It's one of those news stories that just isn't going away, with just enough salaciousness to keep the audience coming back for more.
In the stage-managed world of beauty pageants, hair colouring is essential, learning to walk goes without saying and contestants often undergo cosmetic surgery without batting an eye.Jenna Talackova was disqualified in March after officials discovered that she was transgender...contrary, they said, to the rules which stated that participants had to be "naturally born women".
Yet revelations that a 23-year-old from Vancouver vying for the Miss Universe Canada title went under the knife for sex reassignment has ignited a debate about the contests that's more than skin deep.
Former Miss World Canada (1984) Connie McNaughton, who also ran the Miss World Canada contest from 2003 to 2008, had this to say about that rule:
I think it's outdated and I think that as a society we're evolving.Local officials were in a bind. Even if they allow Talackova to compete, they were in danger of her being disqualified at the next round because all rules come from the top: the Donald Trump-owned Miss Universe organization.
There are certain countries who cosmetically, surgically, have their girls go and have updates. So (how different is it) if you've augmented your gender because in your heart and soul, you believe yourself to be a woman?
This would never be a win-win situation.
There's going to be parents of other girls who are not going to be happy if their daughters are beaten out by this person.An online petition for Jenna's reinstatement gathered 35,000 signatures. After reporting that she was seeking legal advise, Talackova has been relatively quiet.
Human rights laws do apply to beauty pageants.Lahey pointed out that the concept of "natural born woman" does not exist in law. She says that the public needs to delve in to what it means to be female. Beauty contests are an entertainment production in which "legally classified" women are asked to perform to an artificial standard.
What we're seeing is yet another enactment of violation of basic human rights on the basis of a person's sexual identity and gender identity.
--Law Professor Kathleen Lahey, Queen's University, who specializes in gender issues
That does not really exist without a great deal of, take your pick: bleaching, hair removal, hair enhancement, body-size alteration, physical presentation, skin colouration, muscle toning, ways of walking, you name it.Scientific research has shown that gender exists on a very wide spectrum according to Becki Ross, chair of women's and gender studies at the University of British Columbia.
If the organizers were being honest, they would recognize that this particular competitor was perhaps one of their most brilliant competitors ever to make it into the finals having performed the female gender so very well.
There's an opportunity to do radical consciousness raising and education and to learn from Jenna and other women who are having the courage to go out there.Talackova hired attorney Gloria Allred, who has represented Amber Frey in the Scott Peterson case, 11-year old Katrina Yeaw when she sued the Boy Scouts for practicing apartheid, Sav-On Drugstore for having separate boys and girls toy sections, and Nicole Brown's family during the O.J. Simpson trial, among other high-profile cases.
On Monday the organization made a decision to allow Jenna back into the competition provided she could jump through some legal hoops.
...provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions.On Tuesday Jenna and her attorney urged the organization to clarify its rules if they are being changed.
I am a woman. I was devastated, and I felt that excluding me for the reason that they gave was unjust. I have never asked for any special consideration. I only wanted to compete.
I do not want any other woman to suffer the discrimination that I have endured.
[Jenna] didn't ask Mr. Trump to prove he's a naturally born man, or see photos of his birth, or to view his anatomy ... It made no difference to her. Why should it have made a difference to him?The Donald just couldn't let that sit. Nor would he apologize for the humiliation Jenna had gone through. Appearing on Good Morning America Wednesday morning, he had this:
I think Jenna should focus on running up in Canada and seeing how she does in Canada and then, if she does well, she has a chance to become what many, many young women all over the world want to be and that's Miss Universe.But later TMZ claims he felt the need to add this:
I think Gloria would be very very impressed with [my penis].Please God let's hope there are no pictures to be tweeted.