With newly inclusive pageant rules, transgender women can now aspire to the Miss Universe crown. The Miss Universe Organization announced Tuesday that it will allow contestants who were not born as women to compete for the title, after 23-year-old Miss Canada Jenna Talackova pleaded with pageant officials to reconsider her initial disqualification.
Talackova had begun hormone treatments at 14 and underwent a sex reassignment surgery four years ago. She won the Miss Canada competition, but she was disqualified when pageant officials discovered her history. Talackova, who was represented by celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, appealed to Donald Trump, the owner of the Miss Universe Organization, and he wished her luck.
“I am a woman,” Talackova said last week to the Associated Press. “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.”
Contest officials worked with GLAAD to revise the policy.
Miss Universe has always been a more permissive pageant system than Miss America, where some feeder pageants for each state specify that contestants must be born a woman. Miss Universe is also more permissive about plastic surgery for its contestants, with Miss America not banning it outright, but preferring a more “wholesome” look.
The move to allow transgender contestants is also smart PR for pageants and shows consideration for their audiences. Though pageant audiences have dwindled over the years, the gay community has always been among pageant supporters — something that Miss California 2009, Carrie Prejean, learned the hard way when she spoke up against gay marriage during the Miss USA pageant and was met with criticism.