21-year-old Christian Arab-Israeli ballerina from Nazareth, made her mark in history when she was announced the winner of Israel’s first ever transgender beauty pageant on Friday, May 27. The event was held in Tel Aviv at the national HaBima theater.
As the winner of the pageant, Hanna will receive $15,000 worth of plastic surgery from a hospital in Thailand (flights and accommodations included).
After the competition, Hanna told The Times of Israel that she is “proud to be an Israeli Arab.”
She added, “If I had not been in Israel and had been elsewhere—in Palestine or in any other Arab country—I might have been oppressed or I might have been in prison or murdered.”
While Israel is generally considered LGBT-friendly, other areas in the Middle East—particularly those with Jewish and Muslim communities—still ostracize and persecute homosexuality.
“Israel [is]the only sane country in the region where people can live as gays or transgender,” pageant organizer Yisraela Stephani Lev told to The Jerusalem Post. “No one is going to throw them off the rooftop or slaughter them.”
Hanna will also represent Israel at the Miss Trans Star International competition this August in Spain. This will be the first year that Israel will be represented at the international event.