The Miss Universe Organization okays the transgender contestant, but will she participate?

By Stephen M. Silverman
April 02, 2012 09:50 PM

Reversing its position of last week, when it denied transgender contestant Jenna Talackova from competing, organizers of the Miss Universe pageant have now said she may walk down its runway, with certain provisos.

And it still remains to be seen if she will.

“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,” Michael D. Cohen, executive vice president and special counsel to Donald Trump, who owns the competition, said in an e-mailed statement Monday evening.

The turnaround comes shortly after Talackova and her attorney, Gloria Allred, announced a scheduled press conference for Tuesday.

A press release for the gathering 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.”

Neither Talackova nor Allred have commented since the Miss Universe decision has been reversed. It is expected that Talackova’s participation in the pageant will be addressed at the press conference.

A source tells PEOPLE that the Miss Universe Organization “is extending invitation/waiver to Jenna, and they’re working on full inclusion for future contestants for 2013.” The source adds that Talackova “has not returned any calls or emails and has not said if she’ll compete.”

A Vancouver resident, Talackova, 23, was born male but has identified as a female since age 4. She began hormone therapy at 14 and underwent gender reassignment surgery at 19.

After news of her disqualification broke last week, she was overwhelmed by the support she received, especially on social media sites.

Herndon Graddick, a spokesperson for GLAAD, the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, said 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.”

He added: “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.”

Reporting by JANET MOCK