Open­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties

In­tro­duc­ing the win­ners of the Miss In­ter­na­tional Queen 2011 pageant

Bangkok Post - - ENTERTAINMENT - Visit www.miss­in­ter­na­tion­ for the full list of win­ners. STORY: YANAPON MUSIKET

IThe world is be­gin­ning to open its eyes and see that be­ing a trans­gen­der ex­ists or be­ing gay ex­ists — and hope­fully they can get over it soon.

n the his­tory of the worl­drenowned beauty pageant, Miss Uni­verse, there are only two Thai women to ever be crowned the win­ner. But ear­lier this month, at the equiv­a­lent ver­sion of Miss Uni­verse — a trans­gen­der beauty pageant — a par­tic­i­pant rep­re­sent­ing Thai­land be­came the third trans­gen­der to take home the ti­tle of Miss In­ter­na­tional Queen.

In its 7th edi­tion, hosted by the famed Tif­fany’s Show Pat­taya, Miss In­ter­na­tional Queen 2011 re­cently named 21-yearold Ramkhamhaeng Univer­sity stu­dent Si­ra­pas­sorn At­thayakorn as the win­ner. More than 22 con­tes­tants from around the world com­peted.

‘‘I am glad to rep­re­sent Thai­land at this com­pe­ti­tion. We have con­tes­tants from all over the world. This year’s theme was ‘Beauty and Gen­eros­ity’, and I can hon­estly say that all the con­tes­tants have these qual­i­ties,’’ said a smil­ing Si­ra­pas- sorn, dur­ing an exclusive in­ter­view with the Bangkok Post.

Since 2004, Miss In­ter­na­tional Queen has be­come the one and only stage for beau­ti­ful and tal­ented trans­gen­ders to com­pete on. Pi­o­neer­ing the younger trans­gen­ders in the King­dom were Treechada Petcharat and Tan­yarat Ji­ra­p­at­pakon, who were crowned Miss In­ter­na­tional Queen in 2004 and 2007, re­spec­tively.

Also join­ing Si­ra­pas­sorn in the in­ter­view was first run­ner-up Miss Sah­hara rep­re­sent­ing Nige­ria, and Mar­garet Reyes, the sec­ond run­ner-up rep­re­sent­ing Le­banon.

While Si­ra­pas­sorn pos­sessed an al­most flaw­less fem­i­nine look, the tall and witty Sah­hara won the hearts and ad­mi­ra­tion of many with her touch­ing an­swer dur­ing the fi­nal stages of the com­pe­ti­tion and said that the Welsh singer Dame Shirley Bassey was her idol.

‘‘She has been an amaz­ing in­spi­ra­tion to me. She has gone through a lot to be­come the wo­man that she is. And I have gone through much dis­crim­i­na­tion and ha­rass­ment to be­come the wo­man that I am now. So I am on this stage to­day as a liv­ing tes­ti­mony. To any girl who is watch­ing this, don’t be afraid to dream. Keep fol­low­ing your dream and it will one day come true,’’ said Sah­hara, be­fore re­ceiv­ing a thun­der­ous ap­plause from the au­di­ence.

Re­lo­cat­ing from Nige­ria to the UK in 2004, Sah­hara ad­mit­ted the rea­son be­hind the move was to have the chance to live freely.

‘‘The coun­try I come from does not al­low me to be the best that I can be. I am so thank­ful to live in Lon­don be­cause it gives me the op­por­tu­nity to be who I re­ally am . . . where there are laws to pro­tect in­di­vid­ual rights and equal­ity,’’ she ex­plained. Sah­hara re­cently com­pleted her mas­ter’s de­gree in dig­i­tal me­dia be­fore tak­ing part in the con­test.

All three win­ners agreed the Miss In­ter­na­tional Queen stage of­fers an op­por­tu­nity for trans­gen­ders all over the world to ex­press their cre­ativ­ity and tal­ents, and is a promis­ing chan­nel to por­tray a pos­i­tive im­age of trans­gen­ders to oth­ers.

How­ever, for the Le­banon-born beauty, this com­pe­ti­tion also meant the chance of a life­time.

‘‘This con­test opens a door of op­por­tu­ni­ties. And I hope that it will help me re­unite with my fam­ily. Since this con­test will be on the in­ter­net, it is a great way for me to get in touch with my real par­ents in Le­banon,’’ said Reyes.

Reyes, who lives in the Philip­pines, re­vealed that her bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents mi­grated to the Philip­pines when she was a child. Not long af­ter, though, her par­ents left the coun­try and she was adopted by a Filipino fam­ily. By the time Reyes dis­cov­ered her sex­ual iden­tity she had to stand on her own af­ter a heated ar­gu­ment with her adopted par­ents. So win­ning the con­test, she said, will get her name and face out there and hope­fully help find her birth par­ents but also proud of her achieve­ment. But that could lead to her high­est dream — to be with her fam­ily again.

‘‘I think the world is be­gin­ning to open its eyes and see that be­ing a trans­gen­der ex­ists or be­ing gay ex­ists — and hope­fully they can get over it soon,’’ said Sah­hara, who is also a singer and a part-time model.

‘‘The world maybe grad­u­ally get­ting there, but in time we’re go­ing to get there faster, if there are more shows like this and hav­ing peo­ple giv­ing transwomen more op­por­tu­nity, es­pe­cially the me­dia, to show peo­ple they are nor­mal like ev­ery­one else, but just born spe­cial.’’

From left: The 1st run­ner-up Sah­hara, Nige­ria, Miss In­ter­na­tional Queen 2011 Si­ra­pas­sorn At­thayakorn (Thai­land) and the 2nd run­ner-up Mar­garet Reyes (Le­banon).

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