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“I felt as though the organization was saying I am not a woman and I’m not woman enough,” said Anita Green.

Last January, Anita Green signed up to compete in a Miss Oregon beauty pageant.

Green, 29, competed in her first pageant, the 2017 Miss Montana USA contest, she was only the third openly transgender contestant in the history of the Miss Universe program.

“This is about giving minorities a voice,” Green says. “I believe I’m beautiful, and I want to set an example for all women—cisgender and transgender—that beauty doesn’t have to fit into specific molds.”

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United States of America’s Miss Oregon pageant organizers didn’t agree. (United States of America Pageants is a different organization from the one that operates Miss Montana USA, even though both pageants bear patriotic initials.) They rejected Green’s entry the same month she applied, returning her $195 entry fee after the state pageant’s director told her it was a “natural” pageant.

Now she’s suing in federal court, asking a judge to compel the pageant to allow her to compete, as well as for unspecified monetary damages.

“I felt as though I was being invalidated,” Green says. “I felt as though the organization was saying I am not a woman and I’m not woman enough.”

United States of America Pageants and its Miss Oregon director, Tanice Smith, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Green’s case appears to be the first of its kind in Oregon. If she wins, it could establish a legal precedent for Oregon and 20 other states with similar nondiscrimination laws, requiring pageant organizers to allow transgender people to compete.

The lawsuit is part of a continued push for equality in the state, says Mikki Gillette, an executive at Basic Rights Oregon, the state’s leading LGBTQ advocacy group.

“The last decade or so has seen a real broadening of visibility for transgender people,” says Gillette, who is also a transgender woman. “But this kind of message that ‘you’re not really a woman’ is so harmful—for the person it’s said to and for young people growing up, trying to understand their place in the world.”

“This is about having my voice heard,” Green says. “That, to me, is what pageantry is about.” (Eva Flis)

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