November 4, 2009

Miss International Queen: World's Largest Transsexual Pageant Raises Awareness


Beauty pageants get a bad rap for many stereotypes and promotion of shallow values, but the recent winner of Miss International Queen 2009 argues otherwise. Known as the world’s largest transsexual cabaret, the Miss International Queen pageant is seen as a platform not only to model swimsuits, but also to raise awareness for transgender issues.


The winner, Japan’s 37 year-old Haruna Ai, was overjoyed at press time, but also aware that her beauty and victory would not be well-received among all audiences, including her home country. “The way of life in Japan is more traditional and transsexuals cannot live freely, but in Thailand they can do what they want,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald.


In fact, the pageant, which took place at the Thai beach resort of Pattaya, is taken very seriously and respected for its open tolerance of sexual diversity. The contestants, all born men, were competing for the grand prize of $10,000, a year’s stay at the Pattaya hotel, and a 500-dollar surgical voucher, all of which Haruna Ai took home.


But Haruna Ai was not the only contestant to speak of experiences of sexual discrimination, as even the American contestant Sunny Dee-Lite, 32, admitted “an event like this for us is something we can only hope for in the United States,” where more traditional pageants rule the ratings.


Thailand has a reputation for being sexually tolerant, but many transsexuals believe that this openness is inherent in the country’s people, not its laws. Thai transsexuals argue that their inability to change their gender on their ID cards is discriminatory, as are the new laws on waiting periods imposed on sex-change operations.


However, while Thai legislation may still be in want of progressive scripture, the country continues to host the pageant, boosting public awareness of transgender issues on an international level, with contestants from as far as Brazil competing.


Says winner Haruna Ai, “I want contestants like this to show everyone that they should love each other and live freely.”

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