Jenna Talackova Case Prompts Miss Universe to Allow Transgender Contestants

The Miss Universe pageant is changing its rules to allow transgender women to take part in all of its competitions starting in 2013.

Jenna Talackova shows her Canadian passport registering her as a woman. She was disqualified from the final stages of Miss Universe Canada as she was not a 'naturally born female'. Photo: Jkrocha/Flickr

Transgender beauty queen Jenna Talackovas public fight against disqualification from the Miss Universe Canada pageant has led to a landmark rule change that will allow transgender women in all competitions starting in 2013, according to Vancouver Observer.

Miss Universe pageant officials say they are working on the language of the official rule policy change but expect final word to come soon.

The change in the rule will have to be approved by Donald Trump, who runs the Miss Universe Organization, and NBC, that co-owns the contest.

Talackova, 23, a Vancouver resident, underwent a sex change four years ago after being born a male, tells The Huff Post.

The gay rights group GLAAD called on the Miss Universe Organization to review her case, as well as open the competition to transgender women, after she was disqualified from competing in the Miss Universe Canada contest next month.

Talackova was then reinstated to the competition last week by Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe organisation. Guardian writes that she has a Canadian passport, driver’s licence and other documents that identify her as a woman.

Talackova pleaded with the pageant’s leaders to drop the rule.

“I am a woman,” Talackova said last week. “I was devastated, and I felt that excluding me for the reason that they gave was unjust. I have never asked for any special consideration. I only wanted to compete.”

The change brings Miss Universe into line with other groups that have taken a stand against discrimination against transgender women, including the Olympics, the Girl Scouts of America and the TV show America’s Next Top Model.

“The Miss Universe Organization today follows institutions that have taken a stand against discrimination of transgender women including the Olympics, NCAA, the Girl Scouts of America and The CW’s America’s Next Top Model,” said GLAAD’s senior director of programs Herndon Graddick.

“At a time when transgender people are still routinely denied equal opportunities in housing, employment and medical care, today’s decision is in line with the growing levels of public support for transgender people across the country,” he said.

“Everybody should be allowed to participate in every aspect of society,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Absolutely it’s good news, it’s another pernicious structural discrimination barrier taken down.”

“We have a long history of supporting equality for all women and this was something we took very seriously,” said Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe organisation.

Reactions to the decision on social media were mostly positive, although a tweet reaction from Donald Trump’s official twitter account on LongTwit (allowing over 140 characters) suggested mixed feelings:

 “Jenna changed her name from Walter to Page and then to Jenna so that now her name is Jenna Talackova. If you take the first 3 letters from Talackova and add them to Jenna, it’s Jennatal (genital?). Is there something a little strange going on here? In any event, I have given the okay for her to compete in the Miss Universe Canada Pageant. It will be a wild evening with ticket sales through the roof–lots of interest!”

The Miss Universe Organization produces the pageant, as well as the Miss USA and the Miss Teen competitions. The Miss Universe pageant began in 1952 as a local “bathing beauty” contest, headed by California-based Catalina Swimwear, the site says.

Trials for next year’s Miss Universe pageant begin this summer.

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