The Miss Universe pageant: How different is too different?

April 3, 2012 11:00 amComments OffViews: 4

Mike Russell | Staff Writer

We all know that some institutions are slow to change in our increasingly complex world, and beauty pageants are no different. Jenna Talackova was recently disqualified from the Miss Universe Canada pageant, a pageant which decides who will represent Canada in the Miss Universe pageant, because she is a transsexual.

The Miss Universe Organization said that Talackova broke the rules of the competition, which state that all contestants must be naturally born females. Thousands of people have showed their support for Talackova over social media, and many have signed a petition to have Talackova reinstated.

Her supporters certainly have a good reason to be outraged. The world today is a very complex place. Gender is no longer restrained to “male” or “female” (really, one can argue that it never was). Especially with improvements in medical technology, the transformation from one gender to the next is becoming increasingly easier and more prevalent. Talackova is one of these people who live in the gray area of gender. She was once a man, but has become a woman.

Talackova began taking hormones at age 14, and had her operation at age 19, according to CNN.com. She is now officially, both physically and mentally, a woman. There is no reason to disqualify her from the Miss Universe pageant just because she was a man earlier in her life.

Being a man does not give her an advantage in a beauty contest. There is no advantage that she can claim from her sex change procedure. It seems, then, that the pageant’s organizers disqualified Talackova based only on technicality and principle, both of which are very thin reasons to rely on. As one fan on her Facebook page said, “If your requirement is that only women who were born in the right body can compete, then you should probably change the requirements.”

The Miss Universe Organization’s decision highlights a larger assumption about transgendered people: that they are not the gender they believe they are, despite the sex change operation. The MUO is basically disrespecting the transgendered community by disrespecting a transgendered person’s feelings and thoughts about his or herself. Never mind that Talackova has felt since age four that she was a woman, and never mind the operation she put herself through so that her body could reflect her feelings about her sexuality, identity, and gender. According to the MUO, if you weren’t born the proper way, than you have no place in their competition.

There is no reason besides the MUO’s flawed thinking that Talackova should not be allowed to participate in the beauty competition. She is a woman the same as any natural born woman, and her past as a man in no way diminishes her present life as a woman. She is just as beautiful as any other woman, naturally born or otherwise.

The rule that only natural born women are allowed to enter the Miss Universe contest is outdated and discriminatory. As I said earlier, the world is a complex place, and genders are no longer absolute. For our society to be a healthy one, we should embrace this complexity instead of shunning it. For better or for worse, beauty pageants like Miss Universe are a part of our society; a part some believe dictates what is beautiful and acceptable. By excluding transgendered people, they are dictating that transgendered people are not beautiful or acceptable. They are denying transgendered women a basic right that every natural born woman holds, and that is the right to feel beautiful, and to be accepted for what she really is: a woman.

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