LGBTQ+ community celebrates Bea’s win

Beatrice Luigi Gomez makes history as the first out LGBTQ+ person to win a national beauty pageant title

October 15, 2021

Beatrice Luigi Gomez, representing Cebu City, became the first out LGBTQ+ person to win a national beauty pageant title in the Philippines, when she bagged the Miss Universe Philippines (MUP) 2021 crown on 30 September during the coronation night in Panglao, Bohol.

The queer community rejoiced at this historic feat with many LGBTQ+ organizations and advocates hailing the win as a step forward for LGBTQ+ representation and acceptance. Even Senator Risa Hontiveros, a staunch ally, extended her congratulations.

Transgender woman activist Naomi Fontanos exclaimed on Facebook: “Herstory made! The first ever openly lesbian Miss Universe Philippines, Miss Cebu City Beatrice Luigi Gomez, has been crowned! This is a win for the LGBTQIA+ community and for gender equality! Hail to the new Queen! Hail to a truly phenomenal woman!”

Gomez competing at the Miss Universe Philippines pageant. / Photograph courtesy of Miss Universe Philippines

The 26-year old gym manager, who hails from the town of San Fernando, has been making pageant history since last year when she was crowned Binibining Cebu 2019-2020 on 13 January 2020, and became the first out LGBTQ+ contestant to win in a local pageant. Also identifying as non-binary, she has been open and proud of her sexuality, as well as her relationship with another woman, performance DJ Kate Jagdon.

Gomez is the second out LGBTQ+ contestant in MUP after bisexual Billie Hakenson, who became fourth runner-up last year. She bested 27 other candidates to represent the country in the Miss Universe 2021 pageant in Israel in December.

Her girlfriend of six years congratulated her on Instagram: “You have proved once again @beatriceluigigmz that you’re worthy of all the big things in life. Congratulations to you for doing it once again! We are so proud of you!”

However, many Filipinos expressed disapproval and jeered at her on social media because of her sexuality.

Others mistook her to be a transgender woman. Some of the detractors are even LGBTQ+ members themselves.

Beatrice Luigi Gomez of Cebu City wins the Miss Universe Philippines crown. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF FB.COM/Beatrice Luigi Gomez

“It’s distressing, but hardly surprising, how steeped internalized homophobia is within the LGBTQ+ community. I just wish we should all be happy that Beatrice Luigi Gomez, a bona fide member of our marginalized group, is Miss Universe Philippines 2021. To be dismissive of her chances at the international finals because of her gender identity and expression is a great disservice to us,” fashion journalist and pageant observer C. Mendez Legaspi commented

“That a lesbian will be competing at Miss Universe is not unique, but Bea being open and proud makes her instantly iconic. The Audrey-like Miss Kosovo Marigona Dragusha, second runner-up at Miss Universe 2009; and Spain’s Patricia Rodriguez, first runner-up at Miss Universe 2013, and Sofia del Prado, Top 10 at Miss Universe 2017, all came out after their pageants. The most high-profile LGBT former queen is Miss USSR 1991 Julia Legimova, second runner-up at Miss Universe 1991. She’s married to the Czech-American tennis legend Martina Navratilova,” he further said.

Legaspi also noted that Israel, the venue for Miss Universe 2021, “is the best country in the intolerant Middle East for LGBTs. Gays can serve openly in the Israeli military, and Bea’s being a Philippine Navy reservist can work to her advantage. In the beauty-pageant front, Talleen Abu Hannah was the first transgender contender at Miss Universe Israel, placing in the top four in 2018.”

“For the LGBTQ struggle, representation is important. So, let’s revel in this victory. Never take visibility for granted,” he emphasized.

While describing itself as LGBT-friendly, the Philippines has a long way to go in terms of LGBTQ+ acceptance and equality. There is still no national law protecting the sector and LGBTQ+ persons continue to experience discrimination, abuse and violence.