A contestant in Pattaya’s “Miss International Queen” beauty pageant has been given the chance to start a life new
‘When I woke up I was a woman, a real woman,” Morgana said as she relaxed in her Bangkok hotel.
It has been a life-changing month for the opera singer from Mexico. She came to Thailand to participate in the annual Miss International Queen transgender beauty pageant in Pattaya and has now fulfilled her lifelong dream to have gender reassignment surgery.
For Morgana, this is not the end of her journey. it is only the beginning. ”I have been given this great gift,” she said, ”so I need to use it to help change Mexican society.”
Two weeks ago, she stood on stage alongside 21 other contestant in the world’s leading transgender competition (See ”Dreams take centre stage at transgender beauty pageant”, Spectrum, Nov 11). The contestants had travelled from across the globe for the chance to compete for both fame and USD 10,000 (307,000 baht) in prize money.
Morgana knew that if she won, she could afford her operation, but after she failed to make the final shortlist and Kevin Balot of the Philippines took the crown, it looked like she would have to return home with that ambition unmet.
So what happened?
”On the Monday after the competition I was told that I could have the operation,” Morgana said. ”I started to cry, I was so happy.”
The documentary crew that had been following her progress throughout the competition had approached Preecha Aesthetic Institute (PAI) who agreed to waive surgery fees and instead just charge hospital costs.
As Preecha Tiewtranon from PAI explained: ”We felt that through Morgana’s documentary we could help educate Latin American society to understand that transexuality is not a mental disorder.” Dr Preecha described Morgana as ”one of the most talented transwomen we have seen in 35 years”.
Before she started living as a woman four years ago, Morgana was the well-known opera singer Saul Martinez, famous for her countertenor roles at the Mexico National Opera.
”I already sang like a woman, so I could always play the castrati roles,” she said.
Morgana’s operation was one of over 3,500 gender reassignment procedures that Dr Preecha estimated his clinic has carried out over the past 30 years.
Over 90% of these patients are from overseas, forming a part of Thailand’s booming medical tourism industry. The global industry has been described as one of the fastest growing businesses in the world, estimated to be worth 100 billion annually. More than 1.6 million foreigners are treated in Thai hospitals every year, with an estimated 500,000 travelling specifically for medical treatment.
For Morgana, the operation itself was very fast. ”It was finished in two and a half hours, so quick!” she said. ”In Mexico, it would be seven hours.”
Once the operation was over, as is standard practice, Morgana booked in to a local hotel for the next couple of weeks so doctors could monitor her progress.
With patients then boarding planes to return to their home countries, this does create a problem with longer term continuity of health care.
However, despite this, Morgana still thinks that the benefits outweigh the risks.
”Thailand is the safest place to do this surgery, they have more experience than anywhere else in the world,” she said.
After the operation, Morgana said one of her first visitors was the Mexican ambassador of Thailand, Arturo Puente.”He told me I now have a responsibility for transgender women, that I must fight for human rights in Mexico,” she said.”I told him: ‘Don’t worry, that’s why I’m here!”
Her decision to come to Thailand to compete in Miss International Queen was motivated by the death of a transgender friend, who was killed on the streets in Mexico City in an unprovoked attack as she walked home.
Morgana said she wants to generate as much publicity as possible for her cause, through the documentary and performing in concerts, to help reduce prejudice against transgendered people in her country.
The feature-length documentary, WonderTrans, which has been following Morgana’s life over the past two years, has not yet been released yet is already creating a buzz in Mexico.
It is the work of Flavio Florencio from Argentina and Mexican Maricarmen Rodriguez.
Rodriguez explained how they first heard of Morgana’s story after seeing her performance in the south of Mexico.”Once we got talking I felt the need to help Morgana, and through her story, I thought I could help many transsexual women who are also suffering discrimination,” he said.
Some of the early documentary footage deals with Morgana’s relationship with her parents. She has rarely seen them since she started living as a woman four years ago. ”My father loves me and he respects me, but he does not accept me,” she said, adding that her parents don’t yet know that she has had the operation.
Rodriguez admits that in making the documentary, it has been difficult to know where to draw the line between telling a story and participating in it.
”We’ve got really involved in the story,” he said.”We knew that the only thing she wanted was the gender reassignment surgery and Morgana’s desire for freedom became my personal desire, too.”
Morgana is delighted to have achieved her goal. ”For me, it was about correcting what I saw as a physical defect,”she said.”It was something that made me insecure. Now I feel complete.”
And Morgana was looking forward to singing again.”It will be my first performance as a woman,” she said. ”It will be wonderful.”