6 Ways Tel Aviv Supports The LGBTQ Community During Its Massive Pride Celebration And Throughout The Year
With the only official pride event in the Middle East, and dubbed by some as the gayest city in the world, Tel Aviv is certainly a city that knows how to party inclusively, but it’s also a diverse community working hard to support its LBGTQ members in daily life. This year, the city is welcoming an estimated 250,000 guests for Tel Aviv Pride, a weeklong celebration already underway, and marked with citywide parties and a raucous parade that has doubled in size in recent years, but these headline events are hardly the only LGBTQ topics worth your attention in Tel Aviv. From all-queer art exhibitions on ancient walls to one of the world’s most progressive transgender medicine programs, check out these ways Tel Aviv celebrates and supports its LGBTQ community from grassroots to government during Pride Week and beyond.
Tel Aviv Pride
As with all major prides, the parade is Tel Aviv Pride’s main public event, drawing a quarter million spectators as giant floats meander through the streets, but Tel Aviv doesn’t stop there: Known for its party prowess, the city goes the extra mile with both a pre-parade party and a post-parade party. Two hours before the noon kickoff, a music festival entertains crowds at the staging area, and a massive beach party closes the parade at its end point in Charles Clore Garden (it’s a beach park). This year’s Grand Marshal is Neil Patrick Harris, who arrived in Tel Aviv yesterday and has been touring the city and making media appearances with his husband, David Burtka. Naturally, the week’s calendar is packed with multiple daily parties ranging from day parties at a waterpark to all night (and into the late morning) ragers for every interest.
Working to protect at-risk LGBTQ youth from homelessness and abuses of all types, Beit Dror is an emergency youth home that accepts teens up to 18 years old and provides short-term housing and a long-term plan that can include transition to a long-term facility, reunion with family or other tailored paths toward safe and successful futures. The 24-hour facility is funded by Israel’s Ministry of Labor and Welfare, and is staffed with 18 full-time employees and a host of long-term volunteers who prepare meals and build relationships with the teens. While some arrivals only need a place to stay for a night or two while others face more serious challenges within their families or communities and can stay up to three months as they work with therapists and social workers to develop individualized plans. Transgender teens have the opportunity to stay up to three years as their care logistically takes longer and because other long-term facilities in the county are binary (male only; female only), leaving many trans teens without suitable alternatives.
Outside the Box
On Tuesday, ARTiq opened the outdoor exhibit Outside the Box in the historic and romantic alleyways of ancient Jaffa. The exhibit is comprised entirely of creations by LGBTQ artists and consists of a series of works illuminated by light boxes on the 3,500-year-old stone walls of the city long-associated with several Biblical stories. ARTiq is currently seeking to establish a queer art center in Israel to exhibit and preserve LGBTQ art, and the free public exhibition of Outside the Box is yet another step toward building the visibility and support needed for the young organization.
Transgender Medicine and Health
Tel Aviv is at the forefront of transgender medicine not just in Israel or the Middle East, but worldwide. The Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center’s Ichilov Hospital is home not just to the comprehensive endocrinology and psychology services expected for transgender persons seeking hormonal therapies and potential surgeries, but also to fertility conservation services for both transmen and transwomen who may wish to start families through surrogacy in the future. The majority of those who enter a course of treatment here are Israeli, but the hospital sees arrivals from neighboring countries and beyond, and has counseled and served transpersons from as young as 4 years old to as old as 72. In Israel’s healthcare system, these services are free, from consultation to surgery, and referrals are not required.
As a Jewish lesbian who was tired of being asked to choose between her faith and her identity, Zehorit Sorek founded Bat Kol as a religious LGBT community to bridge the chasm between two personally important communities who consistently demanded she choose a side. Beginning simply as a one-person initiative brining religious music to the Tel Aviv Pride parade, she found an outcry of support and need from her communities and founded Bat Kol for those who “refuse to choose.” Today, the growing organization provides support and resources for LGBT adults to live traditionally Jewish lives, and also for for Orthodox LGBT youth.
Israeli Gay Youth