A young trans woman pens a letter about her love for beauty contests and her dream of joining them
By Aldy Cadupay
I started watching beauty pageants in 2003. At the age of five, I could never forget how mesmerizing it felt to see powerful women gathered on one stage to fight for a platform that could change their life forever. It never fails to make me smile everytime I remember that I don’t even know which country I’m supporting, because I don’t even know the name of our native land then. In the eyes of my five-year-old self, what is more important is the thought that I could dream of being on that stage in the future.
Until one day, I was informed that the dream is not going to happen. The possibility that it will never be is very high. Saying that I am devastated is an understatement of what I felt. Apparently, we have this idea that the dream we should choose for ourselves would also depend on what’s between our legs. My future and my identity have been decided by a stranger. It seems that I could never do something about it.
It was in 2012, while I was doing my assignment on the internet, that I came across this news that the Miss Universe organization will allow transgender women to compete. That decision has been made after a brave soul from Miss Universe Canada made a petition about it. My mind went blank. I was having difficulty understanding what was happening because, at that time, we didn’t have any concrete guidelines yet on how to identify if the news article we were reading was fake or not. At that moment, the only thing I could think of was the chance of me joining the competition. It could happen.
That is correct, I identify myself as a woman. That realization I have has been there ever since. Maybe it took a long time for me to fully understand who I am, but I know what I am. I am special. I am a woman.
Angela Ponce from Spain was the first-ever trans woman to compete for the crown. As historic as that time was, it was also the same year when I realized that the people I thought were my allies during my process of identifying myself were not really allies. Ironically, their acceptance has reservations. The idea that these people were the first to understand me was not even close to reality. It’s very frustrating. On top of that, even the people from my community were the main contributors of that misunderstanding.
Miss Universe beauty pageant was a platform created for women after the Second World War. As we all know, women from the past were not as privileged as how we are at the present. The original goal of the pageant was to open great opportunities for women to showcase not just their beauty but also their wisdom and their talents. As time went by, the platform progressed into something more monumental. The title holders are now given an avenue to which they could travel around the world to educate and inform women what they are capable of.
Representation is the main key to the success of the organization. Let’s not forget how great it was when the first Asian was crowned in 1959, the first Latina title holder was crowned in 1957, the first Southeast Asian was crowned in 1965, and the first Black woman was crowned in 1977. In 1974, the Philippines was the first Asian country to host the pageant, in which we were given the chance to showcase our culture and traditions. Who knows, a few years from now we might witness the first trans woman to win the title.
Pageant is a business. At the end of the day, the main goal is to look for someone that could represent the brand. An ambassador that could compete with the demanding world of aesthetics. Transwomen can join this platform not just because of the expression and impression that they have about themselves. They have the capacity to represent the product. To market the brand.
There are lots of arguments about what being a woman is about. The parameters of what a woman should be is now part of the debate on why we should not let trans women join. It is expected for people to have their different thoughts about it. They are so into that discussion that they even forgot what is the main reason why we are having this event, why we are putting up this event every year to celebrate the women of the universe.
We tend to forget that the reason why we are creating this platform is to empower women that are not well-represented, that they could dream. They could be leaders. They could bring hope and inspiration to their people. Whatever our background is, it doesn’t matter. We all could share the same stage and we all could represent our brands. All of us can be Miss Universe. And just like the universe itself, we have endless possibilities.
About the Author
Aldy Cadupay is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts majoring in English. She is currently working as an HR recruitment specialist, and works part time as an actor and a teacher. Apart from aspiring to become a beauty queen, she hopes to become a values teacher someday.