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Transsexual disqualified from Miss Universe
Updated: 2004-02-27 12:32

Chen Lili, a 24-year old transsexual from Sichuan Province, was shut out of the Miss Universe contest by organizers, saying she is an artificial woman.

Chen Lili poses for photographers [sina]
In a fax to the Sichuan organizing committee, the Miss Universe headquarters says Chen is disqualified because she is a transsexual. It says there never has been any such case in the 53-year history of the contest. 

Lili was granted permission early this week to participate in the international event by Miss Universe-China contest officials in New York.

"A sex-change woman registering for the Miss Universe contest is something that has never happened before," Miss Universe selection committee chairman Zhang Ruiling told reporters.

Cao Gang, a beauty contest expert in Shanghai, offered his support to Lili: "She has been granted the status as a woman, and is protected and recognized by law. There is no reason to kick her out."

"Another media circus. They just want to have fun," Netizens addressed the issue a sheer farce, "Even Chen herself has deliberately staged the cooperation media gimmick."

In order to reach the Miss Universe competition, to be held in Ecuador on June 1, Lili must first win a competition in the Sichuan Province, located in the southwest part of China.

"I hope to clinch the crown," Lili said, after learning she would be allowed to compete earlier this week.

A successful model, Lili made headlines earlier this month when she was allowed to change her identification card, a move recognizing her status as a woman. "I could not be happier now, as my female status has become protected by the law," she said, in a sina report.

Lili underwent transsexual surgery in November, and applied to have her status legally changed in January.

Earlier this week when Lili was allowed to participate in the contest, a lesbian and gay rights commission official applauded it.

"It's surprising that she was allowed for this competition," said Dusty Araujo, asylum coordinator at the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission. "The most egregious human rights violations around the world happen to transgender people, so I'm surprised that officials are open to this possibility."

Araujo believes other transsexuals in and outside China have paved the way for Lili to be as out and accepted as she is. Araujo cited Jin Xin, an award-winning Chinese choreographer and dancer who has used her success as a platform to speak out about being transsexual, and Dana International, the transsexual Israeli pop star who made worldwide news when she won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998.

"Dana was the first one to break into a public, international event," Araujo told the Gay.com/PlanetOut.com Network. "She broke the barriers for others."

"Once the transgender community gets news of Chen Lili, we could see more and more transgender people entering these competitions," Araujo said.

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