Belfast transgender woman Alicia Perry making history by representing Ireland at beauty pageant
Transgender champion Alicia Perry has told how she was moved to tears when she was chosen to represent Ireland at a beauty pageant.
The Belfast woman fought off competition from across the island to become the first woman who has undergone a sex change to reach the Face of the Globe finals in April 2016.
She added: “When I was a kid, the idea of a transgender girl looking pretty, feminine and elegant was amazing to me.
“Everyone just thought transgender girls were like something from The Rocky Horror Show and I just wanted to be a nice girl with lovely hair and not too much makeup.
“Growing up, watching Miss World, I just wanted to be like the girls on the stage — like most girls do.
“So to be in the Face of the Globe has given me so much validation, it’s unreal.
“I cried when I found out I was going to the final because I just felt so accepted in my own body that I had been given this amazing opportunity.
“It’s given me so much confidence and so much faith in the human spirit and society as a whole.”
Alicia has previously opened her heart on the struggle of growing up as a boy in County Antrim in her book Confessions of a Nobody: Mistreated.
She went to a boys’ primary school and as a teenager her struggles with her identity took their toll on her mental health.
The turning point came when she read a Sunday Life article about a BBC TV show in which people were helped by a panel of experts to make a change in their lives.
In a previous interview, she said: “No more was I going to live a life that pleased everyone else.
“It was time for me to live as me; as God intended me to be.”
Alicia began living publicly as a woman in September 2011, changed her name by deed-poll and began her hormone treatment.
A year later, she travelled alone to England to have her gender reassignment operation - and her success in the beauty competition marks a new milestone in her life.
Alicia, 39, hopes that her success will inspire others to defy the kind of hate-filled abuse she has faced.
She said: “Some people are so set in their ways or have nothing better to do that they go out of their way to be nasty and say or write hurtful messages to me.
“Those keyboard warriors have no idea what is going on in my life or what I’ve been through and yet they see fit to say it to me.
“For some transgender boys and girls out there, comments like that can be so destructive and people don’t realise or care that their nasty message could be the final nail in the coffin for that person.
“Hopefully by being in this competition, I can help people see that they can rise above those comments and be whatever they want to be.”
Alicia added: “I try not to take things personally and understand where the person is coming from because I know that some people are just genuinely against my life, but I do love changing people’s opinions of me.
“I end up playing devil’s advocate because out of 300 comments, not all are negative so I try to stay positive because I’d rather live a happy life than a bitter one.”
Alicia admits that being selected to represent Ireland was not something she ever imagined would be possible — let alone for a beauty contest.
“I kept asking the girl, Holly, who had told me I was representing Ireland, was she sure they actually wanted me, but she told me they knew everything about me and liked it all. I couldn’t believe it.
“Never in a million years did I think that I would be chosen to represent Ireland at anything so for me, it is a huge honour.
“As far as I know, I am the first transgender woman to represent a country in the competition, which is in its third year running.”
Next April, Alicia will battle it out against girls from across the globe for the Face of the Globe crown, with two days spent in London and five in Paris.
“All the other girls are about half my age but I’m just going to go for it and see what happens,” she said.
“I’m a firm believer in looking after yourself by keeping yourself fit and having a good diet, but they’re all about 20 so it’ll be some laugh.
“The competition is not just about how you look, though — they encourage natural beauty and are looking for the best person out there as a whole.
“Hopefully I can do myself justice, but right now it just feels like a dream come true.”
- To follow Alicia’s journey, visit: facebook.com/FaceOfTheGlobeIreland