Will Hong Kong LGBTQ community ever have its own Angela Ponce or Jenna Talackova?

  • Ponce’s presence in the Miss Universe pageant shows just how far LGBTQ rights have come since 2012, when the organisers stopped barring transgender people
  • Her success should inspire Hong Kong’s transgender women to step up and compete in high-profile pageants
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 December, 2018, 3:48pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 December, 2018, 3:48pm

I refer to your report: “Miss Spain Angela Ponce: the transgender beauty who made Miss Universe history” (Decembers 18).

On December 16, Ms Ponce, a transgender woman who won Miss Spain, set a global precedent by competing for the Miss Universe pageant in Bangkok. As a human rights activist who supports LGBTQ rights in Hong Kong, I wonder when Hong Kong’s transgender women will ever win similar acclaim and recognition.

Ponce’s success helps me recall the case of Jenna Talackova, a Canadian transgender model who was a pioneer fighting for the right to participate in the 2012 Miss Canada Universe pageant, after being disqualified because the pageant required contestants to be “naturally born” women. She threatened a legal challenge against the organisers, including the former owner of the international Miss Universe pageant, current US President Donald Trump (“Trump asks for transgender military ban from Supreme Court in rare move”, November 24). The organisation lifted the ban in April 2012.

Because of Ms Talackova’s experience, I could not have expected that a transgender woman could take part in an international pageant competition just six years later. As far as I was concerned, fighting for LGBTQ rights in such a high-profile manner would draw ugly criticism, verbal assaults and perhaps familial shame due to the sexual exclusiveness exercised by worldwide Trump-like netizens, especially when LGBTQ awareness is not well-established in most populations, including Hong Kong.

Support the LGBT community, inspire other vulnerable groups

Ponce emphasised that she could never have enjoyed the right to represent her country in Miss Universe if Talackova had not fought for her rights. Rome was not built in a day. More transgender women, and people recognised as LGBTQ ambassadors and activists, should step up and declare their desire to compete for pageant contests at the regional, national and even international level. In so doing, they can carry on the efforts put in by pioneers like Ponce and Talackova and champion for LGBTQ rights in the wider world.

True leaders fight prejudice for social progress. So why not in Hong Kong?

Ponce’s appearance in the Miss Universe contest will certainly open the door for more transgender women to represent their countries in future beauty pageants. The question is, when will a Hong Kong transgender woman enjoy such an honour?

That would give them more opportunities to become the face of the local transgender and broader LGBTQ communities, facilitate LGBTQ exposure and awareness and boost sexual inclusiveness in the city.

Jason Hung, London