updated 26 Mar 2013, 07:42
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Sat, Jan 19, 2013
The Straits Times
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Former Mr? Only organisers need to know
by Leslie Kay Lim

A MAN who has undergone a sex change and is legally recognised as a woman can have a shot at becoming the next Miss Universe Singapore.

But the new rules mean a transgender contestant would not have to disclose her status to anyone except the organisers, said the company that organises the local pageant, Derrol Stepenny Promotions.

Its director Penny Pang, however, does not expect the change to lead to transgenders stepping forward to compete.

"I'm not sure if it'll be a big thing, because no one's shown interest before," she said. "I'll be surprised if there's even one transgender contestant."

Interest in the local pageant, however, has been lacklustre in recent years, with just a little over 50 applicants for last year.

The rule change was first announced in July last year by the Miss Universe Organisation, which is co-owned by American business magnate Donald Trump and media giant NBC.

Yesterday, Derrol Stepenny elaborated on it, spelling out what is required from a transgender contestant.

Her sex-reassignment surgery must be completed and certified by a physician.

She also has to show legal proof that she is recognised as a woman.

Traditionally, only natural-born women aged from 18 to 27 were allowed to compete in the contest.

The amendment was sparked by an outcry over a Canadian transgender contestant being disqualified from her country's competition last year.

Transgender people, like volunteer coordinator June Chua, hailed the decision.

"It's the right move, as part of having equal rights as women," said the 40-year-old.

However, she worries transgender contestants may be treated as caricatures and the event would be a circus.

But Ms Marla Bendini, 26, feels the change does not go far enough, because it fails to allow pre-surgery transgender people to compete.

"It should be celebrating strong, beautiful women, not sexual organs," said the artist, who is transgendered but will not be eligible to compete.

Ms Louissa Thomas, second runner-up at last year's Miss Universe Singapore, is concerned about the unfair advantage that plastic surgery could give transgender contestants.

"It's not going to be a pageant about beauty but about who has the best plastic surgeon," said the 24-year-old, who is currently Miss Singapore Tourism.

"Transgender women have their own pageants that natural-born women can't enter. Where do you draw the line?"

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