We support a ceasefire in Gaza
Sometimes you find a story that just makes you happy. I had never heard of Miss Trans Global until I read Nick Schönfeld and Julia Gunther’s story about Chedino Martin, written for Wisconsin Public Radio. Chedino Martin won Miss Trans Africa in 2022, and came in 5th in Miss Trans Global last year. Her story, as told by Schönfeld and Gunther, is heartbreaking in places and heartwarming in others, and well worth reading. For me, though, it was a stepping stone into knowing that this pageant exists, and learning something about it.
Although there have been other international trans beauty pageants, Miss Trans Global is likely unique in that it centers activism along with beauty. It was founded by Nigerian trans activist Miss SahHara.
The first winner was Mela Habjan, from the Philippines (winning in a virtual pageant in 2020), followed by Sruthy Sithara from India, and in 2022 (again in a digital ceremony), Natasha Cardozo from Brazil. This year’s winner was Miss Thailand, Piano Sarocha Akaros.
No doubt, it’s exciting to see trans women compete in a beauty pageant, but for me, as a lifelong body image activist, it’s even more exciting to see activism paired with pageantry, to see an organization which uses the mechanisms of the mainstream to overturn assumptions.
Unlike more traditional pageants, which are primarily focused on physical appearance and talents, Miss Trans Global blended beauty with activism. Contestants were encouraged to share personal stories of discrimination, violence, societal exclusion and their journeys of self-acceptance.
Miss Trans Global has no age restrictions; and, to make sure there was enough time for the judges to really get to know each contestant, only 10 women competed in the final. Perhaps most unorthodox was Miss saHHara’s wish that each finalist would win something, and to experience being crowned queen.
Wikipedia (link at the top of the post) provides some more context on the activism aspects:
The top 5 winners of Miss Trans Global work as spokespersons on transgender and LGBT issues worldwide. They claim to work closely with activist organisations … to educate cisgender people and inspire transgender people globally. The organisation started an initiative called ‘For Trans Women by Trans Women’, where a group of transgender women from different countries come together to raise awareness about issues that affect their local communities.
The organizers said that Miss Trans Global “is not about a beautiful face and perfect body” but rather “about activism, charity, and intelligence”.
For me, the combination of trans joy, a deeply supported experience, and an activist mission is the trifecta. As Audre Lorde famously said, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Nonetheless, I see Miss SaHHara and her visionary project planting little landmines around the foundations of the pageant industry, and I firmly believe that projects like this one can participate in the dismantling we so desperately need.
Thanks to Mona Eltahawy’s invaluable newsletter, Feminist Giant, which hosts Samiha Hossain’s global roundup of feminist news.
Debbie has deleted her Twitter account. Follow her on Mastodon.
Follow Laurie’s Pandemic Shadows photos on Instagram.