Queer representation is the last thing anyone expects from Miss Universe.
Pageantry isn’t exactly the most sound, feminist concept. For some, it’s outdated. But as you all know, Filipinos love a good pageant—straight or not.
Spain had its first transgender Miss Universe compete two years ago. Is 2020 the perfect time for us to have a proud bi Miss Universe? The answer is a resounding ‘yes, yes, yes.’
Hailing from Cavite the land of the brave, Kimberly ‘Billie’ Hakenson is the region’s bet for this year’s Miss Universe Philippines. Her name went viral last night for representing the bisexual community in an interview held in Baguio City. “I’m Billie Hakenson, I’m representing Cavite. And I’m a bisexual, and I’m proud to be here,” says Billie.
In this interview, someone asked what makes her stand out as a candidate. And she answered with eloquence. “I am not really as feminine as most women. I have this androgynous side and I am confident in showing it off,” explains Billie. “I love how it jives with my personality, and how actually it’s a big part of me. And I am doing my best to use that as a tool in this journey.”
Pageant culture in the Philippines isn’t something I romanticize. I’m on the fence about supporting a tradition that bases a person’s prowess on how they fit within society’s beauty standards. But at the same time, it plays such a big role in our queer community and I can’t deny how this global platform is a huge opportunity for representation to find its place.
Gays and lesbians are tolerated in the Philippines. Take note, “tolerated” not accepted. If we consider it closely, our transgender siblings are still often met with violence and prejudice. As for bisexuals, we get discrimination from straights and even within our own queer community at times. We barely exist in the local queer tapestry.
So in a country where bisexuals like me are seen as indecisive gays or lesbians, it’s an honor to see someone participating in a global platform who’s proud to be out. Billie saying “I’m a bisexual, and I’m proud to be here” means a lot to us—more than she could imagine.
Who knows who would carry our flag in this global pageant? But if all odds favor Billie, I wouldn’t mind it. It’s time for the world to see what a proud bisexual woman looks like.
Still from Miss Universe Philippines