Transgender woman competes in Miss California pageant

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By Malissa Rogers

Kylan Arianna Wenzel’s dreams have finally come true, after Donald Trump and his Miss Universe Organization changed the rules last April to allow trans women to compete for any of their pageant titles. Trump’s rule change followed the international fallout that was received after pageant officials disqualified Miss Canada, Jenna Talackova, after learning that she was a transgender woman.

“The first time I watched a beauty pageant was when I was 11, in 1997, when Miss USA won Miss Universe. And ever since then, it’s kind of been implanted in my brain,” Wenzel said, according to Frontiers. “I wasn’t sure how it would happen for me, but it was something I put out there.”

Immediately following Trumps decision to include trans women in the Miss Universe competition, 26-year-old Wenzel, who is half-Korean and half-German, quit her job as a shift manager at a Central City Jamba Juice and moved her sex reassignment surgery up six months. She would now be able to follow her lifelong dream to compete in the Miss California beauty pageant.

Miss California pageant producer, Keith Lewis, has found Wenzel’s story inspiring. 

“I so admire what Kylan’s doing, because she’s fought so hard to be here,” Lewis told Frontiers. “I think she will be successful in whatever she decides to do in her life. When we talked about her participating, she said, I really just want the other girls to accept me. And I think they not only accept her but will celebrate her because she’s loving and she’s open and courageous and she’s trying to do the best she can, like pretty much all of the rest of us.”

Wenzel was among 229 contestants who participated in the preliminary Miss California show on Saturday, Jan. 12, at the Pasadena Convention Center. Wenzel did not make it to the next round, Dan Avery of Queerty writes that she, “should be proud to have broken down doors—and stereotypes.”

Despite a difficult childhood, Wenzel remained positive and was able to solidify a belief that “nothing is impossible.” Even though Wenzel always knew that she was female, she was considered developmentally slow growing up, which made it difficult at times for her to define the feelings she had.   

“My parents were physically abusive growing up, and I was also sexually abused,” Wenzel said. “But part of it now is really understanding and knowing your parents as human beings and why they were the way they were. So as an adult now, I don’t have any anger or resentment towards them, because I understand that they had a very tough life and that’s the only way they knew how to deal with it.”

Wenzel survived the abuse by doing research on what happened to people from abusive backgrounds and decided not to do drugs, drink or smoke. She also consumed self-help books to guide her through the difficult times and watched Oprah, which helped her discover her purpose in life. 

“My philosophy is: if you every compare yourself to another woman or any other individual – if you notice, it hurts. Because any time you compare yourself to someone, it’s like an act of violence against yourself, making yourself feel like you’re less-than, and that you can’t do it,” Wenzel said. “So the first thing to do is NOT to compare yourself and not be violent towards yourself – but to love yourself. And only then can you be confident in what you’re doing.”

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