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Transgender Woman Sues Miss United States Of America Pageant

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

This week in Portland, Ore., a transgender woman filed a federal lawsuit against the Miss United States of America pageant. Her name is Anita Green, and she says the pageant won't let her compete even though she's competed in other pageants like the state-level qualifiers for Miss Universe. She won the elite division of Miss Earth in the state of Oregon in 2019, too.

She joins us now from the studios of OPB in Portland. Anita, thank you so much for being with us.

ANITA GREEN: Hello. Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell us what happened.

GREEN: Well, I received a Facebook friend request from someone associated with the Miss United States of America pageant. And I was interested in pageants. I was disheartened to see that there was a rule in place that was meant to discriminate against transgender women.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Explain what that rule is and how you found out about it.

GREEN: Well, I found out about the rule just by reading the information that was sent to me. I went to their website. And the rules said contestants must be natural-born females. And I then asked them if they would be willing to change that rule, and they declined.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: With your lawsuit, you are saying that this, quote, "natural-born female" rule violates Oregon's public accommodation law. Explain why you believe this is a violation.

GREEN: I believe that this is a violation because I don't think someone shouldn't be allowed to compete simply because they are transgender. I think that that's very arbitrary. Transgender women are equal to cisgender women.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you know how widespread this problem is, banning trans women from not being allowed to compete in pageants?

GREEN: My understanding is that there are a lot of pageant organizations that actually discriminate against transgender women.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: A lot of people see pageants as sort of, you know, something that is not necessarily supportive of women. They criticize them for objectifying women. Why do you want to participate?

GREEN: To me, pageantry isn't just about the way a person looks. To me, it's about giving people a voice. I think that it's important to recognize that pageantry is oftentimes geared mostly towards women. And it's important to have their voices heard.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you have a specific issue that you highlight as your platform when you are competing?

GREEN: I want to show that beauty doesn't have to fit into a certain mold. I want to promote a message of body positivity. And I think it's important to discuss the horrifying things transgender people oftentimes have to go through. There have been at least 27 transgender people who have been murdered in the U.S.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: When you've participated in other pageants, have you felt discriminated against or - how has the pageant world treated you?

GREEN: Actually, I was welcomed with arms wide open. I thought that the Miss Universe organization treated me wonderfully, as well as the Miss Earth organization. The contestants in both pageant systems were wonderful and accepting of me, and I wasn't sure if they would be.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Where does this lawsuit go now? What has the Miss United States of America pageant said?

GREEN: We haven't heard anything.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Anita Green, 2019 Elite Miss Oregon. Thank you so much.

GREEN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We also reached out to the Miss United States of America pageant for comment, and we have not yet heard back. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: December 21, 2019 at 10:00 PM MST
An earlier headline mistakenly said the Miss USA pageant is being sued by a transgender woman. It's actually the Miss United States of America pageant, a separate pageant, that's being sued.