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More than 100 ‘transgender men’ take part in Miss Italy pageant in protest over organizer’s comments

In protest against recent statements by the Miss Italy organizer banning the participation of “trans women” (aka biological men), more than 100 “transgender men” (aka biological women) have joined the contest this week, a prominent activist has revealed.

The controversial comments followed the crowning of Rikkie Valerie Kollé, the first transgender Miss Netherlands winner, earlier this month. Kollé was born as a biological man.

Later, Patrizia Mirigliani, the official organizer of Miss Italy, announced on an Italian radio station that “trans women” (also known as biological men) would not be allowed to compete in the Miss Italy pageant.

Mirigliani’s comments, reported by Italian newspaper Il Primato Nazionale, hinted at her belief that some beauty pageants resort to what she considers “absurd strategies” to gain attention. She explained that Miss Italy traditionally only admitted biological women, anticipating possible gender or appearance alterations.

Transgender rights activist Federico Barbarossa, a resident of Bari in southern Italy, was both angry and amused by the comments. In response, the biological woman decided to enter the pageant under an old name to protest in solidarity with “trans women”.

After Barbarossa’s registration was confirmed, the local non-profit LGBTQ group he is associated with, Mixed LGBTQIA+, encouraged other “trans men” to do the same. The campaign quickly went viral online, with Barbarroja estimating that more than 100 “trans men” have now joined the pageant. Barbarossa noted that some have moved on to the selection phase, the next step in the competition.

Barbarroja hopes that this protest will lead the organizers of Miss Italy to rethink their position in the future. Mirigliani and the organizers of Miss Italy have not yet commented on the situation.

In recent years, more beauty pageants have begun to include trans women. Angela Ponce made history in 2018 by becoming the first “trans woman” (aka biological man) to compete in the Miss Universe pageant. Kataluna Enriquez continued this trend in 2021 by competing in the Miss USA pageant after winning Miss Nevada. Some countries, such as Mexico and Thailand, have organized separate beauty pageants for “trans women”.

Barbarossa believes that the exclusion of “trans women” (aka biological men) from beauty pageants stems in part from misunderstandings and misconceptions about what it means to be trans.

Barbarossa added that it seems that the organizers of Miss Italy are aware of the protest, as they have been in contact with some of the ‘trans men’ who have passed through the selections. However, Barbarroja personally has not received any calls from them.

“They would never think that a trans person can even aspire to win a beauty pageant, because we’re seen as this kind of three-headed monster, and I think part of that is that so many people have never seen that. trans women or trans men or trans people in general,” he said.

Barbarossa said that excluding “trans women” (also known as biological men) from beauty pageants or school sports sends the message that “trans women are not women”, which has a ripple effect on how they are treaties and in state and national politics.

“The result is just transphobia,” Barbarroja said. “This adds up to a level where the United States is somewhat representative right now, where every state is passing anti-trans laws.”

“I didn’t get any messages that make me think I’ve been blacklisted,” the activist said, then laughed.

Barbarossa expressed hope that organizers and those who want to exclude ‘trans women’ (aka biological men) from other spaces will at least talk to trans people and hear their perspectives.

“They’re so focused on biology and bodies, and you often forget that there are people inhabiting those bodies,” Barbarroja said.

Twenty-two states have passed laws requiring athletes to play in sports leagues according to their biological sex.

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