Transgender flags on the step to D.C.
Image via Ted Eytan/Flickr (CC BY-SA).

Why the Hell Would a Beauty Pageant Ban Trans Women?

Last week, a United States federal appeals court ruled that beauty pageant organizations can ban trans women from competing. The decision came after trans beauty pageant competitor Anita Green sued Miss United States of America LLC for violating Oregon’s anti-discrimination laws by refusing to let her compete.

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In 2019, after she initially filed the lawsuit, Green told NPR that the Miss United States of America rulebook says only “natural-born females” are allowed to compete. “I don’t think someone shouldn’t be allowed to compete simply because they are transgender,” Green said. “I think that that’s very arbitrary. Transgender women are equal to cisgender women.”

Green went on to say that “pageantry isn’t just about the way a person looks. To me, it’s about giving people a voice. I think that it’s important to recognize that pageantry is oftentimes geared mostly towards women. And it’s important to have their voices heard.”

The appeals court argued that Miss United States of America’s anti-trans policy is protected under the First Amendment. “It is commonly understood that beauty pageants are generally designed to express the ‘ideal vision of American womanhood,'” the court said. “The Pageant would not be able to communicate ‘the celebration of biological women’ if it were forced to allow Green to participate.”

“The celebration of biological women”? What is there to say to say about that kind of framing, except that it’s gross, reductionist, and sexist? What is there to celebrate about cis women that can’t be celebrated in trans women, too? As a cis woman, I don’t want to be within a hundred miles of any organization that’s only interested in celebrating my biology. And an “ideal vision of American womanhood” that only recognizes one kind of woman? No thank you.

Luckily, Miss United States of America isn’t the only game out there. Miss USA does allow trans women to compete, and recently, Thai businesswoman and trans rights advocate Anne Jakrajutatip bought the Miss Universe pageant.

(featured image: Ted Eytan/Flickr (CC BY-SA))

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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href=""></a>