Transgender Rights

A Crown of Courage and Inclusivity, Challenging Transphobia and Inspiring Change

Main image to the post A Crown of Courage and Inclusivity, Challenging Transphobia and Inspiring Change

Bailey Anne Kennedy, a 31-year-old Cambodian American trans woman and military wife, was recently crowned Miss Maryland USA. However, her victory was met with transphobic hate comments on social media.

Kennedy, who immigrated from Cambodia when she was 11, was inspired to compete in beauty pageants after Miss USA lifted restrictions on contestants who are married and over the age of 28. She won the state's title last week and celebrated the win at Washington, D.C.'s Capital Pride Parade.

"Sometimes the underdog does win in the end," Kennedy said in an Instagram post following her victory.

Some on social media criticized Kennedy and the Miss USA organization, making transphobic remarks about her inclusion and saying she didn't deserve to win over the pageant's cisgender women. She addressed the comments in another Instagram post.

"Not everyone has to agree with the spaces that you occupy, and it doesn't mean that you aren't worthy of these opportunities," she wrote. "The work that I will do for the remainder of my life is to make sure that children who feel like me will never have to worry about the consequences of being who they are by simply being myself and being a positive contribution to society."

Miss Maryland USA, which evaluates contestants on an interview, swimwear and evening gown portion, also posted a message in support of Kennedy and the trans community.

"Since 2012, trans women have been welcomed into our organization," the organization said. "Every person has the right to live authentically and pursue every opportunity, and we believe Bailey Anne embodies these values. … We see Bailey's win as a win for everyone who dreamed the impossible dream."

Kennedy is married to an active duty member of the U.S. Marine Corps. She says that, after they got married, she thought she'd have to put her aspirations aside for good.

"I knew that my life would be forever changed," she said. "I accepted the fact that his commitment to our country would always come first and any career aspirations of mine would be second."

But she took Miss USA's rule change last year as a "sign," she said, and hopes to use the role to support other military families.

Kennedy has also been vocal about her Cambodian heritage, sharing that she struggled to overcome language barriers when she first moved to the U.S. She said getting the crown is a true milestone.

"I kept getting so emotional all day because I knew it was bigger than me. I knew that it only took 67 years for married women to compete freely. Let alone to have an immigrant who happened to be bullied all of life for her accent and her different ways of doing things," she said in a post.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09