Jenna Talackova, the Miss Universe Canada contestant who was disqualified last week from competing in the pageant because she is transgender, fired back at the pageant’s organizers, including its owner, Donald Trump, at a press conference Tuesday.
First her attorney, Gloria Allred, criticized Trump’s handling of the situation.
“Jenna entered this competition and gave the pageant her time, her best efforts and her money,” Allred said. “She did not think for one moment that what she might have looked like at birth would be relevant. She did not ask Mr. Trump to prove that he is a naturally-born man, or to see the photos of his birth, to view his anatomy, to prove that he was male. It made no difference to her. Why should it have made a difference to him?”
The pageant’s organizers reversed their earlier decision on Monday, and issued a statement announcing that Talackova, 23, would be able to compete. She did not, however, confirm during the press conference whether she would actually be participating.
Rather, Allred said, the organization’s actions did not go far enough, and she implied that Talackova is considering suing the pageant.
“Mr. Trump’s statement fails to state that the rule that only naturally-born women will be allowed to compete will be eliminated,” Allred said. “Otherwise, we are considering all of Jenna’s legal options.”
Talackova was born male but has identified as female since the age of 4. She began hormone therapy at 14 and underwent gender reassignment surgery at age 19.
Describing herself as “overwhelmed” by the support she received in the wake of her removal from the pageant, Talackova spoke about the chain of events after Allred’s statement Tuesday.
“When I was selected as a finalist, I was thrilled. I had always dreamed of being in the Miss Universe competition, and having an opportunity to represent my country, Canada,” she said, adding that she felt “devastated” after being told by pageant officials she could not compete because she was not “naturally born” a woman. “The reason that they gave was unjust.”
“I have never asked for any special consideration. I only wanted to compete,” Talackova continued. “I wish Mr. Trump would just say, in plain words, whether or not I will be allowed to compete and, if I win, whether I will be allowed to represent Canada in the Miss Universe competition.”
• With reporting by JANET MOCK