Reigning Miss TransDiva 2018 Pascal James talks about her journey to winning the pageant and the struggles she faced along the way
Image: Sibongile Ngalwa

East London’s Miss TransDiva 2018 Anathi ‘Pascal’ James said “no one wants to be made fun of because of their sexuality. People think we wake up and decide that we want to be transgender”.

Pascal, who was crowned Miss TransDiva 2018 at the weekend, was born a male but identifies as being female.

She described her journey to accepting her sexuality and winning the beauty pageant as a difficult one, having faced a lot of ridicule from people within her community who she said found it difficult to accept her as she is.

She was also made fun of in high school and called names.

“It started in grade 8 when my classmate’s would make fun of me and call me names such as ‘moffie’ – those terms would hurt me and make me angry.”

Despite this, the 21-year-old said she chose to rise above the negative remarks and had worked hard at accepting and empowering herself.

“I wish people would understand that being transgender is not easy, what a lot of people don’t know is that as a transgender, you feel trapped in the wrong body.

“I, for one, feel I should have been a woman yet I am not.”

Pascal said being accepted by her family had also been a challenge.

Pascal said Miss TransDiva had helped boost her confidence, taught her to embrace who she was, and had enabled her to educate other people about the LGBTI community. “I first entered the competition in 2016, and every year thereafter I have entered.

“I am so happy that I finally won this year.

“I kept on entering because each year I would gain more confidence,” said Pascal.

“It is really encouraging that we have events such as Miss TransDiva because we feel as the LGBTI community that we are not adequately advocated for.

“It would be nice if we could get a lot of coverage so that society gets used to us and accepts us,” she said.

During her term as Miss TransDiva 2018, Pascal said she planned to host many awareness campaigns in East London to help empower the LGBTI community.

Miss TransDiva is a beauty pageant that celebrates transgender people. It also serves as a platform to advocate for the rights of transgender people and the LGBTI community.

The event is organised by the Social, Health and Empowerment Feminist Collective of Transgender Women of Africa (She).

She founder, Leigh Ann van der Merwe, said the organisation worked with transgender women in peri-urban and informal settlements and township communities, predominantly in the Eastern Cape, where they ran support groups and empowerment programmes such as Miss TransDiva.

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