Sex change might not bar beauty queen

2012-04-03 07:12

The Miss Universe Organisation has announced that it might reverse an earlier decision and allow a transgender woman to enter the Miss Universe Canada pageant.

Jenna Talackova (23) was born male, leading organisers to disqualify her last month as a finalist in the 61st Miss Universe Canada pageant to be staged next month.

The rules of the contest – run by businessman Donald Trump’s New York City-based organisation – say entrants must be “naturally born” females. The Vancouver woman underwent a sex change four years ago.

But shortly after Talackova announced today to a news conference in Los Angeles, the US, sitting next to high-profile lawyer Gloria Allred, the New York-based Miss Universe Organisation said in a statement on the Miss Universe Canada website that Talackova can compete “provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions”.

The statement did not elaborate and messages seeking clarification from Miss Universe organisers were not immediately returned.

The disqualification won Talackova widespread sympathy and raised the question of whether the pageant has the right to decide who is female.

Her change of gender was hardly a secret before the event because she had competed in the 2010 Tiffany Miss International Queen Competition for transgendered and transsexual women in Pattaya, Thailand.

In a video interview for that pageant, she said she had lived her life as a female since age four, began hormone therapy at 14 and changed sex at 19.

“I regard myself as a woman with a history,” she said.

Connie McNaughton, the 1984 Miss World Canada and first runner-up for the world crown, had called the decision outdated and discriminatory.

Professor Patrizia Gentile of Ottawa’s Carleton University, who did a dissertation on beauty pageants, equated the ban to the exclusion of blacks and Jews from pageants in earlier times.

From the conservative side of Canadian society, Gwen Landolt, national vice-president of Real Women of Canada, said the pageant was simply being realistic in barring Talackova.

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