My name is Jocelyne Yendall, or just Jossy for short. I am a 29-year-old Northern lass, with an interest in performing arts and modelling. I was assigned male at birth that means I was biologically male when I was born, but I have always been feminine from an early age. This is not about my 'journey to womanhood' and being transgender is not something that solely defines me as a person but recently I have been in the media talking about being a transgender woman, and in particular how transgender women still face discrimination.
Some would say that my recent experience with discrimination is small compared to what other people have to go through, and I agree to some extent. But sometimes it's the smaller incidents of exclusion and misunderstanding that can grow or develop into bigger issues. So what happened to me? Well, I have been modelling since 201, and I have always had an interest in pageantry, I even devised a performance about the pageant system for my university degree (I studied Performance at Northumbria University). The majority of pageants are not open to transgender women, and I have always thought that this ruling needing addressing.
In the UK, it is effectively against the law to discriminate against a person because of their gender. I applied for the Ms Galaxy pageant in October last year, I was aware that the 'rule' was that entrants had to be 'born genetically female', but I thought if I was honest with the organisers from the start, then maybe they could overlook the ruling. In the first line of my application form, I mentioned that I was transgender female, and I explained how having a transgender contestant would be beneficial for the organisation - after all, Caitlyn Jenner had recently won 'Woman of The Year' award and transgender celebrities such as Laverne Cox, Kellie Maloney and Jazz Jennings have been well received by the media.
I was selected to be a 'Grand Finalist' for Ms Galaxy UK, where I was going to represent the North East. Communication between me and the organisers was great. They gave me advice on how to get sponsorship and I had even spoken to them on the phone. The issue of me being transgender was never raised, and it's not something I usually would keep mentioning because like I said before, being trans doesn't define me as a person. I transitioned to be a woman and that's just how it is for me. I had to pay a deposit, to secure my place in the final. This was when I mentioned again that I was transgender, via email. I got an email back saying that my 'admission' had been overlooked on the original application and I was therefore disqualified from the contest as I wasn't born anatomically female. I was devastated as I thought that I had been honest from the beginning, and that they accepted me regardless of my history.
A lot of friends had mentioned to me that what Ms Galaxy had done was discriminatory, and flies in the face of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and The Equality Act 2010. On the advice of friends, I contacted a press agency who took the story up, but I didn't want to be that girl who just sells a story to the press and doesn't actually do anything. I wanted to turn a negative experience into a positive one, so this was why I decided to set up a petition on change.org. The purpose of the petition is to make the organisers of these pageants aware that barring transgender contestants from mainstream pageants is just wrong.
When I set up the petition I just thought I would get a about 100 signatures but the media picked up on the story (again) and I now have over 1,000 signatures, I have been on various radio stations and also appeared on Good Morning Britain. I have been accused of hypocrisy, as I was in a transgender-only pageant last year, but what people fail to realise is that the reason for having a transgender pageant is because we are not allowed to compete with cis-gender women. Pageants like Miss Transgender raise awareness too, and that was my reasons for being involved with that competition. By and large, the women competing in pageants such as Ms Galaxy would not have been discriminated against because they are cis-gender.
It is important for me to say that in no way am I wanting to slander the Ms Galaxy pageant, they raise a lot for charity and what I have been told from them is that they have to abide by international rules. Hopefully my petition will reach the CEOs of Miss Galaxy International.
So please, if you also think that barring transgender women from mainstream pageants is wrong, then please, please sign the petition! Your support could help make a difference.