The first-ever Mr. Transman NY 2010 pageant was held in Brooklyn last month (April 25, 2010). A big thank-you to the wonderful and talented Elizabeth Dana for sharing her coverage of the event with BLoGT.
The contestants were short.
At the 2010 Mr. Transman beauty pageant, the tallest contestant—24 year-old Sawyer Scissors—measured in at five feet, nine inches. The host, nightlife personality Murray Hill, barely clears five feet.
The contestants in the pageant were all female-to-male (FTM) transmen, men who were assigned female sex at birth, but now identify as male. Though they came from a wide variety of backgrounds, ages, ethnicities and gender expressions, one thing they had in common is that they are all shorter than your average guy.
As each contestant offered a brief platform of what he would stand for, Mr. Transman, Hill commented, “These kids know how to keep it short! I know there’s a tranny joke in there somewhere.”
The 2010 Mr. Transman competition was the first ever FTM beauty pageant. Hosted by Hill at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on April 24, this sold out event drew several hundred people. The crowd consisted of everyone from young Williamsburg hipsters to middle-aged lesbian couples. Gender benders from every part of the LGBTQA spectrum came out for a night of campy, fun pageantry.
“The gender scene is much more diverse than it has ever been,” said Hill in an interview. “When I was your age, we had butch and femme and that was it.”
The wide range of gender expression between the six pageant contestants exemplified this diversity in the transmale community. Muscular cowboy Tuck Mayo flexed washboard abs and won a wrestling match in the talent portion of the competition. Another contestant, who went by Princess Tiny and the Meats, wore a black sequined dress, a frilly white Victorian bathing costume and a bejeweled tiara for various parts of the competition.
“The pageant brings focus to both transmasculinity and the diversity of ways that gender identities are expressed,” said one New York University gender studies professor who attended the event.
The FTM community has been largely overlooked in mainstream culture. Transwomen and drag queens are very visible—even to middle America—through shows like “Rue Paul’s Drag Race” and “TRANSform Me” on VH1, but transmen have received very little exposure.
“This event is truly a direct response to there being almost no visibility of this group in our society,” said Hill.
A beauty pageant may seem like a strange way to bring attention to a group that struggles with issues like access to healthcare, legal recognition of their gender, harassment, violence and discrimination, but for young people grappling with gender issues, a chance to see transmen celebrated and admired is invaluable.
“Pageants celebrate bodies, but they celebrate typical bodies,” said one New York University sociology professor. “There are very few places where gender queer bodies can be celebrated.”
Kryst R., a transman originally from Virginia, came out as trans two months after moving to New York City in 2008. He found the transmale community in the city to be supportive, but there was no one like a Mr. Transman winner to serve as a role model for young transmen like him.
“If I had had a trans guy to look up to, it would have been a very different experience when I was figuring out my gender,” said Kryst.
For transmen, discrimination, harassment and insensitive curiosity can be a daily challenge. Even in a city as liberal as New York, Kryst still has to deal with negative reactions to the way he expresses his gender.
“I can be walking in Washington Square Park with a guy and people will read me as male and part of a gay couple,” said Kryst. “But when I’m walking with a woman, people react totally differently and I get stares.”
When he lived in Brighton Beach—a mainly Russian neighborhood in Brooklyn—Kryst felt that any public display of affection with his girlfriend was potentially dangerous. Many people in the conservative Russian community were not willing to accept or understand an African American transman like Kryst.
An easygoing guy with a bright, genuine smile, Kryst also has to field questions from acquaintances who struggle with his non-traditional gender.
A friend of his sister’s asked repeatedly whether or not he had a penis. “Is that something you would ask any other guy?” asked Kryst.
“People have a hard time navigating what questions to ask. They are used to the 1990s Maury Povich ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’” he said, laughing.
Even something as simple as which bathroom to use can be a challenge. Gender-bending punk band Inner Princess was so frustrated with people questioning their right to be in a certain restroom that they wrote a song about it: “I wish there was a bathroom for people like me/Stand up for your right to pee.”
But, like any event, the line for the women’s restroom at the pageant was longer than the line for the men’s.
At the end of the night, slam poet Kit Yan, whose cheeky poetry and baby-faced demeanor won over the audience, took home the title of Mr. Transman 2010. He won a cash prize, a bag of sex toys from Babeland and will be featured in a photo spread in the transman magazine “Original Plumbing.”
Yan’s winning poem focused on his love life. “Here are some of my recent Craigslist posts,” he began.
In puns and rhymes he expressed his frustration trying to find the right “femme” for him, someone who will treat him like the little boy he knows he is.
“I don’t want a sugar mama,” he said, sucking on a lollypop. “I want a sugar nanny.”
The crowd went wild with laughter and cheers.
“Everybody puts their pants on one leg at a time,” said Hill. “That’s what people are going to learn.”
Elizabeth Dana is a rising junior at NYU’s College of Arts and Science pursuing a double major in Journalism and Politics.