Transgender women will be allowed to participate in the Miss Universe beauty pageant next year if the recently proposed rule allowing them to take part will be approved by NBC and Donald Trump, co-owners of the contest. The announcement of the policy change comes a week after the organization decided to allow Jenna Talackova to compete for Canada’s spot in the Miss Universe pageant this year.
Talackova was born a male and underwent a sex change surgery several years ago. She was disqualified from competing in the Miss Universe Canada this year and an advocacy group, GLAAD, asked the Miss Universe Organization to review her case. The current rule specifies that contestants in the pageant have to be “naturally born” a woman.
Jenna Talackova said “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”.
Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization said that “we want to give credit where credit is due, and the decision to include transgender women in our beauty competitions is a result of our ongoing discussions with GLAAD. We have a long history of supporting equality for all women, and this was something we took very seriously”.
This decision was really appreciated by the people who had such sex-changing surgeries representatives. As Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality puts it, “absolutely it’s good news”. “Everybody should be allowed to participate in every aspect of society,” she added. Others highlight the importance of such decisions in other areas too. “The next question is, can’t we move beyond beauty pageants and make changes in areas that have more relevance,” said Susan Stryker, director of the Institute for LGBT Studies at the University of Arizona.
After the new rule has a final form and is proposed to the two co-owners of in the Miss Universe contest, if approved, it will definitely be step forward for all transgender women. This high impact explains the overwhelming interest for this rule and the final decision on it. This could become a positive precedent that will empower other transgender women to point out cases of discrimination and ask for some advantages or acknowledge/change of some rules and rights.
However forward-thinking the inclusion seems, conflict did accompany it and it will continue as certain groups oppose such a decision. In the end, beauty pageants reward beauty, not necessarily natural traits. One only needs to consider toddlers in beauty pageants to see that: three year olds wearing heavy makeup are in no way natural, and being a woman is more than physical traits, it is also a state of mind, an expression of how one feels.
How will the co-owners decide? Beyond any political correctness, we are betting it will be a profit-triggered decision as well as an ideological one. If the majority will decide to oppose the conclusion and boycott Miss Universe, the decision might be changed. In the end, entertainment is not a pro-bono endeavor.