Trans woman disqualified from Miss Universe Canada

Jenna TalackovaI am not exactly a fan of beauty pageants or Donald Trump, who owns Miss Universe. But I’m also not a fan of discrimination.

Jenna Talackova was a finalist for Miss Universe Canada until she was disqualified Friday because she is transgender. Talackova’s trans status wasn’t a secret – she competed in Miss International Queen, a trans beauty pageant in Thailand. But her gender history became a topic of blog chatter last week, which led to her disqualification:

National director of Miss Universe Canada Denis Davila told the Toronto Star that while they consider Talackova to be a “real girl,” Miss Universe rules stipulate that contestants must be a “naturally born female.”

Huh? I don’t see how a requirement someone be assigned female at birth could not be about undermining Talackova’s female-ness. The fact is, trans women are women. If there’s a contest for women, we should be allowed to participate.

As I argued when Rima Fakih won Miss USA, representation matters. Seeing a trans woman included in a pageant, one of the most normative displays of gender policing, would certainly have an impact in terms of including trans women in the broader group “women.” We can both have a problem with a sexist, objectifying beauty pageant and with the fact that a trans woman is being excluded.

I have to say I am enjoying the fact that a trans woman made it this far through a contest to see who has the most ideal female body. This certainly flies in the face of a lot of assumptions about trans women, like that you can identify us by sight and that we’re all “ugly.” Talackova is doing a great job of matching the normative ideal of feminine beauty (as much as I’m not a fan of this ideal or how it’s valued).

Here’s where you can contact Miss Universe Canada to let them know how you feel about discrimination.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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