~The Miss Indian Transgender Arizona Pageant celebrated 10 years since it first began with a special exhibition performance on Saturday, December 5, 2015 in Phoenix, AZ. The American culture is in many ways shallow and fake and often the LGBTQ community seems to magnify that shallowness. Our native traditional cultural values are about connection to family, our tribe and traditions and most of all to nature. The two Miss Indian Transgender Arizona pageants provide an opportunity for native people the freedom to enjoy a mixture of modern expression and traditional values with what American Indians consider beautiful.
There are presently two pageants the Miss Indian Transgender Arizona and the Miss Indian Transgender ELITE Arizona. The ELITE Pageant was recently added to honor the beauty of the 35 and over transgender women. The pageants are held biennially or every two years. Past Miss Indian Transgender Arizona pageant winners include: 1st Angel Manuel – Tohono O’odham, 2nd Vicki Jo Quintero – White Mountain Apache, 3rd Kristel Lee James – Navajo, 4th Hanky Panky – White Mountain Apache.
The next pageant is set for June 2016 and applications will open in mid-March. Please contact Trudie Jackson, the pageant Director, for more information as the date gets closer. The pageant is open to all American Indian Transgender women who belong to any of the 22 tribes in the State of Arizona; are 18 years and older; and reside within the State of Arizona so they can participate in functions around the state and within their tribal community. Pageant components include: Q&A session; a modern talent; a traditional talent; and an evening gown competition. The judges are chosen from the local American Indian community that may identify as LGBTQ Two Spirit. The pageant usually takes place in Phoenix.
Due to the pageant being developed as a local grassroots event that is solely produced by Trudie as a transgender advocate, the pageant stays away from outside donors due to most donors requesting a 501(3)c status for a tax write off. Pageant operates on a shoe string budget and relies mostly on volunteers. All the awards, crowns, are donated by the Phoenix Native LGBTQ Two-Spirit community. Funds are also raised by getting together and doing shows similar to this anniversary show.
The reigning Miss Indian Transgender Arizona
Kay is Pima from the Gila River Indian Community. Kay says, “Most people know us as Pima but we are called Akimel O’odham which means river people. The word O’odham means people. The Tohono O’odham is our sister tribe to the south, our north sister tribe On Akimel O’odham also known as Salt River, and to the west Ak-Chin Indian community.”
“I did my first performance in 2010 before I knew about the Transgender pageant. Back then I had no clue about the all that, LOL. I first heard about the pageant in 2013. My LGBTQ Two-Spirit group called Gila River HOPE (Helping O’odham Pursue Equality) was helping our sister tribe in Salt River get an LGBTQ Two-Spirit support group called Salt River LOVE (Lifting Our Voices for Equality)started on their reservation.”
“That is where I meet Vanessa and another girl who were planning on running in the pageant. I wasn’t sure if I would or not, at the time I hadn’t yet come out to my family as being transgender. But my brother had helped me make my mind up and try out for the pageant. He had told me he would be by my side and be my support.”
“The day before the pageant I was asked to perform at a LGBTQ event in a small town just south of where I live. I did a basket dance and announced the pageant to the crowd and that I would be running and invited everyone. Well my brother posted pics on Facebook and it got back to my family…. Lol it was odd coming home and having my mom ask what was going on.”
“My mom’s side of family is really into the Pentecostal church, ‘holy rollers,’ so it wasn’t good at first. My mom had trouble accepting me. My dad just told me as long as I’m happy he’s happy for me. My dad has always been fine with me. LOL, It’s odd. You would think it would be the other way around. Today me and my mom are good. We are close and even share make up. LOL, she’s always taking my mascara.”
For her modern talent Kay plays the flute. She said, “I started playing flute when I was 12. Funny story, when I first started out practicing my parents would get mad at me and told me to go play it outside! At the time, I was hurt but kept trying anyway. My grandmother (my dad’s mom) would sit outside with me and listen to me play. She gave me good feedback and took the time to help me learn to play.”
“It’s been interesting how my life has changed since participating in the pageant. I have people that come up to me asking to take a photo with them. I have met a number people who I never thought I would have met. I started to learn a lot about the transgender community. Here on the rez there isn’t much knowledge about being transgender. Since I was in the pageant I’ve been able to share my story with others here in my community and in other communities as well. It’s been an interesting journey so far.”
Kay encourages other transgender folks, “Never look down on yourself. Be true to yourself and love you for who you are. Follow your heart and never give up.”
I would like to say a special thanks to my brother E.J. Kisto for being my support and encouraging me to do good. I am very grateful for my family and friends who have been by my side; the Gila River H.O.P.E. and Salt River L.O.V.E groups for all their love and support; and also to the Tucson Two Spirit group for their support and donations of our basket crowns.
The first Miss Indian Transgender ELITE Arizona,
Vanessa is Pima from the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community. She has lived in the Salt River community all her life although she did leave briefly attend boarding school. Vanessa was also a founding member of Salt River L.O.V.E. the local LGBT Two-Spirit support group for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa community. On the day of the pageant, Vanessa found out that she was also nominated and placed on the 2014 Trans 100 list.
“In my opinion this pageant gives us a voice, a platform to educate others about our Two-Spirit history. It also gives our Two-spirit members a chance to share the beauty of our culture. Sadly, many times we as Natives are not included and overlooked within the mainstream LGBTQ community. We don’t sometimes fit into what they consider important.” Vanessa stated.
“I would thank the entire LGBTQ native Two-Spirit community of Arizona as a whole for their support of our pageant. It’s hard because many community members cannot make it to the pageant due to financial circumstances and transportation. Our posts on Facebook keeps the community informed of our events.”
“I would also like to thank pageant director, Trudie Jackson, for her work putting this pageant on. I tried to get a Native pageant started back in the 90’s but it was too hard to get everyone together at that time. Finally, I would like to thank owners of C7 nightclub for allowing us to use the club. They have been big supporters of our past events. They also host an all Native drag show held every second Sunday of the month.”