Transgender activist talks about what transitioning was like in Israel

FAU’s Owls for Israel and National Organization for Women chapters hosted an online event featuring transgender activist Michael Alroy.


Michael Alroy. Courtesy of Alroy’s LinkedIn

Haley Flamenbaum, Contributing Writer

When he was four years old, Michael Alroy knew he wanted to be a boy upon receiving a Barbie doll as a gift, while his brother got a tractor. Another major point in his life was when he moved to Israel from South Africa at 7 years old with his mother and two siblings to start a new life. 

And at 20 years old, Alroy’s life changed again: he transitioned from female to male, from  Michelle to Michael. Alroy said his transition allowed him to fully be “Michael Alroy, and that is it.” 

FAU’s Owls for Israel and National Organization for Women chapters hosted an Alroy last week via Zoom, where he gave a lecture called “Life Begins Where Fear Ends.” He discussed the complicated relationship he had between himself and his religion throughout his transition.

“The lecture is important because [people] have no idea what being transgender is,” Alroy said. There’s a “lack of knowledge and lack of political correctness.”

Michael began the lecture by asking the seemingly simple question: “What is a man?” Alroy said there were two answers: “biological concepts and social, cultural concepts.”

Though he said his transition brought many struggles, some involving family and others involving society and cultural influences, Alroy said the process taught him to love himself. 

When Alroy began identifying as a man, he said that ultimately shifted the dynamics of his family and his religious affiliations. 

Upon arriving in Israel, Michael — then named Michelle — was enrolled into an all-girls religious school, which caused him to struggle with his mental health and gender. He said those struggles allowed him not to just become religious, but become “a believer in God and in the good of others.”

After finishing school and joining the Israeli Defense Forces — which he enlisted in as a woman — more difficulties arose when he decided to transition. (The first openly transgender officer of the Israeli Defense Forces wasn’t announced until 2017.)

The Owls for Israel president, Jayda Pierre, said the event was both successful and enlightening. 

“Israel is a beautiful and diverse country,” Pierre said. “We are happy that Michael shared his incredible story with us and showed us that although Israel is not perfect, it is on the right path with LGBTQ+ rights.”

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Israel was ranked as the seventh happiest place in the world for gay men to live. Another important step for LGBT people in Israel was the opening of a “mixed-gender” praying space at the Western Wall, a holy Jewish site, the Jewish Virtual Library website reads.

Alroy also discussed his 2015 appearance on the Israeli version of the reality show “Big Brother,” which led to an increase in discussion of the transgender community in Israel, he said.

He’s presented his “Life Begins Where Fear Ends” lecture at multiple universities. 

Haley Flamenbaum is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].