The trans man hoping to be crowned Mr Gay England

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Being judged on his masculinity is something Chiyo feels every time he steps outside the front door.

Chiyo identifies as transgender and, in April next year, he’ll be standing on stage with a group of other men – who aren’t trans – to be judged in what is ultimately a male beauty contest.

He’s a finalist in the (coronavirus-delayed) Mr Gay England 2020.

It’s a beauty pageant that usually crowns a muscular, gay man – a stereotypical idea of what’s hot in a bloke – as the most attractive in England.

So a finalist who’s transgender – and has never taken testosterone – feeling a bit nervous about it? Understandable.

“There was a lot of fear entering this competition,” the 24-year-old from London tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

He’s never done a pageant before and is very aware the other men “represent a type of beauty and sexy that has been accepted throughout the media – especially gay media”.

“I am competing against an idea of beauty. And I’m scared to do that,” Chiyo says. “Which is exactly why I’m doing it.”

Someone who identifies as transgender needs to go through a number of official steps – like obtaining a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria – before it’s legally recognised. There is an ongoing discussion within parliament about whether this should be changed.

‘Before a drag artist, I’m a man’

Mr Gay England involves several categories on stage, such as beachwear and formal-wear, as well as a fundraising element and even a written test to determine who wins the crown.

One of the bars Chiyo regularly performs encouraged him to enter. He’s a drag artist, presenting as male on stage in LGBTQ+ venues up and down the country.

Organisers recommended he take part in their drag competition as well, but Chiyo thought: “No – before I am a drag artist, I am a man.”

Stuart Hatton, a Mr Gay England organiser, tells Newsbeat Chiyo is “a welcome addition” to the competition and says he’s “excited” to see where Mr Gay England takes him.

But performing on stage is a different experience to what Chiyo’s expecting at the final next year.

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Chiyo hopes the confidence and stage skills from his drag career will help on the Mr Gay England stage

“When I’m doing drag, I’m hiding behind layers of makeup and people have booked me to do this thing so they know exactly what they’re expecting,” he says.

“To come out and to be visible and to take up space and even be predominantly nude or semi nude – because I do a lot of burlesque stuff – that doesn’t feel intimidating.”

Instead, he says he’s more likely to be intimidated by what happens to him every day on the street.

‘They don’t even know what they hate’

“I get a lot of judgment for being a trans man but a lot of the time people do not read me as a trans man,” Chiyo says.

“I still experience a lot of misogyny from being read as a woman or trans misogyny and brutal violence because they think I’m a different type of ‘transness’.

“These people don’t even understand what they’re judging or what they’re hating – they just know they don’t like it.

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“It’s 2020, we need a trans Mr Gay England – are you joking?” says Chiyo

He says the idea of winning the competition is the most “radical, iconic” thing he could ever dream of.

“I almost don’t want to think about it because showing up and being surrounded by constant masculinity and predominant whiteness is very intimidating,” says Chiyo, who’s of Angolan descent.

There appears to be a lot of prejudice against transgender people (who make up a very small part of the population), especially in America.

More trans people were murdered in the States in the first seven months of 2020 than in all of 2019 and, in August this year, two men were arrested after allegedly attacking three transgender influencers in Hollywood. The footage was posted on social media.

‘You deserve to be cherished’

Chiyo hopes his place in the Mr Gay England finals will break down some boundaries. But he believes for most trans people, just existing is enough to inspire change.

“To be trans and just exist no matter the time and the context is radical,” he says.

“You keep praying that the world’s gonna be nicer to you because, I don’t know, you’ve got a trans man competing in Mr Gay England now or something. But it’s not.”

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Trans people and allies marched through central London in 2019 in support of transgender rights

Even so, Chiyo hopes his success so far in the competition gives inspiration to other trans people. He wants them to know they “deserve the best”.

“You don’t just deserve to be a finalist in Mr Gay England, for example, – you deserve a crown.

“You deserve to be cherished and appreciated.”

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