Ángela Ponce of Spain became the first trans women to be crowned Miss Universe back in June. Despite this trailblazing win, Ponce is still the subject of anti-trans bigotry in the media and online.
‘I have to win not just for me but for all the people in Spain and around the world so the situation changes. Not just for the LGBTI collective but for all of humanity. I’m not just another Miss Universe candidate who wants world peace; I have a very powerful message of tolerance, hope, respect, love for oneself and others. I want to do all this under the Spanish flag,’ Ponce told EL PAÍS fashion magazine S Moda after winning the title.
At that time, though, Ponce didn’t seem to expect the harassment that would be thrown her way.
Since her win, Ponce has been the topic of anti-trans media reports throughout Latin America. They have gone so far as to show childhood photos of Ponce, as well as photos of her without makeup. Numerous television programs in Mexico, Argentina, and Venezuela have spent hours on the subject of Ponce, debating whether or not she’s truly a woman.
Twitter users added fuel to the fire by sharing memes questioning Ponce’s femininity and her right to compete in the pageant.
Other Miss Universe contestants, both former and current, have also made comments about Ponce to the press.
‘They may call me old fashioned but I think there should be a competition, which already exists, for transgender people and another for girls,’ Vivian Sleiman, Miss Venezuela 2001, recently said.
‘I believe that a beauty pageant like Miss Universe is for women who are born women,’ echoed Valeria Morales, Miss Colombia. ‘And I believe that for her it will also be a disadvantage. And so we’ll have to respect it but not agree with it.’
Morales will be competing against Ponce in this year’s Miss Universe pageant, taking place on 17 December in Bangkok, Thailand.
Being the Bigger Person
Despite all this hatred, Ponce remained strong and positive, seemingly taking the higher road.
‘I respect her [Morales] and I respect that that is her opinion, but I don’t want to go to Miss Universe with any prejudice against her or any other colleague,’ Ponce responded on Instagram.
‘My goal is to make people aware of my reality and to talk a little to the world about the lack of education on diversity. An important factor that without doubt leads to so much bullying, prejudice and violence. I ask for respect for both my fellow competitor Valeria Morales and for myself.’