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Miss Spain Angela Ponce, the first transgender contestant in Miss Universe history, may not have won the competition — the nod went to Catriona Gray of the Philippines — but Ponce made a big splash nevertheless.
“Having a vagina does not make me a woman. I am a woman and already was before my birth,” Ponce said on camera prior to Sunday’s event, according to Agence France-Presse. Then, pointing to her head, Ponce added: “Because my identity is here, not down there. This determines my being a woman.”
Ponce also was quoted as saying, “Outsiders say what I can and cannot do, what I am and what I am not. No, I’m sorry. To be a woman is your identity. It doesn’t matter if you are white, black, if you have a vagina … if you have a penis.”
While the 27-year-old from Sevilla didn’t make the top 20, Insider said the pageant nevertheless honored Ponce with a special segment during the live competition in Bangkok, Thailand.
“My hope is for tomorrow to be able to live in a world of equality for everyone, simply for us all to understand that we are human and we must make all our lives easier together,” Ponce said, according to the outlet. “If I can give that to the world, I don’t need to win Miss Universe, I only need to be here.”
Ponce hit the runway with what the Miss Universe pageant called “a walk to remember”:
— Miss Universe (@MissUniverse) December 17, 2018
In 2012, the pageant announced that it would permit transgender women to compete after Canadian transgender model, Jenna Talackova, filed a lawsuit.
Miss Universe was operated at the time by Donald Trump’s New York City-based organization and had stipulated that contestants must be natural-born women.
In a 2012 statement, GLAAD spokesperson Herndon Graddick said, “The Miss Universe Organization and Mr. Trump made it clear to GLAAD that they were open to making a policy change to include women who are transgender.”
Ponce — who was born a male but underwent gender reassignment surgery — said a recent interview with Time that if a transgender contestant won Miss Universe, it would send a message to Trump and “would be a win for human rights. Trans women have been persecuted and erased for so long. If they give me the crown, it would show trans women are just as much women as cis women.”