Introducing the winners of the Miss International Queen 2011 pageant
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).