Estelle represented France in several beauty pageants for transgender women in hopes of raising awareness and visibility. A truly beautiful woman, inside and out.
Can you talk to us about how you felt growing up?
First of all, growing up I never knew that I was trans because I just felt like I was who I was.
It was really difficult because it was in the 80’s, in a different time than these, it was not like today because now most people know what being “gay” is, what being “trans” is.
Growing up, all the men went with women, and the women would go with men - and I wanted to go with the men. Everyone would tell me that I am gay, but I wanted to tell them ‘No, I’m not gay - I love boys, but like a girl’.
But how can you even tell this to people because you don’t even know how to explain it yourself?
So as a young adult I went to Paris and started working in the nightlife, where they made transvestite shows, and I began to work there because it’s what I felt like.
With time, I understood I was not that kind of performer. I understood that I was performing as a job, and between that and who I truly was, there was a difference. Because almost all transvestites come as men wearing heels, make up, wigs - and once the job is done they remove everything and go back home like men. It was different for me. I was missing something even if I could be a woman briefly on stage. I was missing a real ‘women private life’.
So I began to change my way of thinking, because when I was a part of the gay scene as a transgender person, I always felt left out. When you are gay and live with gay people, you feel similar to them, because they live the same way as you. But when you are trans, you don’t feel totally included neither in the straight scene, nor in the gay one.
Why was it important for you to compete in this beauty pageant?
Every time I perform it’s to explain something to people - there is always a message behind the performance.
But why do we create this kind of pageant - you may ask. Well, it’s because as transgender we can’t join a “normal” beauty pageant, so we had to have our own. To join those pageants, the ‘normal ones’, you need to be a biological woman.
We wanted to change the world, we wanted to change the mentality, but [the organizers] changed nothing. During the pageant, we would spend the week socializing, doing activities, and being in public to bring more visibility and try to change the mentality of the people surrounding us. But unfortunately all the transgender girls stayed together and didn’t go speak much with people.
For me, the pageant shouldn’t only be based and judged on the last day, the gala night, because you could obviously look nice and pretty for five minutes, or two hours, but what exactly are you doing the rest of the time, and the rest of the week?
What kind of beauty queen should be able to win the pageant?
If I joined the contest, it’s because I thought they wanted to changed the point of view in Europe, and give more visibility to European transgenders. But once arrived in Barcelona, for the pageant, most girls were South American and Asian. I told the organizers I didn’t understand why so few contestants were actually European when the whole point of the pageant should have been to make European transgenders more visible to the public. Usually it’s mostly the Asian participants who are crowned, but if you never crown a European participant, how are we supposed to be more visible around here? It goes against the idea I support to raise awareness around transgender people in Europe.
What are some misperceptions people tend to have about transgender people?
First of all, you should know that we don’t choose to be trans. Being transgender revolves around the gender, and not the sexuality. You shouldn’t confuse gender and sexuality. For example, I happen to be transgender and straight, and I have a boyfriend. But transgender people could also be trans and love the same-sex. Or they could even love both sexes, because your identity is not your sexuality, and most people mix everyone together - like transvestites, drag queens, transgenders etc. For most people, it’ the same thing, but it’s not the same.
The issue we have in France is that you need to go through sexual resignation to obtain your official new identity. The problem is when you want to find a job and there is a paradox with your physical identity and your ID. Most people think you are a monster. You always have to prove who you are.
Going into this pageant for transgender women, what was your goal?
You know, I am 45 years old. I know who I am. I was never a biological woman, and I never will be one. But I am who I am, and I don’t need to prove anything to myself with pageants. If I do these things, it’s to change mentalities and open the door, or the window, to invite the people in and see that we are not monsters. We are like everybody, we also have problems, homes, families and friends, we can also get married… Really, we are like everybody.