Should transgender women be allowed to join national beauty pageants?
For Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman, the country’s first and only transgender lawmaker, this being an issue still in the Philippines is “a step backward” in their long battle against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
The Miss Universe pageant, considered the most prestigious of them all, already allows the participation of transwomen since 2018 when Miss Spain Angela Ponce competed with eventual winner Catriona Gray of the Philippines.
Roman sees no reason why some of the country’s national pageants don’t allow it. “Trans women are already allowed to join international pageants like Miss Universe so I don’t see anything wrong if they join local women’s pageants like Miss Universe Philippines,” she told the Philippine STAR.
Roman believes that trans women are actually at a disadvantage in joining pageants for cisgender women. “Actually, if they are to participate, they would be joining with a disadvantage given the stigma and discrimination that exist in (our) society. So, pagandahan na lang ang labanan (the battle boils down to beauty). After all, trans women are women,” she pointed out.
The issue came up at the start of this Pride Month after Miss Universe Philippines national director and 2011 Miss Universe third runner-up Shamcey Supsup-Lee said they would allow trans women to join the pageant “as long as they have legal documents to prove they are now females and they already underwent gender reassignment surgery.”
Miss World Philippines, under national director Arnold Vegafria of ALV Pageant Circle, made a similar pronouncement that their pageant is “trans-inclusive.”
“In the interest of gender diversity and equality, the Miss World Philippines organization proudly embraces transgender inclusion in its annual pageant. This means that we are not closing doors to transgender candidates for as long as they comply with all of the Miss World Philippines’ rules and regulations,” MWP said in a statement.
On the other hand, Miss Earth Philippines has taken a clear position on the matter and said it is not open to trans women. According to Lorraine Schuck, CEO of Carousel Productions, Miss Earth “remains to be a traditional beauty pageant” and the company finds it in the best interest of the organization to follow current rules and policies.
The Miss Earth pageant currently does not allow transgender women to enter the competition.” But Schuck stressed that they “fully support transgenders in their own respective beauty pageants and competitions, and we believe that we all can shine in our own way.”
There are international pageants for transgender women, such as the Miss Trans Global, which Filipina beauty queen and actress Mela Habijan won last year. Philippine delegates Kevin Balot and Trixie Maristela won the Miss International Queen, a pageant for transgender women.
In Congress, Roman has been pushing for several legislative measures in support of the LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer, intersex, asexual) community, including the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Orientation Equality (SOGIE) bill and the bill allowing civil partnerships of same-sex couples in the country.
Banner and thumbnail photos courtesy of Miss Universe Philippines. As with Miss Universe Pageant, the local competition allows trans women to compete.