Venezuelan woman takes home crown at world transgender pageant
A 22-year-old Venezuelan woman has taken home the crown in the world’s biggest beauty pageant for trans women.
Isabella Santiago beat contestants from 18 other countries at the Miss International Queen festival in Thailand, securing the $12,500 in prize money.
The win comes despite a total lack of gender recognition for trans people in Venezuela – with an alarming number ostracised or forced into the sex trade.
Venezuela also does not have hate crime laws to protect people from transphobic violence.
The contest, which is open to both transgender people and cross-dressers, is controversial as winners are offered free cosmetic surgery in addition to the prize money.
Miss USA Samira Sitara – who had never come out publicly before told Reuters that being in the contest was a “dream come true”.
She said: “You know what, this is life and you can’t run away from the past. I can’t hide it anymore.”
Other participants came from a number of countries not known for their tolerance, including Russia, Cuba and Brazil, which has the highest murder rate for trans people in the world.
Extreme anti-gay politician Vitaly Milonov branded the move an “ugly insults to millions of Russian families”.
He said: “I understood their unconvincing arguments; they formally approached the issue and saw passports, but not people. I told the [registry office] head that it is criminal negligence.”