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Monday, May 29, 2023

Guest Commentary

It’s a Beauty Contest

The winners of the Miss Universe pageant always have varying degrees of beauty, charm, grace and poise.

Jenna Talackova is a contestant who was originally denied a chance to compete in the Miss Universe pageant because she wasn’t a naturally-born woman.

She was born a male but began living life as a female at an age of four and began taking hormones at 14. At 19, she underwent sexual reassignment surgery and is now an anatomical female.

She also lives legally as a woman in Canada. The Miss Universe is a private enterprise and therefore has the right to make up and adhere to its own set of rules. One argument for her denial might have been that she has certain advantages over natural-born females. In other words, she has an advantage because she actively chose the features she wanted as a female.

In that case, the “natural-born” female rule should apply to women who have had plastic surgery. But, lo and behold, the rule has never been applied to surgically enhanced females.

Don’t they have an advantage over women who haven’t had anything done? They chose certain enhancements also and have altered how they look.

Talackova garnered the sympathy of many and was going to sue the Miss Universe pageant organizers had the organization not sent out a statement reversing its earlier denial. She will now be allowed to compete and the question is “does she have a chance?”

Public opinion has shown a trend towards a greater acceptance of transgender people in society, but does this mean that she has a reasonable chance at winning?

I don’t think so.

Despite the open-mindedness that the organizers of the competition have shown, this nondiscriminatory behavior won’t make up for the fact that the judges and the audience at home know about her past. The playing field is unfair and biased against Talackova. She’s gotten the attention of the media, so we know more about her private life than any other contestant. Some might not like the fact that she was once a male.

The odds are stacked up against her. She’s going to go into the competition with a very private fact about her revealed. No other contestant is going into this contest with the stigma that Talackova has.

Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe organization, ultimately let Talackova compete, but I think it was done to quell public outcry rather than to really include transgender women in the competition.

The reaction to transgender individuals isn’t restricted to this competition.  Not too long ago, the Girl Scouts of America met some controversy when it allowed a young boy who identified himself as female into the organization. A group of den mothers from Louisiana were outraged and dissolved their groups. One ex-girl scout even started a campaign to protest the decision.

It should be noted, though, that not all cultures share the same feelings. In Thailand, Talackova would be known as what the people call the “third gender.” In fact, transgender individuals are thought of as a kind of woman and a kind of man.

Transgender men and women are becoming more visible in American society, and they have to be treated with the same dignity and respect as other minority groups.

Let’s take a page out of the Thai handbook and regard them as they do.

Alejandro Caballero is a creative writing junior and may be reached at [email protected].

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