Tag Archives: trans joy

Miss TransGlobal: A Pageant of Beauty and Activism

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nine transwomen in their pageantry fare: six standing, one kneeling in front, and two half-lying down, facing the center. All kinds of costumes and colors.

Debbie says: 

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.

Miss SaHHara in an off-the-shoulder low-cut black dress, shown from the chest up.

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.

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It’s Always Time for Trans Joy

We support a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza

Letter to court signed by many trans people. In large letters: WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN HERE! WE AREN'T GOING ANYWHERE! WE WON'T BE ERASED!

Debbie says:

As everyone is aware, the world news is dire. Falling into despair isn’t only easy, it often feels “right,” as in “Why should I find things to feel good about when so many people are in intolerable circumstances?” Along with many other wise people, I say these are the times when we most need counter-examples, sources of hope, stories to feel good about: these salve our souls and they make it more feasible to not look away from the worst situations.

In this spirit, I bring you 17-year-old Alessandra Kahn’s opinion piece from the Los Angeles Times last week. Kahn starts with the relentlessly oppressive and unhappy ways the news currently portrays trans people, but she doesn’t linger there:

When transgender people have access to gender-affirming resources and a supportive community, being trans is actually a joyful thing. In the words of Dr. Johanna Olson-Kennedy, medical director of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles’ Center for Transyouth Health and Development, “We spend so much time on dysphoria and none on euphoria.” That doesn’t have to be the case.

I recall the joy I felt as a little kid expressing my femininity. I routinely played dress-up, took on the role of a girl in make-believe games with friends and shamelessly declared: “I want to be a girl.” I even went through a phase of dressing up as Amy Winehouse (yes, beehive, eyeliner and all), and performing as her for my family.

She talks about her own body dysphoria and her decision at age 14 to use puberty blockers and estrogen.

My first day on estrogen, I received a package in the mail full of jewelry and accessories that, in my defense, were very in at the time. So, I put on a (very) full face of makeup, too many necklaces, and posted myself all over Instagram and TikTok. Rather than bullying or trying to change me, my friends left comments calling me beautiful and making me feel proud to be myself. I wouldn’t have become who I am now had I been pressured to change. The love around me let me find myself.

The news in this moment is bombarding us not only with horrifying world news and trans oppression, but also with the very disturbing rise in adolescent mental health issues in the U.S. In all of those contexts, picturing that excessively made-up and bejeweled teenager is pure pleasure: who among us had no moments of excess of some sort as a teenager?

Kahn’s whole essay is written as a seesaw between the dangers of transness in 21st century America and the rewards of transness as long as it is accompanied by acceptance.

Because there are increased rates of mental illness among trans people, there’s a common misconception that transness is to blame or that transness is a symptom of an underlying problem. That thinking overlooks the obvious explanation for a correlation: the wide array of social factors that make life as a trans person a struggle. In fact, transitioning can greatly relieve internal pain and incoherence. …

Today, I look in the mirror and am not filled with distress over the body I inhabit. Rather, I feel feminine, beautiful, empowered. In fact, I sometimes find myself unable to avert my eyes. That may sound vain, but never again will I let myself be ashamed for appreciating my trans body and trans mind.

Kahn’s confidence, conviction, and delight brought a smile to my face and a little bounce to my step. I hope it does the same for you.


Debbie has deleted her Twitter account. Follow her on Mastodon.

Follow Laurie’s Pandemic Shadows photos on Instagram.