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Over the weekend, the Miss Montana USA pageant got a lot of attention for a remarkable first-time contestant. Montana resident Anita Green became the first openly transgender woman to compete for her state.
Despite competing in a very conservative state, Green was “pleasantly surprised” at how accepting her competitors were of her. When asked to list a Fun Fact about herself during rehearsals, Green shared that she was the state’s first transgender delegate. The answer was met with a round of applause from everyone in the Miss USA and Miss Teen category.
This type of support had to warm her heart. Green grew up watching her sister compete — and entering the event was something she had been considering for a long time.
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But she just wasn’t sure she had what it took to compete. It was only when she surrounded herself with more positive, encouraging people that she she finally decided to sign up.
Green follows in the footsteps of Kylan Wenzel, who was the first transgender Miss USA contestant ever (she competed for California in 2013).
“I wanted to do something that I thought would be fun and challenging, and this certainly has been challenging for me,” the 26-year-old told People Magazine before the competition. “This also gives me an opportunity for my voice to be heard.”
Ironically, the pageant Green competed in over the weekend was previously owned by Donald Trump, who, in 2012, reversed a decision disqualifying a transgender woman — and allowed any transgender woman to compete for pageant titles. Ah, how times have changed (President Trump has since vowed to ban transgender people from the military).
But Green, who works with adults with disabilities, has always been a trailblazer. “Way before I dipped a toe into pageantry as a way to increase awareness of transgender issues, I threw myself into politics,” she wrote in an essay for Self Magazine.
“I really wanted to make sure that my progressive message was heard on a much wider scale,” explained Green. “I think that the Miss Universe organization is great for letting women have their voices heard. Women oftentimes have their voices suppressed, and I think that the Miss Universe organization gives women the opportunity to shine.”
Green prepped in traditional ways for her debut — working out six days a week, eating healthier, watching YouTube hair and makeup tutorials, walking around in heels, working with a pageant coach and, perhaps most importantly, practicing interview questions with her boyfriend.
While, unfortunately, Green didn’t advance to the next round of competition (the Miss USA pageant), she told Self that she is still incredibly proud of herself for competing and taking a risk.
(This isn’t her first time competing on a big stage, either; she ran for city council in her town of Missoula, and became the second transgender individual to ever run for public office in the state.)
“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,” she wrote after the competition.
“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.”
There are an estimated 700,000 transgender people in the U.S., and Green hopes to inspire confidence and action. She wants others, like her, to feel comfortable with their identities and not feel ashamed of being transgender. Every person who steps into the spotlight helps move the needle forward, inch by inch.