Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Canadian Beauty


Recently I came across the unique story of Jenna Talackova. The 23-year old Canadian beauty pageant contestant was a finalist to represent Canada in the Miss Universe competition until she was disqualified by officials for violating the bylaws. What rules did she break you might ask? Did she lie about her marital status? Was she photographed snorting cocaine off the ticket counter at a Dave & Busters? Quite the contrary, Miss Talackova was removed because she was born a man.

Although Jenna has identified herself as female since age 4, began hormone therapy at 14, and had gender reassignment surgery at 19; officials insist that she is in violation of the most fundamental requirement of the event: being a woman. In response to her disqualification, Talackova hired an attorney and has demanded that the Miss Universe organization supersede regional stipulations and let everyone compete regardless of their gender at birth.

Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe Pageant, has responded that as long as she can satisfy local Canadian parameters to compete he would not prevent her from representing Canada were she to win. Whether or not she is in violation of local rules remains hazy since her Canadian birth certificate, driver’s license, and passport all list her as female, but she is accused of lying on her entry form when identifying herself as such. If anything, her androgyny was not exactly a well-kept secret since she openly competed in the largest international transgender beauty pageant in the world prior to competing for Miss Universe.

The situation is a complicated one since the general idea of having rules is to insure the competition unfolds on a level playing field. With that in mind, I am not sure anyone would argue that being born with a penis is an unfair advantage in an internationally-televised female beauty pageant. If anything, the extra equipment would make you the underdog. And, since the Miss Universe pageant allows contestants who have undergone cosmetic procedures, they certainly cannot disqualify her for any surgical “enhancements.”

Even from a legal standpoint they are on shaky ground since all her government issued identification lists her as a female. While I am on the subject, how exactly does one go about having their birth certificate revised?  Is that like a change of address form in Canada or are they legally obligated to wait several years to make the final call on gender? I thought the entire purpose of birth certificates was to provide an iron-clad legal record of a human entering the world.  

Superficially speaking, I doubt many would argue Jenna made the wrong call in adolescence. What I am saying is that if you were to place Jenna in a lineup with Ke$ha, Jillian Michaels, and Skid Row-era Sebastian Bach and ask, “Can you identify which ones are rocking a Y chromosome?” I doubt she would be either of your first two guesses. In a competition where participants are allowed unlimited surgical enhancements, I do not see the harm in letting Jenna compete. After all, if she got through the swimsuit competition without anyone questioning her pedigree there must be something to her claims of genetic femininity.
More than anything, I am thankful every time the media reminds me that Donald Trump owns the Miss Universe pageant. I can think of no one more qualified to oversee a competition designed to showcase the delicate mystique of today’s modern woman than the man who complimented his daughter on national TV by saying, “She does have a very nice figure. I've said if Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her.” While Mr. Trump’s spokesmen later insisted he was joking, Ivanka may want to make sure nothing gets changed on her birth certificate….

1 comment:

  1. Hmm, I'm with you here except that as you note she competed in an "international transgender beauty pageant." I suppose my one problem here is that if she wishes to be viewed as a pure female then it seems inconsistent to take on the mantle of "transgendered". By doing such she is actually placing herself in another category separate from "male" and "female". I guess my point is that saying one is both transgendered and a 100% female is contradictory.It seems to me, to use a very much worn out platitude, that Ivanka wishes to have her cake and eat it too.

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