In July, Spain-born Ángela Ponce made history when she became the first transgender contestant for Miss Universe. And while her achievement signals an important victory in the beauty pageant world, it’s also a reminder that transphobia is alive and well in 2018. In a recent interview with Colombia’s Canal RCN, Miss Colombia, Valeria Morales, said Ponce is at a disadvantage because she wasn’t born a woman.
“I believe beauty pageants, such as Miss Universe, is for women who were born women,” she said. “I think that for her, it’ll be a disadvantage, so we should respect her, but not share [the stage with her].”
But this line of thinking is wrong. Beauty pageants uphold narrow beauty ideals, often excluding women for being plus size, transgender, and having darker skin, and we should work to dismantling that. And though she intends to not come off as transphobic by saying we should respect her, Valeria is questioning Ángela’s womanhood.
In the past, Ponce has spoken out about what she’s faced in the modeling industry as a transgender woman. For example, when brands pick her for campaigns, some have taken the offer back after learning she’s trans. “I go to a casting, they pick me,” she told El País in July. “And three days later, the agency calls me to tell me that they’ve seen in my social media that I’m trans and they don’t want to work with me.”