More than 100 transgender men have taken a bold stand against what they perceive to be “discriminatory” practices by registering for the Miss Italy beauty pageant, which has banned transgender women from participating.
This action comes as a direct response to the competition’s organizer, Patrizia Mirigliani, who stated that such beauty contests have traditionally been exclusively female. The controversy was sparked earlier this month when a transgender woman, Rikki Valerie Kolle, won the Miss Netherlands contest.
Despite this, Mirigliani held firm on her stance in Italy. “Lately, beauty contests have been trying to make the news using strategies that I think are a bit absurd,” she told an Italian radio station.
Challenging this entrenched perspective, Transgender activist Federico Barbarossa–a woman identifying as a man–challenged Mirigliani’s perspective and decided to enter the Miss Italy pageant under her birth name. Speaking to NBC News, Barbarossa shared the ironic reality of her situation: “Yeah, well, I was assigned female at birth, but they would reject me because I look like a boy, and they would consider me as a boy.”
In a show of solidarity, Barbarossa’s registration was confirmed and then shared online by the local LGBTQ nonprofit group, Mixed LGBTQIA+. This action spurred what Barbarossa describes as a viral campaign, resulting in what she estimates to be more than 100 entries by transgender men into the pageant. Some entrants have even been advanced to the selection stage, the next step in the process of finding contestants across the country.
Barbarossa underscored the significance of this action, highlighting the prevailing stigmas faced by transgender individuals. “They would never think that a trans person might even aspire to win a beauty pageant, because we’re seen as this kind of, like, three-headed monster,” she lamented. His hope is that this protest will challenge the Miss Italy organizers and “lead them to think better next time.”
In spite of the hurdles, Barbarossa remains hopeful and believes she’s playing a part in advancing Italy’s progression in recognizing transgender rights. “I like to think I’m a little part of Italy’s progress in this sense,” Barbarossa said.