Miss Universe pays emotional tribute to its first ever transgender competitor

Miss Universe pays emotional tribute to its first ever transgender competitor

It's fair to say that Miss Universe 2018 is looking like a historic one. This year, the competitor representing Spain is a trans woman named Angela Ponce, who is hoping to use the pageant as a platform to draw attention to LGBT+ issues.

The Hispanic beauty queen is the first transgender contestant in the pageant's 66-year history, and is now over in Bangkok, Thailand, with the other contestants. Many people were hoping she could win it, and at one point bookmakers declared her the odds-on front-runner.

The rules of Miss Universe formerly prohibited transgender women from competing in the competition, but the regulations surrounding trans representation were changed in 2012, after Canadian model Jenna Talackova successfully sued Miss Universe Canada organisers for disqualifying her on discriminatory grounds.

An image of Angela Ponce. Credit: Getty

Unfortunately, Angela Ponce didn't make it to the top 20 after all. However, she was honoured with a special segment during the live competition in Bangkok, Thailand, and was greeted with applause by the audience.

In the segment, she stated: "My hope is for tomorrow to be able to live in a world of equality for everyone, simply for us all to understand that we are human and we must make all our lives easier together. If I can give that to the world, I don't need to win Miss Universe, I only need to be here."

On social media, the reaction to Ponce has been largely positive. One Twitter user wrote: "They dedicated a special segment for Angela Ponce to acknowledge her, and recognize her representation. She is a woman, and in the eyes of the universe, she will always be a woman. I'm so emotional right now. You made your community proud, Miss Spain! #MissUniverse. [sic]"

Another person added: "I LOVE MISS UNIVERSE for celebrating diversity, highlighting the incredible journey of the first Transgender woman vying for the title, Miss Universe Spain, Angela Ponce. The definition of beauty has come a long way. It is a very strong, clear and loud message of equality. [sic]" 

An image of Angela Ponce. Credit: Getty

In a recent interview with Time, Ponce claimed: "I’m competing because it’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl. I’m showing that trans women can be whatever they want to be: a teacher, a mother, a doctor, a politician and even Miss Universe ... I like to think that most people who don’t understand me, it’s not because they’re bad people. It’s because no one taught them about diversity. What you don’t talk about doesn’t exist—even though trans people have been here since there were people on earth."

She added: "At school, no one knew what to make of me. It was hard. But school is like that for many people: other kids got picked on for their weight or because they wore glasses. Spain is actually a leader on gender issues; we’re one of the best countries in the world in terms of female representation at the top of politics. But there’s a way to go: transgender people still don’t have a legal right to their identity until they’re 18."

Unfortunately, Miss Universe 2018 has proven to be controversial, after Miss USA was filmed mocking Miss Vietnam and Miss Cambodia for being unable to speak English.