In a decision that’s igniting fierce debate, the Miss Maryland USA beauty pageant recently crowned its first transgender winner, Bailey Anne Kennedy. This historic moment has stirred a whirlwind of reactions, highlighting the ongoing cultural clash over the inclusion of transgender individuals in spaces traditionally reserved for biological women.

Kennedy, who will represent Maryland at the Miss USA pageant in Los Angeles later this summer, also holds the distinction of being the first military officer’s spouse to win the title. Reflecting on the achievement, Kennedy told WDCW, “It’s been a whirlwind because I knew it was bigger than me.” She added, “This victory is for all the LGBTQ kids out there who might feel like they don’t belong in a box—just like me growing up.”

On social media, Kennedy shared, “For the longest time, I never had the need to tell anyone. Not because it’s a secret but it’s none of anyone’s business. To those who matter to me, they don’t care. Those that care about knowing such private & personal details, don’t matter.”

Despite her historic win, Kennedy’s crowning has faced substantial backlash, particularly from conservative circles. Many argue that beauty pageants should remain exclusive to biological women, reflecting a broader societal debate on gender identity and the integrity of women’s spaces.

A popular conservative account, Libs of TikTok, criticized the decision on X (formerly Twitter), stating, “Bailey Anne is a male who just won Miss Maryland while pretending to be a woman. It’s hard to feel bad for the women when they just watch and clap… Women, stand up and speak out!! Do not let your spaces and titles be taken over by men!”

Conservative activist Oli London echoed these sentiments, also on X, saying, “MAN crowned Miss Maryland USA. Transgender male Bailey Anne has beaten dozens of women to win the prestigious women’s pageant title. Upon winning the title, Anne declared: ‘Not everyone has to agree with the spaces that you occupy, and it doesn’t mean that you aren’t worthy of these opportunities.’”

The Miss Maryland USA organization has welcomed the inclusion of transgender participants for over a decade. A spokesperson told Newsweek, “Since 2012, trans women have been welcomed into our organization. Additionally, as of 2023, the organization invited all adult women of any age, marital, and family status. As an organization, we fully support our Miss Maryland USA 2024, Bailey Anne. Every person has the right to live authentically and pursue every opportunity, and we believe Bailey Anne embodies these values. She is brave, resilient, and committed to her truth, all attributes that make her an excellent state representative.”

The statement continued, “While change is always met with adversity, the support Bailey Anne and the Miss Maryland USA organization is receiving does not go unnoticed. We see Bailey’s win as a win for everyone who dreamed the impossible dream.”

This decision has prompted a significant conversation about the future of gender-specific competitions and the impact on traditional female roles. As the nation continues to grapple with these evolving norms, the controversy surrounding Bailey Anne Kennedy’s victory is sure to remain a hot topic in the months to come.