What Are the Identity Rules For Entering Beauty Pageants?

Eighteen-year-old Ruth Malcomson, Miss Philadelphia of 1924. Later that year in Atlantic City, she would be crowned Miss America.
Eighteen-year-old Ruth Malcomson, Miss Philadelphia of 1924. Later that year in Atlantic City, she would be crowned Miss America. | Source

Medical Procedures That Might Be Questioned

Do you think transgender men should be permitted to participate in women's beauty pageants? asked by TIMETRAVELER2

I am writing in this category, because I am opposed to a particular medical practice in my state that may be commonplace in other US States as well. I find it to be too easy a solution that causes too much distress in the lives of children and the confused adults that they often become. Stay with me as I recall a few sentences of background.

Here, when an infant is born with reproductive organs of both male and female, the male organs are automatically the first choice of surgeons to remove. This is reportedly because removing the male elements is easier than removing the female, and the surgery does not require the creation of an artificial male exterior organ.

The DNA definitions of male and female have not been considered in these cases, but that practice was recently instituted during the Summer 2012 London Olympics.

It seems that many of these infants grow up to become children that feel different from other girls in their neighborhoods and schools. As adults, they sometimes learn that they were surgically altered as infants - or they do not learn it - and choose gender reassignment surgery to become men. They likely would not be interested in entering beauty pageants.

Choosing Female

I have heard of instances in which parents of a dual-gender infant insist that the child be allowed to make his/her own decision as to gender choice later in life. This might be equally confusing all around, but at least the choice allows some semblance of the feeling of self-control for the child. Hopefully they will feel less "butchered", given the choice.

Self selection of female gender in these cases should readily allow a young woman that results after surgery to be enrolled in a beauty pageant. In my opinion, since she was born with two sets of organs and chose the female, then this choice is "natural" enough for me. It may not be so for some beauty pageant boards, but I think that this case can be fought and won.

Leveraging "Female"

The punch line to this section is that some 20 years ago in my county, we had a male martial artist making the rounds of tournaments and losing every event he entered. He surgically became female, entered the female events and lost every one of those as well. Rumors were rampant that he became female thinking that it would be easy for a recently former man to win against the women. I don't know; however, if these rumors were true, then this is a most unfortunate case.

My opinion is that if someone undergoes gender reassignment surgery to become another gender, then the final gender is the only gender that the person should be permitted to enroll as, in beauty pageants, weightlifting competitions, the Olympics and other sporting events, an other activities requiring a gender divide.

Considering individuals that dress as the opposite gender and cannot or do not want to undergo surgical transformation for whatever reason, I feel that he or she must choose one gender for competition in the above mentioned events and stick with it consistently. My opinion is "no switching back and forth."

Hungary Plastic Surgery Pageant

Olympics Testing Grounds

Before the 2012 London Summer Olympics, there is to be much DNA testing among the women athletes in order to ensure that they are genetic women. Are so many men wishing to become women and compete in the Olympics?This was unheard-of a few decades ago.

Another situation is the entire Olympics-Paralympics comparison. The Paralympics was designed for athletes that have physical challenges making their participation in the Olympics too difficult and dangerous. However, with the advent of carbon-steel running legs for amputees, a feeling has arisen that not only are these challenged athletes able to compete in the Olympics, but also to beat athletes with all of their natural limbs intact - with unnatural advantage built into the springy metal legs. Will crossover from the Paralympics to the Olympics be permitted?

It seems that technological advancements in medicine and bioengineering are creating more than political and social issue for beauty pageants and the Olympics.

Just a few years ago, one of the Far Eastern countries' beauty pageant boards was considering two types of pageants - one for those that have had plastic surgery and one for those that remained all natural. That might make a good pageant solution.

At the same time, I think it would be unfair for an individual to take up gender switching at will sequentially in order to enter women's pageants, men's sporting events, women's Olympic events, etc. Add the additional variable of natural legs vs. carbon-steel cheetah legs, and I think we have too many options altogether.

Oscar Pistorius and Cheetah Legs

Blade Runners

During the 2012 Summer Olympics, the blade runners with artificial legs were feared as almost "genetically enhanced athletes." DNA did not play a part in this controversy, but Oscar Pistorius was criticized for attempting and then for succeeding in qualifying for the full, able-bodied Olympics.

He did not come close to winning his races there, but he went on to additional victories in the Paralympics. Identity and abilities are controversial still as we approach the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

© 2012 Patty Inglish

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Comments 15 comments

TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

TIMETRAVELER2 4 years ago

Hi Patty: I'm glad you wrote this one as it brings up some very good points. The initial thought behind my question was really more about following the rules than about gender, but I seem to have started a bit of a firestorm. In the case I was referring to, the rules stated that contestants had to be naturally born women. A transgender female ignored that, entered, then made a big fuss when the committee tried to remove her from the competition.

In my mind, if you know the rules and ignore them, then you shouldn't get upset if you are caught doing so and suffer consequences as a result. I should have worded my question in a better way, I guess.

Anyhow, found your article informative and interesting. Thanks for writing it.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi Patty, really interesting points. I remember a few years ago there was an athlete runner who the judges were certain was male, but turned out to be a natural female. It seems she was very male like and had the muscular frame of a man. It must be really difficult these days to differentiate the differences, but I believe that as long as they have had the gender reasignment of their choice they should then be able to compete as that gender. For a male to change to a female, he will be taking hormones to complete the transition therefore in sport it will make 'him' become more on par with a female. But its an interesting phenomenon and one I will be taking notice of, nell


CR Rookwood profile image

CR Rookwood 4 years ago from Moonlight Maine

Interesting thoughts! I wonder if the day will come when gender will be hard to define. In some ways that would be good, but I know it scares people, and of course, as you point out, competitions put a whole different spin on it.

I know some scientists are saying that human/computer hybrid beings are very close, and that in the future some people may be more machine than human. Don't know what to make of any of it, but you wrote a very clear hub here on a difficult topic. Thanks Patty. ;)


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas

From a beauty contest standpoint, I couldn't care less because I pay no attention to that sort of thing anyway...it is a bygone thing of our past which manages to stay alive on the insecurity of far too many people. With regard to the Olympics, etc....this is a far different matter for we are now going well beyond self-assurance and insecurity into a realm of psychological damage. When one has to assume the gender of another to compete and gain success, then we are dealing with a person who places their own mental mindset over every logical possibility...there is no rationale for it in the vocabulary of the sane. Thanks much. WB


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

TIMETRAVELER2 - I watched a video clip of that person and she really looks and sounds like a woman to me. It is quite the controversy. You question brought to mind other aspects of the situation and I'm glad you liked the treatment of the writing.

Nell - I remember just a little about that case. All this is very interesting. The upcoming Olympic Games will be interesting in that intense doping testing and from what I hear, DNA testing are planned.

CR Rookwood - What it means to be human and of a specific gender is becoming more complex, it seems.

Wayne Brown - Changing genders only to win a contest is not very wise, I think. I also do not care for pageants.


TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

TIMETRAVELER2 4 years ago

I did some research last night after reading your article and it seems that a fair number of people who call themselves "transgender" never actually go through with the final operation that changes their genitalia! Thus, you could be looking at what appears to be a woman or a man,but underneath, the plumbing may not be what you expect! Therefore, they are still the same sex they were to start with except for hormone treatments, etc. I was also surprised to learn that a certain percentage of people who do go through the final surgery later regret that they did so. These people lead heartbreaking lives either way, and it's very sad.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Indeed it is sad. I just read an article about Dr. Rene Richards, who had the surgery in the 1970s and was very successful in women's tennis after that. There were some regrets there. She's still a successful ophthalmologist, though.


Earth Angel profile image

Earth Angel 4 years ago

You open some great questions Patty! As a woman I have spent years becoming aware of, and trying not to participate in, the gender bias's between the sexes.

So much of the inequality between men and women come from social conditioning and not necessary physiology. Equal work for equal pay is a good example.

Both sports and beauty pagents, by design, make strong distinctions between men and women ~ historically to level the playing/competition field ~ but also causing strong, rigid divides.

Might there be more compassionate (and accurate) ways to even the competition than by genitalia? Is there a way to exclude the genitalia/male/female issues completely??

In sports, maybe size and weight categories combined with ratios of testosterone/estrogen levels?

In beauty pagents, again maybe size and weight categories combined with ratios of testosterone/estrogen levels with an added "cuvaceous" or "angular" etc.

If the goal is sincerely to level the playing/competition field, and not really cause a greater divide between the sexes, genitalia seems like a primitive standard compared to our technologies.

Just some thoughts! GREAT Hub, as always, Patty!

Blessings, Earth Angel!


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Earth Angel! - All very interesting thoughts you have given us here.

There are certain martial arts schools that promote sparring between men and women and actually, all the variations, in adulthood; whereas most schools divide genders for sparring after Kindergarten. Size and weight ranges make sense to me.

Whatever official decisions happen in the end, I still know some men that are more "pretty" than any woman, and some women that can compete in men's sports well and even win. It's an overlap that confounds many people. How do people handle seeing the overlap? - often foolishly, because humans are more foolish than we want to be.


Earth Angel profile image

Earth Angel 4 years ago

You are so right Patty! Thanks for taking the time to comment back! Always insightful! Blessings, Earth Angel!


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica

I agree with you Patty, one should choose one gender and stick with it, if not then it becomes too confusing and a bit unfair to others. Take for instance Castor Semenia, the South African with both male and female genitals. Apparently she has chosen to be female, but if she should switch then that's where I draw the line. As is she has not done any form of surgery since the male genitals are inside her abdomen.

As far as the Paraolympics go, there is currently a young man who runs the 400 meter with those steel legs you spoke about and he does very well against 'normal' men in the same race


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

Patty, you are absolutely right - this questions do belong in the category of social issues. Also, I have much compassion for those who wrestle with their gender identity.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Yes, it is a difficult thing, identity.


Sara-NtheMiddle profile image

Sara-NtheMiddle 4 years ago from United States

Hi Patty, Great topic. Speaking as a transgender person, Unfortunately there will always be those who would chose to have gender reassignment surgery to get an advantage,though that surely would be in rare cases and that would be sad that someone would do that for that reason. If that happened in the case that you described, it serves them right that they did not win and I would hope that their life would be unpleasing for doing so. Doing things to get that advantage goes on with everything, it is not just a transgenser issue, everybody wants to win and what price will you pay to do so. Most transgender people, male and female actually feel that they are the opposite gender and once they have the final operation and have their birth certificate, name, and other personal information changed, then they should be allowed to participate in that genders professional activities but not till then and not switch back and forth. I am MtF transgender and am starting to life as a woman but don't feel that I should be allowed to play professional sport as a female until the reassignment surgery has been performed. As for a beauty pageant, that's an interesting subject, if you were a man that dressed as a woman (crossdresser or transgender) and entered a beauty pageant, you would have to be damn good to be able to even get past all the initial interviews before the pageant even got started, I could only imagine how many stunning women get turned down before the public gets to see the final take, so best of luck to them, but to eliminate all the controversy in professional sports and pageants or what ever, the activities need to make the rule that you have to physically be that gender to participate, wether you were born that way or not, if it is a specific gender related activity. The tragic part on the oppopite side is that for real transgender people like myself that has not made it to the point of gender reassignment surgery or cannot afford the process but live full time in the opposite gender, it would cause them ridicule or outing(outing=those who try to pass but are discovered) to participate, say me dressed as a woman in the mens game because I have not had the operation and am only allowed to play in a mans game though I live as a woman full time, which would also lead to unnecessary hardship or led to never getting to participate, I suppose just keep the rule to Professional activities that are gender specific. Wow, what a sensative subject. Again great hub topic.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for your testimony on the topic!

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