FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL: Miss Maryland USA professes to celebrate both the beauty and confidence of young women, promising a “fair environment in which young women have the opportunity to develop skills that will help them win in life by being their personal best in everything they do.”

But on June 1, when the beauty pageant crowned a man the winner of Miss Maryland USA, a number of the contestants felt that they had not been granted that fair and supportive environment they were promised.

The male winner goes by the name Bailey Anne Kennedy and identifies as a transgender woman. The day that he was crowned Miss Maryland USA was also the first day of Pride Month—a fact that was not lost on the contestants.

“I was shocked,” one contestant told The Daily Signal as she described how she found out that she was competing against a man. This contestant, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her privacy, will be identified as Contestant A. “I had mixed feelings. I started to think that the winner might be predetermined.”

“A transgender woman gets crowned during first day of transgender Pride Month?” she asked. “It did not seem like a coincidence. Especially when owner of the pageant is a transgender woman herself. I was feeling like neither myself nor my fellow contestants had a fair opportunity from the beginning.”

Kennedy will now go on to compete for the title of Miss USA in Los Angeles in August. The 31-year-old beauty pageant contestant, who would reportedly be the oldest Miss USA winner in pageant history if he won, is married to Marine Corps officer Casey Guthrie.

Kennedy describes himself as a military wife. Immediately after winning the Miss Maryland contest, Kennedy marched in the Capitol Pride Parade in Washington, D.C.

Screenshot, Miss Maryland USA, Instagram.

“To be able to be in this position and be able to make an impact on my community, especially with the LGBTQIA community, military spouses, and immigrant women—to be able to make such an impact,” Kennedy told ABC News this week. “I think that’s just something that I could never dream up, and it’s such an honor to be here.”

This year, Miss Maryland USA removed multiple requirements for the contest and now allows women who are over the age of 28 and women who are married to compete. And it is not lost on Kennedy that his win is breaking with former precedent for the contest.

“To win the whole thing, I knew it was bigger than me,” Kennedy told ABC. “I knew that ultimately, this will mean something more to my community, the LGBTQIA community and military spouses and immigrant girls. Hopefully, this will send out a message to everybody, and it will be a delicious invitation for people to just be themselves and to forge their own path, even if they can’t see.”

Kennedy did not respond to requests for comment. Reached by Instagram direct message, the male beauty contestant blocked The Daily Signal. Miss USA similarly did not respond to a number of requests for comment.

The Daily Signal reviewed a copy of the 2024 Miss Maryland USA Contestant Agreement, which specifically asks contestants to verify that they are biologically female. If a contestant is not a woman but is a man, such as in Kennedy’s case, that contestant would have to provide proof that he’s legally recognized by the government as a woman—and maybe even that he had undergone so-called transgender surgeries and hormones.

“I attest that I am a female, recognized legally and medically as such in the United States,” the agreement states. “If your sex designated at birth was not female, [you] must be able to provide legal and governmental recognition of [your] assigned sex as female by the U.S. federal government or [your] U.S. state of residence (which may include, if requested by us, any certification that [you have] fully completed sex reassignment required by your state and/or provided by a physician).”

A former state-level contestant within the Miss Universe organization who spoke with The Daily Signal about the matter expressed that she was very concerned that a man was allowed to not only compete in and win the competition, but also to share women’s spaces while some of these women were completely unaware of his actual sex.

“We need transparency and consent to protect women-led spaces, especially those that involve minor teen contestants,” said the former contestant, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her privacy.

“Unless things have changed from when I competed, contestants share changing rooms and bedrooms,” she added. “Parents (and all contestants) have the right to know of biological male individuals occupying their female children’s private spaces, including shared changing rooms and hotel rooms. Further, organizations must not impose political agendas that undermine the hard work, finances, and dedication of contestants.”

A Man … or a Woman?

Multiple female contestants who spoke with The Daily Signal said they were not sure if Kennedy was a man or a woman until after the competition had finished and he had been declared Miss Maryland USA.

This is likely due to the fact that Kennedy does, very convincingly, look like a female beauty queen. Photographs of the male contestant show that Kennedy is toned, leggy, and slim, with long black hair and accentuated cleavage. Several of the women who spoke to The Daily Signal indicated that Kennedy looks more masculine in person and that his online photographs depict him as more feminine than he is in real life.

“I first realized I competed with a biological man a few days after the competition,” said contestant Elizabeth McCarthy. “I saw it on the Miss Maryland USA Instagram post. At first, I was shocked. I felt sick to my stomach and was so upset for the other women in the top five. I was disgusted and disappointed that the pageant coordinators allowed women to undress in front of a man without any disclosure.”

“I just don’t understand what happened to embracing your TRUE self,” she added. “The self that God made perfectly in His image. I don’t understand what happened to loving ourselves for who we ARE, not how we WANT to be. I feel absolutely terrible that society pushes us to change who we are. It’s not fair, kind, or loving.”

A third contestant, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her privacy and will be identified as Contestant B, said that she felt betrayed by the way the contest was handled.

“I felt lied to,” she shared. “I would’ve liked to know ahead of time, as I was subject to change, utilize the bathroom, and be in the same space as a biological man … it surely seemed like the organization and Bailey was trying to hide this fact until it was convenient to them.”

A third Miss Maryland contestant, who will be identified as Contestant C, stressed that she is “not against the LGBTQ community” and believes that individuals who identity as LGBTQ have “rights just like every individual.”

“However, I do believe the competition was rigged,” she shared. “There isn’t a doubt in my mind that it was not. For example, I think in previous years, the pageant secured different judges … I think they were changed. In addition, the staff were not respectful nor pleasant. I completely understand that this is a pageant and it is fast paced, but there is a certain respect that individuals should provide, especially since we are all grown women who can take direction and listen.”

“I believe it is disheartening to have so many women pay for coaches, hair and makeup, and find sponsors when they already knew who they were going to select,” Contestant C added.

Contestant B also pointed out that Kennedy is a self-described “stay-at-home wife with no kids.” Given that the Miss Maryland USA contest awards women not only for beauty but for hard work and professional success, Contestant B found it odd that Kennedy would win without a job or a family.

“I met a lot of women who were moguls in business, philanthropy, and more. But Bailey ended up winning without a job or being in school,” the contestant stressed. “How does that showcase or inspire women/young women that they can do anything?”

A Pride Month Win

Several of the women that The Daily Signal spoke with believe that Kennedy’s win was attached to his transgender identification, noting that he won the pageant on June 1, the very first day of Pride Month.

“It was Pride Week when she won, so I would assume it was to show that the pageant community does not discriminate,” Contestant C said.

“I feel Kennedy won this competition because it was set up,” McCarthy told The Daily Signal. “What are the odds that a trans-identifying individual wins the Miss Maryland USA title on the first day of Pride Month? I feel that men are taking over everything that women worked so hard for.”

“I believe Kennedy won this title solely based on her status of being transgender and the first transgender to win Miss Maryland, especially it being the first day of Pride Month,” Contestant B argued.

“This organization wanted to check all of its diversity and different boxes, so instead of selecting the most qualified, they selected what would make them stand out to the new organization owner, who is also transgender,” she added, arguing, “This space is less about women supporting women and more about how many boxes we can check.”

All of the female contestants who spoke with The Daily Signal said that they wished Miss Maryland USA would have been truthful in acknowledging why they selected Kennedy as the winner, and they argued that Miss Maryland USA owes the 2024 contestants a “public apology.”

Screenshot, Miss Maryland USA Instagram.

McCarthy even suggested that Miss Maryland USA replace Kennedy with the first runner-up, Terra Johns. Johns, who did not return The Daily Signal’s request for comment, supported Kennedy publicly in an Instagram post and said she was “honored” to have the “opportunity” to watch Kennedy make history.

“You’re going to Miss USA, and I can’t wait to cheer you on!” she wrote. But in the same caption, the beauty pageant contestant and first runner-up also discussed the important of God’s plan for her life, hinting at disappointment.

“This is not rejection, it’s redirection,” she wrote. “God always has a plan, and I haven’t lost sight of that. I trust Him and I know that my best days lie ahead of me. As my best friend so eloquently reminded me before competition weekend, the true glory is in the process of becoming. Here’s to the beautiful unknown and to steppingstones of elevation. The work doesn’t stop here.”

Given that many of the contestants poured huge sums of money into their outfits, makeup, and hair, the women would like to see some kind of monetary compensation as well an apology.

“It’s expensive,” said one woman, “and they already had [picked] a winner.”

“I hope that they give all of the women their money back,” added another contestant. “Pageant life is big money, and I cannot imagine how much money they obtained from us. I believe that the Miss Maryland pageant should have held a separate pageant for transgender individuals where they can compete and go onto to become Miss USA if they would like to do so.”