ICYMI, Cebu City’s bet Beatrice Luigi Gomez was crowned as Miss Universe Philippines 2021, succeeding Rabiya Mateo. At first glance, she’s everything pageant fans could possibly want in a Philippine: beautiful, tall, charismatic and a winsome smile, Gomez certainly fits the mold of a conventional MUPH titleholder.
Save for one fact: she is the first openly LGBT winner of the pageant.
Gomez identifies as bisexual and has been open about her six-year relationship with girlfriend, DJ Kate Jagdon. And while there were those that hailed the win as a “win for the gays” and a “groundbreaking decision”, in a devoutly Catholic and pageant-crazed country where town fiestas’ pageants and processions of saints are held back to back, news of Gomez’s win was at the receiving end of social media controversy.
Obviously, the bible-thumping crowd came out:
And then there were the fans whose idea of pageantry hearkens back to nineteen kopong-kopong, when everyone talked about motherhood as the essence of being a woman, world peace, and all that:
And then there were those whose anti-trans sentiments emerged, mistakenly identifying Gomez as a trans woman on their confusion with the “openly gay woman” label:
(To set the record straight, Gomez is biologically born female — not that it matters, because trans women are women.)
Judging from the cancerous comments section, the country certainly has a long way to go in terms of genuine acceptance of the LGBT community as SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Equality) awareness remains low. In recent years, the fight towards equality has taken a few steps back: the SOGIE Equality Bill has been derailed for years under the Duterte administration, while senator and presidential candidate Manny Pacquiao called people in same-sex relationships “mas masahol pa sa hayop” (worse than animals).
In the Philippines’ case, the country has been regarded as a powerhouse in recent years due to consistently strong performances and back-to-back wins — and it is disheartening that the pageant allows some fans’ worst impulses to rear its ugly head, given its identity as a global platform that has potential to spark social good.
In any case, sexual orientation (and gender identity, for that matter) has nothing to do with having something to say, and being confidently beautiful with a heart.