Transgender women in Singapore will be able to compete for the title of fairest woman in the country along with naturally-born females from next year.
This follows a controversial new rule set by the Miss Universe organization earlier this month.
A spokesperson for Derrol Stepenny Promotions, the organiser that runs Miss Universe in Singapore, told Yahoo! Singapore that it intends to abide by the new ruling.
“Even though we have not received any official communication from Miss Universe organisation stating that all countries will have to adhere to the new ruling, we are nonetheless open to it. That is the new ruling and we will not discriminate against transgenders who apply,” she said.
If so, that means that this year’s Miss Singapore Universe pageant, slated to be held in August, will be the last natural-born female-only version before the new rule kicks in. The winner will go on to represent Singapore in the Miss Universe finals this December in an as yet undetermined location.
Earlier this month, the Miss Universe organisation, owned by billionaire businessman Donald Trump, reversed its initial decision to bar Canadian hopeful Jenna Talackova from competing in Miss Universe Canada.
The organisation had initially disqualified the 23-year-old Canadian beauty because she is a transgender. At the time, it said rules only allowed “naturally-born females”to compete.
But under pressure from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) community, the Miss Universe pageant finally relented and changed its rules: from next year, the pageant is fair game for both natural women and transgenders.
For now, the rule change has been confined to the Miss Universe competition.
When contacted, LIMElight Productions, the official local licensee of Miss World Singapore, said it is not aware of any similar moves to change its rules.
Director Raymond Ooi said, "Right now the rules are as such -- that only women who are born women can compete. But whether the rules will alter will depend on Miss World organisation."
But the big question now is: Are Singaporeans ready to accept transwomen strutting in bikinis – or entertain the possibility that one might go on to represent Singapore in global beauty pageants?
Transgender and former catwalk model Anna Dhillon, who stands at 1.8-metre tall, said, “Singapore is ready for such a change. We have many beautiful transgenders out there who are able to compete now.”
But the 37-year-old makeup artist, who kept the painful secret of being a transwoman for 14 years, said it would take a period of transition for transgenders to come out and compete.
“The idea that they’re discriminated has been grilled into them for years, so it would take a bit of time for them to step out. Probably in the next two to three years,” said Dhillon, who has herself taken part in a local transgender beauty pageant called Tru Me.
Her sentiment was echoed by another fellow transgender Sreiyaah, 26, who is currently unemployed.
“Whatever women have, we can show people that we’re the same as them too,” she said.
Beauty queen Jessica Tan, who won Miss Singapore Universe in 2007, also supported the new ruling.
“I definitely welcome the new ruling. They [transwomen] should have an equal chance. They are competing fairly. Just like any other women, they wish to be celebrated for their beauty and their brains.”
However, current Miss Singapore Universe 2011, Valerie Lim, is apprehensive.
“I'm flattered that transgender women want to compete in one of the most prestigious pageants, but thinking of Miss Universe as a role model for women all over the world, perhaps the question would be what sort of message would crowning a transgendered woman send to the majority of women who look to her as the epitome of beauty?”
While she emphasised that she thinks that transgender women are “very brave” to have gone through with their choices, she said, “To have complete reconstructive surgery to achieve beauty and have that as that standard worldwide could be quite detrimental. How would that make naturally-born females feel?”
Several other Singaporeans Yahoo! Singapore spoke to also had mixed feelings and were not sure if they would readily accept a transgender representing the Republic on the world stage.
21-year old SMU student Joyce Teo said, “Personally, I would think that the first ruling is right. It is meant to be a competition for the natural beauties. It is rather unfair for someone who has gone under the knife and wins. In Singapore, we seem to be following the U.S. in relaxing our rules even for casinos.”
She added, “The respect they [transwoman] will gain is lesser versus those who are of a natural woman. I personally am against sex change operations.”
But Callan Tham, 34, a commercial and street photographer, was of a different view.
“Undoubtedly, yes. They've gone through everything they could so they could live as women. It'd be an injustice if we deny them that.”
Toh Jia Yi, 22, NUS student agrees. “I wouldn’t mind because everyone stands a fair chance. I think Singaporeans should adopt an open mindset and be accepting.”
What do you think -- would you accept a transgender representing Singapore at global beauty pageants?