Following the footsteps of the Olympics, NCAA and the Girls Scouts, the Miss Universe organization says it will allow transgender women to compete in its annual competition, after the recent dismissal of a transgender contestant in Canada.
TK STATEMENT HERE
It was only on March 23 when Jenna Talackova, a 23-year-old transgender woman, was disqualified from the Miss Universe Canada competition because she was assigned male at birth. The organization, a joint venture by Donald Trump and NBC Universal, stated that Talackova “did not meet the requirements to compete despite having stated otherwise on her entry form,” implying the statuesque beauty had falsified her forms, not specifying that she underwent gender reassignment surgery at age 19.
“I regard myself as a woman with a history,” Talackova said in a 2010 interview of identifying as female from age 4 and undergoing cross-hormone therapy at age 14 – a contrast to the organization’s undocumented, yet vocal, rule stating that “all contestants must be naturally born females.”
Following the announcement of her disqualification, supporters and transgender activists rallied around Talackova, citing unfair discrimination as the reason behind the hopeful’s exclusion. An online petition asking for the Miss Universe organization to reverse its decision garnered more than 41,500 signatures.
“I will look to turn this situation into a positive so that other people in a similar situation are not discriminated against in the future,” Talackova said of her controversial dismissal, adding that she was "overwhelmed" and "deeply moved" by the support.
A Move Towards InclusionThough the organization has yet to release the specifics on its updated framework of allowing transgender women into the competition, it is a historical move towards inclusion of transgender people, who are often discriminated against due to their gender identity. (In 34 states it is legal to fire someone based solely on their gender identity or expression).
TK QUOTE FROM SOURCE ON BENCH MARK OF INCLUSION. WHAT THIS MEANS?
The pageant’s inclusion follows a trend towards equality for transgender people. It was only last year when the NCAA announced a new policy allowing transgender student-athletes to compete during and after transition, following the Olympics 2004 policy enabling trans athletes to compete in the games.
Though this is a historical move for the Miss Universe pageant, Talackova is not the first trans woman to compete in a national beauty pageant. In January, Jackie Green, an 18-year-old from Leeds, U.K., made history for being the first transgender woman to enter the Miss England pageant.
“I felt and still feel that I deserve just as much a chance to compete as anyone else,” Green, who transitioned as a teenager, told the U.K.’s Pink News. “I am a woman (or a ‘Miss’ for the sake of the competition) and no one can tell me otherwise.”
Previously Talackova’s rep told PEOPLE: “The Miss Universe Pageant is about beauty, but it is also about values. We ask Mr. Trump, and the Miss Universe Pageant stakeholders, to be on the right side of history, and reconsider their decision to disqualify Jenna on the basis of not being a ‘naturally born female,’ and accept Jenna as the brave young woman she clearly is today.”