27 Mar 2012

Miss Universe Finalist Disqualified For Being Transgender

Jenna Talackova

I haven’t approached homosexuality or transgender issues in my posts because it’s something I’m still in the process of fully understanding myself. Especially when it comes to transgender people, which is a difficult subject to wrap around: what’s the essential difference between a man and a transgender man? It’s much more of an identity issue than a sexual orientation/preference thing, and it makes it more difficult to fully understand. 

Jenna Talackova
Now don’t get me wrong, I do believe every person on this planet is equal and I’m completely against discrimination, but the interesting twist is this: there are people out there who are born with both kinds of reproductive organs, and they have elective surgery (and my understanding is that doctors recommend the removal of one of the organs, as it’s much healthier for the individual to develop with only one set) to remove one of those gender organs and they eventually grow up as the remaining gender. But the fascinating thing is that’s it’s a choice, and a choice most of the population doesn't get to make.

Jenna Talackova
The reason for the intro is that I’d like to talk about Jenna Talackova, a 23-year-old finalist for the Canadian Miss Universe, a pageant owned by Donald Trump, who was disqualified from the competition for no readily apparent reason. Later, the pageant released a statement claiming Jenna „did not meet the requirements to compete despite having stated otherwise on her entry form” (link).

This confused a lot of people until Jenna herself stated she was disqualified for having been born male. Her story hit online headlines and opinions were, as usual, plentiful. Some applauded her entry in the pageant, while others argued these contests should only be for „naturally-born” women. Note that this kind of language has been considered to be prejudiced and derogatory among transgender people.

Jenna Talackova
She had undergone sexual reassignment surgery and had lived most of her life as a woman anyway (link).  She describes herself as having identified as female at the age of four, and started hormone therapy at 14. Her reassignment surgery was done 4 years prior to her entry in the pageant.

Strangely enough, if you are to visit the pageant official webiste (link), you will find that the only requirements posted are being between 18 and 27 years old. So is this discrimination? The application form does not require you to declare your gender,  so they way I see it you can’t argue she declared herself female and thus set the premise for her disqualification.

Jenna is hothothothot
But that’s the thing. Transgender women and men consider themselves female or male. I can’t imagine one would tick „male” if she was born with male parts yet lived her life as a female. Even if she had selected her gender in an application form, to her that was not deceit. That’s what I meant when I said this whole transgender thing is an identity issue.

So the real question becomes: what’s a woman? Many argue a woman can give natural birth, yet that’s not a sufficient definition, because there are many women who are born sterile or otherwise have problems that prevent child birth. By this definition, are these people still women then? Or is the requirement possesing female genitalia? Because in that case, are all people born with both types of sex organs intrinsicly female/male?

Jenna previously placed as a finalist at Miss International Queen

You can’t assign gender based solely on biological parameters. Some people choose a certain identity. Some choose to be male or female. They undergo surgery, they undergo hormone treatment, they act like a man or woman, they dress like their chosen gender etc.

In the end, it’s really difficult to come up with a satisfying answer. Personally, I tend to believe that a transgender person identifying as female should be recognized as female. I don’t think beauty pageants should require trasngender people to note their condition on application forms, because this may lead to discrimination. She’s a woman now, she identifies as one, she has a vagina, she has boobs (great ones too!), she acts like a woman. In her heart, she really believes she is a woman. Who am I to say otherwise?

On the other hand, I’m curious how I’d feel if i was to date a girl that at some point admits to being transgender. I’d probably like to know beforehand, but in the end if I couldn’t tell during the relationship, does that detail even matter?

Jenna Talackova
So this is my question to you: what do you think is a woman? What defines being a woman? Do you think transgender people should be undiscriminated if they identify as female or male, and treated accordingly?

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