Tracing LGBTQA+ representation at the Miss Universe through the years
The Philippines created a record at Miss Universe 2021 by making it to the semis 12 consecutive times. Beatrice Luigi Gomez achieved this for her country. She also made headlines for her proud association with the LGBTQA+ community. While the beauty pageant strives to empower women, it hasn't, for a long time, been inclusive. Let's talk about LGBTQA+ representation at the Miss Universe event.
Notably, Gomez became the first openly gay candidate to win Miss Universe Philippines 2021 in October. She was also in a same-sex relationship publicly. Before her, Miss Universe got the first openly gay participation from Miss Myanmar, Swe Zin Htet, in 2019. She interestingly came out only a week before her Miss Universe stint to cause an everlasting impact on the global LGBTQA+ community.
Being gay in Myanmar comes with punishments and ridicule. When asked about the dangers involved, Zin Htet had said, "I thought it would help me more than hurt me by coming out as a lesbian and being true to who I am." Earlier, Spain's Patricia Yurena Rodríguez Alonso, who came second at Miss Universe 2013, had come out. But this was after the competition.
Participation of transgender women in beauty pageants has been another debate topic altogether. For many years, trans women have fought to be treated the same as cis women. Finally, in 2012, the Miss Universe Organization announced a policy change, allowing the participation of trans women. The decision was taken with advice from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
The rule-change had stemmed from Jenna Talackova's outcry-inducing disqualification from Miss Universe Canada for not being a "naturally born female." Yet, the first transgender candidature in the Miss Universe stage came six years later, with Angela Ponce's participation in 2018. Sure, we have seen some welcome changes, but we have a long road to go. Meanwhile, India's Harnaaz Sandhu became Miss Universe 2021.