Who are the trans women set to compete in this year’s Miss Universe pageant?

Rikkie Valerie Kolle, who won the Miss Netherlands beauty pageant in July 2023, will now go on to compete in Miss Universe
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At least two out trans women are set to compete in this year’s Miss Universe pageant.

Marina Machete, the first transgender woman to win Miss Portugal, and Rikkie Valerie Kollé, the first trans woman to be crowned Miss Netherlands, will be competing for the chance to become Miss Universe in November. 

So far, the duo are the only trans contestants among the 90 women who will compete in El Salvador to become the 72nd Miss Universe.

But there could always be more, as not all eligible countries have declared their contestants yet.

Machete, a 28-year-old flight attendant, wrote on Instagram ahead of winning Miss Portugal that she was “proud to be the first trans woman to compete for the title”, adding: “For many years I wasn’t eligible to compete, and now it’s such an honour to be part of this incredible group of candidates.”

She’s from the small town of Palmela in Setúbal.

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Kollé, 22, said she was “so proud and happy” after being crowned Miss Netherlands in July.

“I made my community proud and showed it can be done,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “I am a trans woman and I would like to share my story, but I am also Rikkie and that is what counts for me. I did this on my own strength and enjoyed every moment.” 

After her win, she had faced an anti-trans backlash, but the “haters” moves have backfired, giving her a better opportunity to inform people about trans rights and the long waiting lists for gender-affirming care in The Netherlands.

“The only thing I want to say to the haters is: thank you, because you’re giving me a bigger platform than I [could] ever imagine,” she said. 

“I want to speak up for the trans people who need it. As a little kid I didn’t have someone to look up to, I want to be that role model and inspiration for others.”

The model, who’s from Breda in the south Netherlands, began her transition journey when she was 16, and previously appeared on season 11 of Holland’s Next Top Model.

Miss Universe first allowed transgender women to compete in 2012, with Angela Ponce, from Spain, becoming the first to enter six years later.

However, the organiser of Miss Italy has been criticised for not allowing trans women to take part, with patron Patrizia Mirigliani insisting in July that contestants should be “women from birth”. 

Shortly after her comments, more than 100 transgender men – led by activist Federico Barbarossaentered the pageant in protest.

Barbarossa told PinkNews that he “signed up as a joke at first” but decided to protest the “out-of-touch” organisation to “dismantle an outdated fetish for biology and so-called right bodies that often leads to dehumanisation of trans people”.

In 2022, Thai businesswoman and trans advocate Anne Jakkaphong Jakrajutatip bought the Miss Universe franchise, previously owned by former US president Donald Trump.

“From now on, it’s gonna be run by women, owned by a trans woman, for all women around the world to celebrate the power of feminism,” she said. 

“[On] this stage, called [the] Miss Universe competition, we can elevate all women to feel strong enough, good enough, qualified enough.” 

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