Model Lehlogonolo Machaba is the first transgender finalist in South Africa’s national beauty pageant, and she’s hoping to use her voice to encourage people to grow more accepting of the LGBTQ community.
Machaba, who is 24, made history when she became a top 30 finalist for the Miss South Africa title this year.
“My mission regarding Miss South Africa would be try to at least break the stigma that people have against queer community, more especially queer identifying women in my case,” Machaba told Reuters.
“We’ve seen how cis-gendered women in the past few years, how the cis-gendered people have been able to reach certain opportunities but, in my case, we have limited opportunities. So, I’d like to inspire the upcoming generation that everything is possible,” she added.
In 2019, South Africa joined the few countries who started accepting transgender people as contestants in its beauty pageants.
South Africa is the only African country to legalize same-sex marriage, and transgender people can change their identity in the national birth register.
However, violence against the LGBTQ community still happens frequently.
“We’ve seen in the past couple of months how queer people have been killed,” Machaba said. “You have trends that are going on social media regarding hate crime towards queer community.”
While she is anxious about how she’ll be stigmatized for calling out the issues trans people face in the country, Machaba says the death of a close friend due to an anti-LGBT hate crime has provided her with the strength to overcome the hate she will encounter.
“It would mean a lot for me as a trans woman to win Miss South Africa but also I believe it would mean a lot for the queer community, more especially in South Africa,” she said. “We’ve seen how the world actually treats the queer community, but in South Africa it might show at least one of African countries are moving forward for the LGBT community.”