FOR a demographic still fighting against prejudice, it is a chance to act as an ambassador for change.
Members of Scotland’s transgender community will today gather for the country’s inaugural beauty pageant for women who were born men.
The Miss Transgender United event in Glasgow is the first of its kind in Scotland and has been welcomed by contestants as an “amazing platform” to help others suffering from discrimination.
At a time when transphobia, access to NHS services and issues affecting trans youth are to be scrutinised by a landmark parliamentary inquiry, organisers of the pageant believe it will help empower transgender women.
The heat, taking place this evening in the city’s Merchant City area, is the only qualifier in Scotland as part of a UK-wide contest to find an overall winner.
Nine contestants from across the country will take part in the event in the Polo Lounge nightclub, where they will undergo a series of rounds, with four going through to next month’s grand final in London.
I want to win Miss Transgender United as I see it as an amazing platform to show people that there are people like me who live in very rural areas and small towns, who don’t have the facility, help or support I haveJai Latto
As well as taking to the catwalk in themed outfits, contestants will be asked random questions about their home life, how their community have accepted them, and how they promote transgender issues.
The pageant was set up by Rachael Bailey, a head chef and hospitality supervisor. With a background in events, the 34-year-old saw the competition as a way of promoting transgender issues.
With contestants paying £25 a head to enter, she will be donating 60 per cent of the pageant’s net profits to LGBT charities and support groups.
“I hope the event will bring the transgender community in Scotland together, not just the girls taking part in it, but everyone who identifies with them,” Bailey, from Cardiff, told Scotland on Sunday.
“There were around 60 girls who applied but we have nine finalists. It’s been very important to spend time with the girls and make sure they are up for all the media attention, as it can be a lot to handle.”
One of those hoping to win is Jai Latto, a 22-year-old from the Borders village of Walkerburn, near Peebles, who Bailey describes as one of the “stars” in a BBC3 documentary being filmed about the pageant.
Born male in Bangkok, she moved to Scotland when she was three with her Scottish father and mother, who is of Thai and Indian heritage.
Having attempted to compete in the Miss Earth pageant, only to be disqualified on gender grounds, she hopes her tilt at Miss Transgender United will raise awareness.
Latto, has been undergoing hormone therapy since April and said that she would have embarked upon the treatment earlier if there were support networks in place to help her.
She explained: “I would say that living in the Borders has really affected the timescale, because there’s no groups for people like me down here, so I have to travel up to Edinburgh, and even there, there’s only a meeting of a trans group on the first Saturday of every month.”
However, Latto said she had benefited from “huge support” after coming out as transgender and said her experience “couldn’t be more positive”, something she believes other people should enjoy.
“I want to win Miss Transgender United as I see it as an amazing platform to show people that there are people like me who live in very rural areas and small towns, who don’t have the facility, help or support I have,” Latto added.