23-year-old veterinary student Iina Karinen was announced the winner of the 6th annual Miss Gay Finland pageant on Friday.
Karinen suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS), and her platform as an LGBTQ rights spokesperson includes highlighting issues of discrimination in Finnish health care. She says several doctors have refused to treat her in the past due to their attitude towards her sexual orientation.
Karinen is not alone with her experiences, and now as Miss Gay Finland she says she wants to take the issue to various hospital districts around the country.
"I also want to visit schools to discuss sexual and gender issues with students, as well as bullying," Karinen says, adding that she will be closely following the progress of the still unfulfilled reform to the "Trans Act" (Act on Legal Recognition of the Gender of Transsexuals).
People in Finland have to endure years of mental screening and eventual enforced sterilisation if they want to be recognised by the state as transgender. Amnesty International and other rights organisations have repeatedly scolded Finland for this and other failings in gender rights.
Finland "mostly equal"
According to the Miss Gay Finland judges' panel Karinen is quick-witted, lively and easy to approach. The panel also justified their choice by saying Karinen has realistic expectations for the future and is keen to learn more.
Miss Gay Finland Karinen says she thinks Finland is "mostly equal" – although there are numerous problems, issues of equality have also taken strides.
"Fortunately legislative steps such as the gender-neutral Marriage Act have engendered lots of talk on social media about the sexual spectrum. I certainly hope we're moving forward!"
Miss Gay Finland is a title held for one year at a time. The winner acts as a good will ambassador and a role model for Finnish sexual and gender minorities.
The panel of judges included cultural multi-talent and TV contestant Miisa Nuorgam, artist and art director of the Ruskeat Tytöt anti-racism portal Caroline Suinner, Hetero of the Year 2016 (of the former QX Gay Gala) Juho Pylvänäinen, Mr. Gay Finland 2016 Marko Fali, chair Panda Eriksson of transgender rights association Trasek, as well as the Miss Gay Finland competition founder Kristiina Puukko.