Local beauty queens oppose Miss U’s controversial rule change

MANILA, Philippines - Ma. Isabel Lopez and Miriam Quiambao, representatives of the Philippines to the Miss Universe pageant in 1982 and 1999 respectively, have voiced out their opposition to the Miss Universe Organization's recent decision to allow "women who are transgender" to compete beginning next year.

The policy change was announced in a joint statement by The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the Miss Universe Organization in the US on April 10, a week after the almost 60-year old pageant went under fire for disqualifying transgender Miss Universe-Canada hopeful Jenna Talackova to the competition to be held on May 19, and eventually reinstating her "provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions."

According to local TV and international online reports, Talackova was given the boot since she's not a "natural-born woman." A story on mirror.co.uk published on Tuesday reported that the controversial finalist "started hormone therapy at 14 and then four years ago underwent surgery to complete her sex change." Now, Talackova's driver's license, passport and birth certificate indicate her gender as "female."

"This is not an issue of discrimination, pero kung halimbawang sa babae, what is for women will be for women. What is for Mr. Universe will be for Mr. Universe," Lopez told "24 Oras" in a taped interview aired Wednesday evening.

For her part, Quiambao expressed "Ang essence ng Miss Universe, hindi ba, para sa mga totoong kababaihan, natural-born women. So kung pumayag sila na sumali ang mga transgenders, parang nasisira tuloy 'yung credibility at saka integrity ng Miss Universe pageant."

Del Domingo of the Philippine LGBT Hate Crime Watch also opined, "Unfair din para sa mga babae na may sumaling transgender. Hindi ako agree kasi meron namang beauty pageant para sa mga transgender, meron din para sa mga natural-born women.

"So alam mo 'yun, parang understood na ng lahat na may para sa amin [at] may para sa kanila," Domingo finished.

Carousel Productions, the organizer of the Miss Earth pageant in the Philippines, was also sought for comment about the matter.

Its vice president Peachy Veneracion told "TV Patrol" in an interview aired Wednesday, "I don't think we're ready for that yet, especially [in] the Philippines."

"We have a lot of religion[s] here that [are] really conservative. We're talking about Muslims, Christians, Catholics, so I don't think it will happen in the near future," CEO Lorraine Schuck said.

For his part, president Ramon Monzon said, "We don't have to be the pioneer in this particular field, [to be] the first ones to accept, but we'll see how it happens."

Meantime, reports on "TV Patrol" and "24 Oras" on Wednesday said that the Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc. (BPCI) - organizer of the Binibining Pilipinas pageant, which selects the Miss Universe, International and Tourism representatives locally - respects this decision and is only awaiting for the policies to be handed down by the Donald Trump-led organization.

'Transgender' defined

Appearing on the "Punto por Punto" segment on "Umagang Kay Ganda," Thursday, transsexual University of the Philippines student Trixie Ugaddan clarified the term "transgender.".

She explained at length, "Ang transgender po ay isang umbrella term. May tatlong kategorya ng pagiging transgender. Una ay ang pagiging 'gender queer,' o 'yung mga taong naniniwala na ang kasarian ay hindi lamang babae o lalaki kundi may variation o may spectrum in between.

"Pangalawa ay ang mga 'cross-dressers,' o 'yung mga tao na nagbibihis lang na halimabawa ay sila ay lalaki pero maaari silang magbihis-lalaki for entertainment purposes, or for media for example, mga films na nakikita natin.

"Pangatlo ay ang 'transsexuals,' na kung saan ay ako ay nabibilang. Ang mga transsexuals po ay mga taong may pakiramdam na sila ay na-trap [in the] wrong body kung kaya't nagte-take ng mga gamot - you call it sex reassignment therapy - para maging, halimbawa ako, para maging babae. At sa ibang pagkakataon, maaari ring magkaroon ng sex reassignment surgery para mapalitan 'yung sex organ," Ugaddan said.

She expressed happiness over the rule change, which she sees as "one step towards the fulfillment of a dream kasi, tulad kong beauty pageant joiner, siyempre gusto kong maipakita 'yung best version of femininity in me."

"I think dahil sa desisyon ng Miss Universe Organization, nagbigay ito ng pagkakataon sa mga transsexuals na katulad ko na magbigay ng awareness at ipakita sa sambayanang Pilipino din na, dahil nakatutok nga tayo sa kung anumang changes sa rules ng Miss Universe Organization, na kami ay meron ding taglay na kagandahan, na katalinuhan at, higit sa lahat, karapatan na mamuhay at maipakita ang anumang meron kami ng naaayon sa dikta ng aming puso," she shared.