First Trans Woman to Compete in Miss California Today

By Diane Anderson-Minshall

Originally published on Advocate.com January 12 2013 3:01 PM ET

After Donald Trump announced changes to the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants to allow transgender women to compete, 26-year-old Kylan Arianna Wenzel ditched her job and moved up her plans for gender reassignment surgery in hopes of competing in this weekend's Miss California pageant, according to Karen Ocamb, who interviewed Wenzel for Frontiers and LGBT/POV.  

“The first time I watched a beauty pageant was when I was 11, in 1997, when Miss USA won Miss Universe. And ever since then, it’s kind of been implanted in my brain,” Wenzel told Frontiers. “I wasn’t sure how it would happen for me, but it was something I put out there."

The pageant's producer, Keith Lewis, calls Wenzel inspiring, telling Frontiers, “I so admire what Kylan’s doing, because she’s fought so hard to be here. I think she will be successful in whatever she decides to do in her life. When we talked about her participating, she said, I really just want the other girls to accept me. And I think they not only accept her but will celebrate her because she’s loving and she’s open and courageous and she’s trying to do the best she can, like pretty much all of the rest of us.”

Wenzel, who is half Korean and half German, told Ocamb she was physically and sexually abused as a child, but "part of it now is really understanding and knowing your parents as human beings and why they were the way they were. So as an adult now, I don’t have any anger or resentment towards them, because I understand that they had a very tough life and that’s the only way they knew how to deal with it. I just find a way to communicate with people and connect with them. I think of their background and ask, why do they react that way? And that’s how I go through my everyday life with every person that I meet.”

The former Jamba Juice manager from Century City, Calif. will be battling 228 other contestants at today's preliminary Miss California show at the Pasadena Convention Center. The top 20 contestants will then compete in the finale tomorrow, Jan. 13, at 4 p.m.The show will be webcast live at Pageant Vision.