Miss Universe Pageant Allowing Transgender Women

By: Colleen Long, AP
By: Colleen Long, AP

New York, NY (AP) - A rule change that would allow transgender women to participate in the Miss Universe beauty pageant next year is a step forward for equality, advocates said Tuesday after pageant officials announced the policy shift.

Pageant officials said they are working on the language of the official rule policy change but expected final word to come soon. The rules will have to be approved by Donald Trump, who runs the Miss Universe Organization, and NBC. Trump and NBC co-own 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, a Vancouver resident, underwent a sex change four years ago after being born a male. The advocacy group GLAAD called on the Miss Universe Organization to review her case, as well as open the competition to transgender women, after she was disqualified from competing in the Miss Universe Canada contest next month.

"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," said Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization. "We have a long history of supporting equality for all women, and this was something we took very seriously."

The Miss Universe Organization produces the pageant, as well as the Miss USA and the Miss Teen competitions, according to the organization's website. The Miss Universe pageant began in 1952 as a local "bathing beauty" contest, headed by California-based Catalina Swimwear, the site says.

Trials for next year's Miss Universe pageant begin this summer.

"Everybody should be allowed to participate in every aspect of society," said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. "Absolutely it's good news, it's another pernicious structural discrimination barrier taken down."

Susan Stryker, director of the Institute for LGBT Studies at the University of Arizona, said she hoped to see similar progress in areas that would impact more people - like employment discrimination issues and anti-transgender violence.

"The next question is, can't we move beyond beauty pageants and make changes in areas that have more relevance," she asked.

She pointed out that while trans people should be able to take part fully in society, there are issues with beauty pageants overall, questions of "whether beauty pageants are the best way to advance the cause of girls, of women."

But she said trans women participating in the pageants could make a difference, and help shatter stereotypes and educate the public. She pointed to Chaz Bono, a transgender man, and the impact of his appearance on "Dancing with the Stars."

"To that extent, it's just a great thing to have a positive media representation even if it is inconsequential," she said.

Contest officials worked closely with GLAAD to change the policy, and the advocacy group on Tuesday praised the decision and the work by Talackova to remain a contestant.

"The Miss Universe Organization today follows institutions that have taken a stand against discrimination of transgender women including the Olympics, NCAA, the Girl Scouts of America and The CW's America's Next Top Model," said GLAAD's senior director of programs Herndon Graddick. "At a time when transgender people are still routinely denied equal opportunities in housing, employment and medical care, today's decision is in line with the growing levels of public support for transgender people across the country."

Talackova's sex change initially led organizers in Canada to disqualify her from the 61st Miss Universe Canada pageant in May, citing a rule that she must be "naturally born" a woman.

Talackova pleaded with the pageant's leaders to drop the rule.

"I am a woman," Talackova said last week. "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."


Associated Press writer Deepti Hajela contributed to this report.

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  • by Crystal Location: THL on Apr 18, 2012 at 04:12 AM
    Isnt it bad enough that men want to be woman...now there taking over our pagents....if the lord wanted you to be a woman he would have gave you a basket and eggs....let women be women the natural beauty.....
  • by Tom Location: Tallahassee on Apr 12, 2012 at 01:11 PM
    Beauty pageants are stupid anyway. Most of the women are brainless barbie dolls with "perfect" bodies and wearing masks made from makeup. Who cares who the contestants are? It's all foolishness.
  • by Jane on Apr 12, 2012 at 12:25 PM
    What's amusing to me is that in the original pictures posted elsewhere, this beautiful woman is standing with another beautiful woman and all I could think was "Which one is transgender?" You sure wouldn't know and why should you need to? If you are really going to hold a contest based on looks, does it matter where they come from?
  • by Just Wait Location: It will come.... on Apr 11, 2012 at 06:03 PM
    Real women will not show up for this and it will become a freak show at a 3 ring circus. Chaz Bono will master the rings.
  • by Mary Location: Tally on Apr 11, 2012 at 10:28 AM
    Equality my behind. It was born a man. It will always be a man and HE knows it.
  • by Anonymous on Apr 11, 2012 at 09:38 AM
    Andy Dick would be an excellent contestant
  • by LC2 on Apr 11, 2012 at 07:25 AM
    There will be other things missing from this pageant...me.
    • reply
      by Ben on Apr 12, 2012 at 01:14 PM in reply to LC2
      I've ALWAYS been missing from these pageants. They are a stupid waste of time - entertainment for lame brains.
  • by Anonymous on Apr 11, 2012 at 07:23 AM
    Open your minds people! I promise you that none of us lives our lives as your "God" wants or intended us to. Can you not live your life being happy for other people? Making it a better place does not include being hateful. What malice or hurt would it bring to allow a transgender woman run for Miss Universe? I'm actually from the school of thought that there shouldn't even be a Miss Universe contest. What is the point of judging beauty? How would "God" react to us judging these young women based on their looks? Let's reserve our judgement and just be good people and treat everyone as we would wanted to be treated (isn't that in the bible somewhere?)
    • reply
      by Jane on Apr 12, 2012 at 12:23 PM in reply to
      Thanks for a breath of fresh air!
    • reply
      by Bagofpegs on Apr 16, 2012 at 07:05 AM in reply to
      Please move your trailer away from the power lines!!!! God made us either a man or a woman for a reason it is HIS choice not ours! I could care less about these pageants however I sure do not want a transgender woman representing our universe.
  • by Snap Location: Tallahassee on Apr 11, 2012 at 06:51 AM
    If she can't physically give birth, she's not a woman.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Apr 11, 2012 at 08:50 AM in reply to Snap
      So, using your "logic", any woman who has had a hysterectomy is no longer a woman? Moron.
      • reply
        by GV on Apr 11, 2012 at 01:10 PM in reply to
        Haha.I agree with you.That was a pretty moronic thing to say by snap.
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Apr 20, 2012 at 11:36 AM in reply to GV
          i believe what snap is trying to say is that any "women" that cant naturally carry a baby or give birth isnt a women. because you can cut the twigg and giggle berrys off but you still cant carry a baby. come on GV and Anonymous yall are the morons.
  • by Oh My - Mr. Sulu on Apr 11, 2012 at 06:31 AM
    Miss Universe...now with a hint of peni5
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