Jenna Talackova, Transgender Beauty Queen, Allowed To Compete In Miss Universe Canada [PHOTOS]
Jenna Talackova, the transgender beauty queen who became the face of a social movement for equality when she was kicked out of the Miss Universe Canada beauty pageant because she was born a male, can now compete in the Miss Universe Canada competition after all.
Jenna Talackova, 23, was born a male but has lived her life as a female since starting hormone therapy at the age of 14. She always felt innately female and, when she was 19-years-old, underwent gender reassignment surgery. Although she checked off "female" on her Miss Universe Canada registry form, the organization questioned her "natural born" sex and ultimately disqualified her from the competition.
"She did not meet the requirements to compete despite having stated otherwise on her entry form. We do, however, respect her goals, determination and wish her the best," said a statement released by the Miss Universe Canada organization, a Donald Trump-owned beauty pageant.
However, Donald Trump's representatives emailed ABC News to say that Jenna Talackova could compete in the Miss Universe Canada competition.
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"The Miss Universe Organization will allow Jenna Talackova to compete in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada pageant provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions," wrote Michael D. Cohen, executive vice president and special counsel to Donald Trump, in an email.
The most recent news came after Talackova and her attorney, Gloria Allred, announced a scheduled press conference for Tuesday to discuss her disqualification from the Miss Universe Canada pageant. The six-foot, one-inch leggy blonde beauty had made it to the Miss Vancouver finals before she was ousted from the competition, according to the Daily Mail.
A press release for the gathering, obtained by People magazine, said, "Ms. Allred will discuss why Jenna should be permitted to compete and what action she plans to take in the United States on behalf of Ms. Talackova if the Miss Universe Pageant refuses to change its discriminatory rule."
Many rallied behind Jenna Talackova and fought back against the injustice she faced as a transgender individual.
A change.org petition, created by a man from Brooklyn, NY, has already garnered over 40,000 signatures in support of Jenna Talackova competing in the contest. "She is a woman and deserves to be treated as any other woman would be," the petition reads. "What kind of genitals she was or was not born with (and even what kind of genitals she has today) is completely irrelevant." The petition also cites an obvious loophole in the rules, "There is no mention of rules regarding sex changes or cosmetic surgery."
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) also released a statement on behalf of Ms. Talackova.
Herndon Graddick, a spokesperson for GLAAD, said on Monday night: "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," according to People magazine.
Adding: "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."
Jenna Talackova is not the only beauty queen who has faced elimination from a pageant for being transgender.
Chen Lili, a transgender singer, model and actress from China, gained fame in 2004 when she attempted to compete in the Miss Universe China pageant. Although it had been stated that she could compete, her spot was revoked because she was not a "natural female," having been born a male.
Even though she was disqualified from competing, the transgender beauty queen still stole the show. "Chen seemed to outshine all the 37 beauty queen contestants on the stage," China Daily reported in 2004. She enchanted the audience with her orange bikini, brunette wig and charming personality. Although she did not compete, she was allowed to perform a song at the 2004 ceremony.
She told the audience that she "cherished the opportunity to perform here as it means so much to finally stand on this stage."
In late 2004, Chen competed in China's first Miss Artificial Beauty pageant, according to information from Wikipedia. She finished as second runner-up. Lili later went on to flourish in her singing and acting career.
The issue hit national television when Chaz Bono was cast in Season 13 of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." Although LGBT advocates were excited about Bono's inclusion others had more hateful words.
The message boards on ABC clogged with backlash and angry comments. "I do not hate Chaz as a person. I just resent the media shoving so much of anyone's personal life choices down our throats. I guess due to ABC's choices, I will kiss this show good-bye too. I wish Chaz well, just as I would anyone else who makes lifestyle decisions that I disagree with (whatever they may be)," one user wrote ont he message boards.
"This show has completely lost a viewer(s). I am DISGUSTED that you would have Chaz Bono on there. He/she can live however he/she would like to live, but do we need to flaunt it for ratings? Really? I hope your ratings sink as low as you have sunk in having Chaz on there," another person commented.
The uproar of hateful backlash caused Bono's mother, Cher, to respond harshly on Twitter. "lovelies! Chaz is Being Viciously Attacked on Blogs & Message boards about being on DWTS!This is Still America right ? It took guts 2 do it," she tweeted on Aug. 31. "Bet VAST MAJORITY of People will LOVE CHAZ on DWTS ! ... Chaz isn't exactly the 'Gotta Dance Gotta Dance' kinda Guy."
Jenna Talackova's struggle reveals continued subjugation of the transgender community even in the most progressive of countries. The difference between "sex" and "gender" continues to incite heated debate from proponents of both sides. However, at times, essential human rights are sacrificed when one is pigeonholed and burdened with the harrowing stereotypes of a socially constructed label.
Leslie Feinberg, a transgender author, covers the complexities of "man" versus "woman" in the book "Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman."
"'Are you a guy or a girl?' I've heard the question all my life," writes Feinberg. "The answer is not so simple, since there are no pronouns in the English language as complex as I am, and I do not want to simplify myself in order to neatly fit one or the other.
"There are millions more like me in the United States alone. We have a history filled with militant hero/ines. Yet therein lies the rub! How can I tell you about their battles when the words woman and man, feminine andmasculine, are almost the only words that exist in the English language to describe all the vicissitudes of bodies and styles of expression?"
Other transgender models have faced similar hardships as Talackova, but have gone on to enjoy great success.
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