The biggest and most respectable transgender pageant Miss Tiffany's Universe is not only an extravaganza with tight sequined dresses, it also promotes human rights and fights against trans discrimination. But does it give anything more than titles and prizes to its winners, or this pageant is worth participation because it positively changes their lives?
Thailand is inhabited by over 100,000 kathoeys or ladyboys. Despite of the common opinion that it has the most tolerant society towards transsexual people, a poll, made by Ramkhamhaeng University Public Opinion Centre, shows that 70 per cent of Thais remain judgmental and oppose letting ladyboys officially change their gender in identity documents.
According to the chairman of Miss Tiffany's Universe, Alisa Phanthusak, the participation in pageant gives its entrants the opportunity to dress like ladies and to be treated in accordance with their gender identity. Usually transsexual participants are motivated by becoming exceptional beauty icons or role models. Many of ladyboys seek to prove themselves to their families, since their parents realize that their sons are transgender. In fact, Phanthusak says, most of the parents have no idea about difference in gender identity of their sons, and only the beauty pageant sheds light on this fact. At the beginning they might feel embarrassed, however this feeling usually is replacing by pride.
Besides being beautiful, an entrant must have a positive mindset and attitude, if she wants to win the Tiffany's title. Phanthusak admits that the beauty pageants are usually followed by jealousy and rivalry, that's why she wants to keep friendly and trustful atmosphere at Miss Tiffany's.
The winner of Miss Tiffany's Universe 2015, Sopida Siriwattananukoon or Baimon, believes that only mind and soul determine whether you're beautiful or not. She says that she gets treated like a lady if she acts in nice feminine manner, which means that if all ladyboys acted in a positive and appropriate way, the acceptance would follow. At first Baimon's family was concerned by her participation in the pageant, because of the rumors in their provincial town could bring negative consequences. However, everything changed when Baimon won, and now she hopes to be a role model for other ladyboys, especially for transsexual youth. Talking about love, Baimon believes in chemistry in relationship, adding that she looks for someone who understands her and can share the same interests with her.
The performer and Miss Tiffany's runner-up, Pimnara Atipatdechakorn or Sand, says she is very proud of her gender. She admits that the pageant significantly changed her life – her success in the contest made her matured. Previously, Sand's family was feeling frustrated about her identity, however her pageant success changed their minds. Sand says that she doesn't care how react other men when they discover she's kathoey, “because I am who I am”. Her ideal partner must have good heart and no matter whether he is handsome or not.