Catriona Gray recently publishing her thoughts on being a LGBTQIA+ ally on Vice has sent some into skepticism. Her lengthy post about some Pride March participants who recently staged a "peaceful rally" only to be "met by police in riot gear and arrested" has also received some online bashing. "If proper health guidelines were being followed, (social distancing, mask wearing) why the use of force? Why the withholding of rights (witnesses said they were not read their miranda rights before arrest nor given reason of arrest)? Videos circulating online confirm this. We have the right to raise our voice. Pride since the beginning has been a protest. Now is the time to speak up," the 26-year-old wrote.
Was she just doing it because of Pride Month—and she knew that it was the trendy thing to say? Was she just saying this to add to her clear opposition toward the Anti-Terror Bill, which has raised controversy over its broadened definiton of what constitutes "terrorism? An easy no, as Catriona's followers know all too well the beauty queen has long been fighting for gay rights—whatever day it was on the calendar and even before her Miss Universe 2018 coronation.
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In her July 2018 appearance on Boy Abunda's The Bottomline, for one, Cat categorically declared her thoughts on why it's unnecessary to build a "third restroom" for transgenders.
"I do not agree," she began. "I believe that if you're transgender, you identify as that gender. So, I feel that we should accept them, and allow them to use the restroom in which they identify with which would be either the men's or women's bathroom."
"This promotes inclusivity, and allows them to understand what they want as a transgender, and that is to be accepted by us, and not just tolerated," she explained, inciting applause and approval from Tito Boy himself and her fellow Binibining Pilipinas contestants.
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In that same week, Cat published a related essay here on ABS-CBN Lifestyle as our guest editor. She talked about her disapproval of the textbook definition of a beauty queen. In hindsight, her piece now makes her recent Vice article sound like a deeper and more thought-out continuation of what she meant two years ago.
"Pageants have evolved to be so much more than a quest for outer beauty in recent years," Cat wrote. She then talked about the history of beauty pageants, which she said started out as avenues that only looked "for the most beautiful to be 'the face' of their brand." She said that these organizations have since been on the hunt for someone to be a "brand spokesperson," a weighty term which she described as "timely, considering in the age of social media and legions of followers, individuals have public platforms like never before."
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This shift past physical beauty means plenty to Cat, who said that pageants have now begun "shifting to what we do have control over: Our wit, charm, intelligence, personality. Beauty is becoming a mindset: an attitude."
This shift was most noticeable then as well, Cat said, with 2018 proving to be a monumental year for the Miss Universe pageant. That year, Spain crowned Angela Ponce, who then became the world's first ever trans representative to the world stage. In Cat's own words, Spain's actions brought "the gender discussion to the forefront. All of this is a sign of the inclusive future of pageantry."
"To be able to see past the external," the Fil-Australian beauty said later on, "to really see a person for whom they are and what they stand for—it's what everyone and even beauty queens deserve." She also called the move "one of the most beautiful progressions within pageantry" such that it transformed candidates into "advocates."
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Offering her own definition of a beauty queen, Cat then concluded her article with her own definition:
Beauty queen. N, an empowered individual who promotes her cause and/or advocacy through the platform of a pageant. Judged as the most suitable spokesperson of the organization through a criteria of beauty, confidence, performance, communicative ability, and personality.
Two years ago up to now and so forth, it seems, Cat continues to fight as a true LGBTQIA+ ally. This time, thankfully, she wisely does so with her much higher level of influence.
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Banner image taken from the Catriona Gray's Instagram account