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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 6, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 14
Miss Universe Pageant OKs Trans contestant
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Miss Universe Pageant OKs Trans contestant

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Less than a week after rejecting a Transgender contestant, the Miss Universe Organization decided that the woman may compete in the 2012 pageant after all.

Jenna Talackova says she has identified as a woman since age 4. 'Since I was conscious I always felt this way,' she told the Vancouver Sun newspaper.

She began hormone therapy at 14, and underwent gender reassignment surgery at 19. She is now 23.

Talackova, a Canadian citizen, has a passport, driver's license, and birth certificate that all identify her as a woman.

In a 2010 interview for Thailand's Miss International Queen, a pageant for Trans women, Talackova was asked whether she regards herself as Transgender or as a woman.

'I regard myself as a woman - with a history,' she said.

Talackova was disqualified from the Miss Universe Canada competition on March 30, after being selected as one of 65 finalists.

Pageant organizers accused her of having 'falsified her application when she said she was born female,' adding that the Miss Universe Organization 'has rules which apply to all of its franchises around the world.'

According to The Province newspaper, pageant officials previously made 'no mention of rules regarding sex changes.'

'I am very disappointed with the decision taken by the Miss Universe ... organizers,' Talackova said in a statement released April 2. 'However, I will look to turn this situation into a positive so that other people in a similar situation are not discriminated against in the future.'

The next day, Talackova appeared at a press conference with Los Angeles-based attorney Gloria Allred, a high-profile legal advocate for women's causes, demanding to be allowed back into the contest.

'I am a woman. I was devastated and I felt that excluding me for the reason that they gave was unjust,' Talackova said in a statement she read to reporters.

She and Allred also called for the Miss Universe organization to reverse its requirement that contestants be 'naturally born' women. Allred called it 'an antiquated rule grounded in prejudice, fear, and stereotypes.'

'It isn't just about her being able to compete,' Allred said. 'Jenna is standing up for others as well as herself. She doesn't want this type of discrimination to be faced by anyone else.'

At that point, Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe brand, reportedly intervened.

'As long as she meets the standards of legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, which we understand that she does, Jenna Talackova is free to compete in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada pageant,' said Michael Cohen, special counsel to Trump and executive vice president of his business group.

According to Cohen, the Miss Universe Organization decided that as long as Talackova is a woman under Canadian law, she is a woman for the purposes of the Miss Universe pageant.

'Nobody is capitulating. Rather the Miss Universe organization is respecting the laws of Canada,' Cohen told Reuters news service.

Talackova, 'like all the other contestants, is wished the best of luck by Mr. Trump,' Cohen added.

Cohen would not commit to eliminating the 'naturally born female' rule, however.

'At this point in time, the Miss Universe Organization, along with its counsel, is taking this issue under advisement,' he said.

According to People magazine, a source within the Miss Universe Organization said the pageant 'is extending an invitation/waiver to Jenna, and they're working on full inclusion for future contestants for 2013.'

The source added that Talackova 'has not returned any calls or emails and has not said if she'll compete.'

Assuming she does, she will be allowed to move on to the televised final if she wins the Canadian title.

'If [Talackova] were to win the [Canadian] title, she would move on to the global telecast,' Miss Universe spokesperson Brenda Mendoza told People.

Herndon Graddick, a spokesperson for GLAAD, said the Miss Universe pageant had made the right decision.

'The Miss Universe Organization made the right decision and has taken an important first step. Now, GLAAD urges the Organization to include all women and use this incident to speak out in support of the Transgender community,' he said in a statement issued April 3.

'So many women today do not have equal opportunities for employment, housing, and safety simply because they are Transgender. The Miss Universe Organization should look to state non-discrimination laws and institutions including the Olympics, NCAA, and The CW's America's Next Top Model, which do not discriminate against Transgender women.'

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