The Miss Universe Canada pageant has disqualified Jenna Talackova, a transgender woman, from the competition. They say the rules state contestants must be “naturally born female” and that she was disqualified for lying on her application and breaking the rules.
But is it wrong to break a rule that exists solely for the purpose of discriminating against trans women? The 24-year-old Talackova has lived as a woman for at least a decade, and says she’s known she was female since the age of 4. She has undergone hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery. For all intents and purposes, she’s physically and mentally a woman.
Jilian Page of the Montreal Gazette asks: when is it appropriate to ask trans women to disclose their medical history? When applying for a job? When participating in a private event? Is it discrimination for an organization to even ask? These are interesting questions, and Page doesn’t seem to be sure of the appropriate answers.
Mara Keisling of the US-based National Center for Transgender Equality was more direct in her response to Miss Universe Canada. She told QMI Agency in an interview:
“It’s straightforward. They made a decision that they want to discriminate against transgender women,” Keisling said shortly after stepping off a plane in Charlotte, NC. “More and more people understand this person is a woman. There’s nothing about her that should disqualify her.”
Keisling added that “From what I’ve read, it doesn’t sound like they had any rules. It seems like they made them up on the fly to disqualify her.”
“It makes you wonder what they’re afraid of.”
Miss Universe Canada insists that there are no hard feelings, going so far as to post a statement on its website stating, “Jenna Talackova from Vancouver, British Columbia, will not compete in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada competition because 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.”
No word yet on whether Ms. Talackova feels the respect or not. She’s refraining from issuing any statements from the press until she can consult with her lawyer. Maybe that means she’s looking at the possibility of legal action against the competition for discrimination?
Photo credit: Jorge Mejía