My sister spent over a decade participating in pageants. Even though I only saw her in a pageant once, when I was in high school, she was my first inspiration to compete for the title of Miss Montana USA. Not only was she incredibly graceful on stage, I was astounded by how articulate she was in front of an audience. I thought to myself, I wish I were that beautiful and, If only I were that good at public speaking. I knew one day I’d get there, but first I had to transition.
People always ask me, “When did you know you were a girl?” I like to throw the question back at them: “Well, when did you know you were a boy or a girl?” I just always knew, but I thought I was the only person who felt this way. It wasn’t until I was about 12 that I finally put a label on myself as transgender. At 15, I started working summer jobs to save up for my transition. At 17, I came out as a girl to my high school best friend. By 18, I’d started hormone replacement therapy. And by 19, I’d started living full-time as my true self: a woman. My delight in finally being able to be who I am was interrupted at 21, when I was assaulted because of my transgender status.
In the aftermath of the assault, I decided I’m not going to be ashamed of being a transgender woman, even though that’s often the purpose of these kinds of attacks. Hiding that essential aspect of myself from the world wouldn’t do anything to help people like me in the LGBTIQ community get the respect and protection we deserve.
That realization eventually landed me on a stage in front of a live audience, competing to be Miss Montana USA. I was there not only to fulfill my teenage dream of being as beautiful and eloquent as my sister, but to give my community a bigger platform. The competition took place this past weekend, and although I didn’t win, I’m so glad I took the risk of competing in the first place.
I was already involved in a student organization dedicated to helping members of the LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer or Questioning) community at my school, the University of Montana. But after the assault, I had an urge to do more, so I became the first openly transgender senator in the Associated Students of the University of Montana Senate. Then, after graduating, I threw my hat in the ring for a position on the city council in my town of Missoula, making history as the first openly transgender person to run for public office there (and second in the whole state of Montana). I finished third out of four people, but I kept at it. When I was 25, I was elected as Montana’s first openly transgender national delegate to a nominating convention. From there, I headed to the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
So, how did I make the leap from politics to pageants? It’s actually not as much of a stretch as many people think. Competing in a pageant isn’t just about being a pretty face; the women who participate are intelligent, they have aspirations, and they are representatives of their states or countries. I understand some of the criticisms that surround the pageant industry, but I competed for the title of Miss Montana USA because I want to fight for the LGBTIQ community by bringing attention to the issues we face. More specifically, I want to address issues with which the transgender community is currently grappling.
Members of the transgender community face discrimination on a daily basis. Transgender people, especially transgender women of color, are subject to shocking rates of violence. We are denied access to jobs and housing simply because of who we are. And in late July, President Donald Trump announced that “the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” adding that the military shouldn’t be “burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption” he thinks transgender service members cause.
It took years to work up the courage to make my teenage dream a reality. It all finally felt real when, during the interview portion of the pageant, a judge asked me, “What made you decide to get involved in politics?” I responded by saying, “I first became involved in politics because I wanted to fight for marriage equality. Once gay marriage was legalized I decided to stay involved in politics to further help the LGBTIQ community gain equal rights in other aspects of our lives.” I felt a rush of adrenaline, knowing that I was able to spread even a bit of awareness.
Speaking on stage wasn’t the only way for me to share the message that those in the LGBTIQ community are worthy of dignity and respect. In fact, what I liked most about my experience was getting to know all the girls and women competing alongside me. Coming from the rural, conservative state of Montana, I was surprised that they were kind and welcoming. At one point during rehearsals, we each needed to present and interesting fact about ourselves. I talked about the 2016 DNC and how I’d been elected as Montana’s first openly transgender delegate. Everyone in both the Miss and Miss Teen categories clapped for me. Everyone was so supportive.
As it turns out, I wasn’t selected as a Miss Montana USA finalist. Hell, I didn’t even make it into the top 10. Was that disappointing? Sure. But no matter the outcome, I’m thankful I was given the opportunity to have my voice heard on a scale much larger than I could have ever anticipated.
Anita Green is a University of Montana alumna who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology with an emphasis in inequality and social justice and a minor in communication studies. Last year, Anita made state history by becoming the first openly transgender person in Montana to be elected as a national delegate to a nominating convention. Anita works with adults with disabilities.
You May Also Like: Model Carmen Carrera on RuPaul’s Drag Race and What It Feels Like to Transition
Source Article from https://www.self.com/story/anita-green-miss-montana-usa