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Miss America clarifies rules to bar certain trans contestants

Contestants at a beauty competition | Patrick Meinhardt/AFP via Getty Images

The Miss America organization has tightened its gender eligibility rules for the 2025 competition season, excluding transgender contestants who have not “completed” medical transition. 

Previously, the competition allowed anyone who identified as “a female” to compete. In the new Miss America 2025 contract, viewed by The Standard, competitors now have to identify either as “a born female” or a female who has “fully completed [sexual reassignment surgery]/Gender Affirming Surgery from male to female, with accompanying medical certification.” 

The contract also specifies that applicants must be unmarried and will not get married during the titleholder term, although this clause is not a change from years past.

A page from Exhibit K of the Miss America Delegate Contract clearly states that gender-affirmation surgery is a prerequisite for eligibility for transgender women.

The change ostensibly bans transgender women from participating if they have not yet “completed” medical transition. It is unclear what constitutes completing a medical transition, as many trans-identified people do not pursue any surgery as part of their transition. 

“It’s way worse than I thought,” said Miss Greater Derry (New Hampshire) 2023 Brían Nguyen, the first transgender woman to win a local Miss America competition. One of the few other transgender local titleholders is Monroe Lace, Miss San Francisco 2023, who is set to compete in the Miss California competition at the end of June. 

The news comes as debates over transgender people and gender inclusivity reach a fever pitch across the country, and as an increasingly large number of LGBTQ+ individuals seek involvement in the Miss America competition system. Representatives of the organization told Teen Vogue in 2018 that they had never barred a candidate because of gender. 

The Miss America Organization was recently purchased by Robin Fleming, who was subsequently named the organization’s CEO. Fleming previously steered the Miss Florida USA state competition.

Reached for comment, Fleming reiterated that Miss America was exclusively for women, and stated that changes to the language of the contracts would apply only to future competitions. They do not apply to this current cycle, any current state competition or any current contestants, Fleming said.

"We have had three female transgender contestants compete on our stages this year, one of which is competing in the Miss California event next week, and her eligibility is not in question, and any future changes would not impact her eligibility or representation of her hometown for this year," she added.

Some local competitions for the 2025 cycle have already started in New Hampshire, where the new contract with the updated gender requirements was sent to local contestants. Yet Fleming told The Standard that the contract was “not yet issued nationwide.”

Fleming did not comment directly on the contract language changes for the 2025 cycle—a roughly two-year phase that runs from now until Miss America 2025 is crowned—but stated that the organization is “still reviewing and editing all paperwork for the next cycle.” The contest for Miss America 2024 is still underway. 

Correction: This article has been corrected to clarify which competition cycle the contract language applies to, and to clarify that Fleming did not comment directly on the contract language reviewed by The Standard.

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