The comments came shortly after Rikkie Kollé became the first openly trans person to win the Miss Netherlands pageant earlier this month.
“Lately, beauty contests have been trying to make the news by … using strategies that in my opinion are a bit absurd,” Patrizia Mirigliani, the entrepreneur behind the Miss Italy pageant, said in a recent radio interview.
“Since it was founded, my contest has stipulated in its regulation (that contestants) … must be a woman from birth.”
After Mirigliani’s comment sparked backlash, she went back on the air to elaborate that she has “nothing against those who decide to admit transgender people to beauty contests,” but she would not be changing the rules for the Miss Italy pageant.
“I’m just saying that things have to go step by step, Italy is a delicate and particular country,” she said.
When a trans activist from Bari, a town in southern Italy, caught wind of the controversy, he decided to take matters into his own hands to mock the pageant’s restrictive rules.
As a trans man, Federico Barbarossa, a member of the Italian non-profit Mixed LGBTQIA, was assigned female at birth. He was able to successfully enter the pageant using his deadname, the female name he was given at birth that he no longer uses.
Mixed LGBTQIA posted a picture of Barbarossa with a screenshot of his acceptance email for the Miss Italy pageant and encouraged other trans men to sign up.
After the campaign went viral online, Barbarossa says more than 100 trans men have entered the pageant in protest.
“When I heard about the absurd regulation, it came spontaneously to me!” reads a statement from Barbarossa in the post. “I was assigned to the female gender at birth, but I have always felt like a boy.”
The post encourages “other people assigned women at birth to enrol in the competition en masse to make fun of” Miss Italy’s rules excluding trans women. The organization hopes the “mocking gesture” will demonstrate that “gender is a social construct, that biology does not define us and that Mirigliani’s stance is outdated.”
Barbarossa told NBC in an interview that he was “amused by” Mirigliani’s comments on the radio, because even though he was assigned female at birth, the Miss Italy pageant would probably “reject me because I look like a boy, and they would consider me as a boy.”
Another trans activist, Elia Bonci, who entered the pageant said: “I took courage, used my deadname and signed up for Miss Italy because fighting transphobia is intersectional and even though I’m not a trans woman, I’ve decided to fight for their rights.”
“Excluding trans women automatically means excluding them from history. Pretend(ing) they don’t exist,” he added.
Barbarossa told NBC he hasn’t been called for the next stage in the selection process for the Miss Italy pageant, though some other trans men who participated in the protest have.
“I didn’t get any message, which leads me to think I’ve been blacklisted from them,” he said, laughing.
A spokesperson for Miss Italy confirmed that it has received contestant applications from trans men, and that these applicants can participate in local castings, CNN reported.
“If they are judged suitable by a technical jury they can then parade in public” as part of the pageant, he added.
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