The organisers of Miss Singapore Universe have indicated that they intend to abide by the new ruling set by the Miss Universe organisation to allow transgender women from participating in the pageant. From 2013 onwards, transgender women in Singapore will have a shot at being crowned Miss Singapore Universe.
The demeaning, rude and downright offensive comments were almost instantaneous.
“The world is getting more ridiculous. Next time, apes and Martians will also be eligible,” writes someone going by the moniker of ‘Justice’.
“This is a sick joke! For once, I must stress that Miss Universe is for REAL women! Nothing against them but Trans have their own Tiffany contest!” adds ‘Sparky’.
Some believed that it was yet another sign of Singapore being influenced and led by Western values, as seen in the comment by ‘Ladynobody’: “Trust me. Whatever Ang Moh do, 70% of Singaporeans will follow… really sad to see this. Please be creative, innovative and respect on cultures rather than following other cultures… “
Others have expressed concern that it allowing transgenders to participate will undermine the pageant’s emphasis on “natural beauty”.
Yes, because strutting around a stage in a skimpy swimsuit and heels has always been a perfectly natural way of portraying real women. I mean, I walk around in a string bikini and stilettos all the time… doesn’t every woman?
When asked about her reaction to this ruling, Miss Singapore Universe 2011 Valerie Lim said:
I’m flattered that transgender women want to compete in one of the most prestigious pageants, but thinking of Miss Universe as a role model for women all over the world, perhaps the question would be what sort of message would crowning a transgendered woman send to the majority of women who look to her as the epitome of beauty?
I suppose Miss Lim worries that women will be discouraged or hurt by devastatingly gorgeous transgender women winning the crown, because their beauty was achieved through surgery, and isn’t natural. This could either lead to an epidemic of low self-esteem, or a mad rush to various forms of cosmetic surgery so as to live up to an unrealistic standard of beauty.
But hey, don’t we already do that to ourselves, without the input of transgender women? All it takes are monthly Vogues and Cosmopolitans and FHMs, with their cover girls of Jennifer Anistons and Kim Kardashians and Megan Foxs (Foxes?) Honestly, the possibility of most women looking like any of those celebrities on magazine covers – or even Miss Lim herself – is just as realistic as looking like a transgender woman. The “we’re giving women unrealistic expectations of their own bodies!” ship has long sailed, and it had nothing to do with transgender women.
In fact, I believe that the inclusion of transgender women will actually help pageants like Miss Universe. In attempts to portray themselves as more than a sexist parade of girls in figure-hugging outfits, pageants often stress that they aren’t just concerned with physical beauty, but are more interested in inner beauty. Winners are also expected to have an altruistic streak, as stated on the Miss Universe website:
These women are savvy, goal-oriented and aware. The delegates who become part of the Miss Universe Organization display those characteristics in their everyday lives, both as individuals, who compete with hope of advancing their careers, personal and humanitarian goals, and as women who seek to improve the lives of others.
In which case, I don’t see any reason why transgender women shouldn’t be allowed to participate. They too can be “savvy, goal-oriented and aware”, and just as dedicated to humanitarian causes. And if it’s really about inner beauty, then who gives two ticks what genitalia they were born with?
As a Singaporean, I would be proud if a transgender woman won the Miss Singapore Universe crown and represented us on the world stage. It would be a sign of progress and acceptance in Singapore, a move away from judgmental attitudes and hate. It would be a better demonstration of Singapore’s pride in diversity than the garish mishmash-of-culture dresses that we come up with for the National Costume segments every year, that’s for sure.
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