Talleen Abu Hanna, the reigning Miss Trans Israel and runner-up in the 2016 Miss Trans Star Internacional beauty pageant, visited Miami last week, speaking at several college campuses and other venues to bring awareness to transgender issues and honor trans victims of violence.
Abu Hanna had a long itinerary of events, participating in lectures with students and faculty at the University of Miami's LGBTQ Student Center; Florida International University’s Center for Women’s & Gender Studies; and Miami Dade College North Campus, where she met with sociology and psychology professors. Abu Hanna also met with many leaders, including the offices of U.S. Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen; openly gay State Rep. David Richardson; Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa; newly elected City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez; and Miami Beach Commissioners John Elizabeth Aleman and Michael Góngora, who is openly gay and was recently re-elected for a third term.
Abu Hanna said she has a message for the LGBT community, particularly transgender people: stay strong and don't lose hope.
"I tell my story. To be a boy living in Israel with a large Arab family and to do my transition was so hard," Abu Hanna said. "I'm here to tell the people we can live together in peace and we can be different. It's beautiful sometimes to be different. I hope there is change in the world and people start accepting transgender people all over."
Abu Hanna said she is from Israel and lived in Nazareth. Her family doesn't accept her but she found solace elsewhere in Israel.
"I found another place in Israel like Tel Aviv that really accepts me and supports me and gave me the peace within my body and soul to make my transition and still live in Israel," Abu Hanna said. "I have a lot of friends from the Middle East, like Dubai and Syria, who cannot say the same. They cannot do their transition, cannot live their life and feel at home."
At the Translatina Coalition and SAVE Art Runway Transgender Day of Remembrance on Friday, Nov. 17, Abu Hanna presented an award to Morgan Mayfaire, president of Trans Social. She also met with volunteers and members of Survivors' Pathway Organization’s Trans Latina project and took part in a Q&A session with Herb Sosa, CEO of Unity Coalition, and Ariel Roman-Harris, director of Media & Cultural Affairs at the Israeli Consulate in Miami. The event, named “Coffee with Miss Trans Israel,” was held at the Betsy Hotel in South Beach.
Sosa interviewed Hanna in front of an audience about a series of topics, including being a transgender in Israel, the middle east, family, legal rights and what she hopes to do with her position and voice.
“The Q&A with all in attendance, it was a really great event; a varied audience from really all walks of life,” Sosa said. “Unity Coalition|Coalicion Unida has been a strong advocate and partner on all things transgender since day one, when we were founded in 2002. We offer support, counseling, health and legal services through partnerships all year-round.”
Unity Coalition has opened their Brickell offices to Trans-Miami and Trans Social to give them both a presence and workspace in Miami. “Two of our board members are trans," Sosa added.
Arianna's Center, in collaboration with SAVE and CIC Miami, produced and held their performance art runway event during Transgender Awareness Month. The event featured local transgender models artistically painted by Beauty Schools of America, recognizing transgender individuals who were lost to violence this year. Elected officials spoke on their commitments to the transgender community. Dr. Ashley Austin PhD, director of the Center for Human Rights and Social Justice at Barry University, was given Arianna's Center's 2017 Ally Award. Gia Gizelle Stone, a Fort Lauderdale female impersonator and drag queen, served as event host.
Arianna Lint, a transgender woman and founder of Arianna’s Center, is a trans educator and advocate originally from Peru. She says many of her clients begin working with Arianna’s Center to gain access to legal name/gender change services and/or access to transition-related care.
“We serve all members of the South Florida trans community," Lint said. "Our programs include targeted support to clients who are members of the trans Latinx community; undocumented immigrants; people living with HIV and AIDS; and people who have experienced incarceration. In addition to these services, we offer trainings to providers and other stakeholders in caring for and uplifting the trans community.”
Arianna’s Center, in partnership with Trans-Miami, is working on the Sisterhood Housing Program for the transgender community in South Florida. A recent needs assessment of transgender individuals living with HIV by the Transgender Law Center reported cases of homelessness, along with a myriad of barriers to support in employment and healthcare as a result. With the support of crowdfunding, Arianna’s Center can initiate a model for an unconventional housing process using grassroots networks and transgender-led organizations.
Tony Lima, CEO of SAVE, said Friday’s event at CIC Miami was the “first of many more.”
"We are very proud to support Arianna’s Center and their work to benefit the trans community, mostly trans women of color, the most marginalized community within our LGBT family,” Lima said. “Our event was a solemn remembrance of the beautiful transgender lives lost over the last year.”
The event attracted many organizations, groups and leaders, including the LGBTQ Student Center at UM, State Rep. Richardson and Abu Hanna, who reiterated to attendees to take advantage of the various outlets available to them for support and assistance like Arianna's Center, Trans-Miami and Trans Social.
"To all the transgender individuals, I tell you don't be afraid. Be you. You are OK," Abu Hanna said. "I know and feel your pain because I was in this place, but look at me now. I believe we can make change together and I am here to support you every step along the way."