Trans woman Zoë Seloane enters the Miss South Africa beauty Pageant

Established in 1956 in Apartheid South Africa, the first official Miss South Africa pageant was only open to white women. It was not until 1977 that all persons of all races were allowed to compete in the Miss SA competition

Zoë Seloane

Zoë Seloane, 24, is challenging cis-het-norms by being the first transgender woman of color to vie for the covenanted title of Miss South Africa. The winner of Miss South America will go on to represent her country on the world stage in Miss World and Miss Universe pageants.

Angela Ponce earned the title of Miss Universe Spain in 2018, becoming the first transgender woman to compete in a Miss World competition.

Although the pageant website states that competition has been open to trans people since 2019, there is no history of one doing so. This year, the pageant is making history as it openly welcomes transgender women to enter.

CEO of the Miss South Africa Organisation Stephanie Weil said, “The Transgender issue has garnered so much interest this year because of the surge of violence against Transgender people who are often are marginalised and stigmatised: “The Miss South Africa Organisation is committed to continue to put a spotlight on these issues and create an awareness and conversations in hope of bringing about understanding and tolerance.”

According to the Miss South Africa website “Trans women are eligible to enter the Miss South Africa pageant, however, in order to be eligible to compete internationally, the contestant must be in possession of a valid South African ID document reflecting that their amended sex is female.”

Seloane, who previously competed in LGBT pageants said the Miss South Africa pageant would be her first time competing against heterosexual women.

“I am nervous because this is a national pageant, which is a very progressive step for the queer community,” she said.

The Miss South Africa pageant has allowed transgender women to enter and compete since 2019. However, their entry is only allowed on the condition that they have already been to home affairs to have their ID document reflect their gender identity alignment.

After completing a psychological evaluation and receiving the letter from her doctor, Seloane decided to amend her gender at home affairs earlier this year.

“It was such an easy process for me. I thought that going there would be an emotional experience, but it was over so quickly,” she said.

She added: “Going to home affairs is something that I should have done a while ago because I always got funny looks whenever I presented my old ID at the bank or airport.”

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Kelli, Busey is managing editor at Planet Transgender