Spanish transgender beauty queen is the surprise front-runner for this year's Miss Universe

Spanish transgender beauty queen is the surprise front-runner for this year's Miss Universe

Beauty pageants are pretty divisive. Some folk think they're just harmless good fun, while others regard them as being sexist and patronising festivals that only serve to objectify women. However, there's no denying that the big beauty pageants, such as Miss World and Miss Universe to name but two, can often be a useful platform for young women to discuss the political and social issues that they don't think get enough press attention.

For instance, this year the Miss Universe competitor for Spain is a trans woman named Angela Ponce, who is hoping to win Miss Universe 2018 and draw more attention to LGBT+ issues.  The Hispanic beauty queen is the first transgender contestant in the pageant's 66-year history, and the first transgender woman to ever be crowned Miss Spain. She's currently over in Bangkok in Thailand, and some online bookmakers have declared her the odds-on front-runner for the December 17 contest.

Angela Ponce at a red carpet event in Spain. Credit: Getty

In a recent interview with Time magazine concerning her remarkable success, Ponce stated: "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."

An image of Angela Ponce at the Miss Universe pageant.

Ponce also boasts a significant social media presence, with over 440,000 followers on Instagram. After winning the Miss Universe contest in Spain in June of this year, Ponce took to the image-sharing site to write: "Bringing the name and colours of Spain before the universe is my great dream. My goal is to be a spokesperson for a message of inclusion, respect and diversity not only for the LGBTQ+ community but also for the entire world."

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

Personally, I'm really hopeful that Angela will manage to secure the crown for herself. What a great step forward for civil rights would a result like that be?