BANGKOK: Carrying a bold message of inclusion, transgender rights and a sharp rebuke to US President Donald Trump, Miss Spain’s Angela Ponce is blazing a trail as the first transgender contestant in Miss Universe’s 66-year history.
The willowy beauty is making history since the pageant reversed a longstanding policy in 2012 that participants must be “naturally born” women.
Explaining her broad appeal the plain-speaking 27-year-old says “who hasn’t suffered from prejudice? Who hasn’t had to deal with bullying?”
Outside the walls of Miss Universe – whose finals will be held early Monday (Dec 10) in Thailand’s capital Bangkok – the transgender community continues to be marginalised and misunderstood, with high rates of suicide.
A leaked White House report said President Trump’s administration is considering pushing changes to the law to define gender by biological traits at birth, while trying to block transgender people from military service.
Ponce is defiant about how to respond to Trump, a former owner of Miss Universe, and others who would try to box her in by physical traits.
“I always say: having a vagina didn’t transform me into a woman. I am a woman, already before birth, because my identity is here,” she told AFP, gesturing to her head.
She also took issue with the classification of trans people by large sections of society based on prejudice and narrow assessments of gender.
“Outsiders say what I can and cannot do, what I am and what I am not,'” Ponce said.
Ponce, who works with a foundation in Spain helping children struggling with stigma linked to being trans, is aware of the visibility she brings to the Miss Universe platform. -AFP