Jenna Talackova: Born to be queen

How Canada’s transgendered star melted Trump’s icy heart

by Emma Teitel

Contesting notions of beauty

iPhoto/CP

There was a time, not so long ago, when Donald Trump demanded that Barack Obama surrender his birth certificate to the world to unequivocally prove his American citizenship. Now Trump, the co-sponsor of the Miss Universe pageant along with NBC, is being prevailed upon to produce a credential of his own—call it his little apprentice—to prove his bona fides as a Mister. The woman asking to see the proof in question is Gloria Allred, the celebrity feminist lawyer representing the only transgendered contestant in this year’s Miss Universe Canada competition: 23-year-old Jenna (nee Walter) Talackova of Vancouver. Last month Talackova was removed from the competition when organizers were informed that she failed to meet the “natural born woman” criterion in the pageant rulebook.  Gloria Allred’s response was swift and simple: if Talackova had to show “hers” to qualify for the pageant, the Donald, as competition sponsor, should have to show “his” in the spirit of fair play.

Lucky for us, nobody showed anything. And Canadian law—which recognizes Talackova as an official female—melted Trump’s icy heart (the same one that has coldly quashed entrepreneurial dreams on television for the past eight years) long enough for him to re-instate the 23-year-old into the competition. The law, that is, and possibly an online petition drafted by Change.org, the social activism website which recently brought you campaigns like “Let Ernie and Bert get married on Sesame Street,” “Starbucks: stop using bugs to colour your strawberry-flavoured drinks,” and the somewhat lesser-known Canadian campaign, “Canadian government: address the Aeronautics Act, which may ban trans people from flying.”

“Miss Universe Canada, Donald Trump: reverse the unfair disqualification of Jenna Talackova!” was almost at its 45,000th signature when Talackova was allowed to re-enter the competition last week: a watershed moment for the trans community, according to activists. If she wins at the Canadian pageant next month, Talackova will accomplish another first (first transgendered Miss Universe Canada champion), and go on to represent her country on the world stage at the international Miss Universe competition in December.

Kudos to her. But can we please, for just a moment, take a more holistic look at this breed of spectacle, as it only happens every once in a while and we should savour it accordingly. It really doesn’t get much richer than when human rights activists fight for the rights of minority groups to objectify, humiliate, and degrade themselves like everybody else. Or as the Toronto Star’s editorialists put it, “could there be a more absurd place for a fight over dignity?” (In this case, a fight for the right to be undignified).  It’s only a matter of time before Change.org launches its “Let transgendered boys star in Toddlers in Tiaras” campaign. The Miss Universe Canada controversy is almost as painfully ironic as the Black Eyed Peas’ African American frontman, Will.i.am, defending his right to don blackface at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards.

It’s also painfully dumb: The merits of Ms. Congeniality notwithstanding, pageants are vapid and superficial; their beauty is skin deep. So why should Talackova’s go any deeper? In other words, if she looks the part, what else matters? It’s called a beauty pageant for a reason. As Robyn Urback argued cannily in the National Post, Talackova looks just like her pageant counterparts—most of whom have probably had as many lip injections as she’s had hormonal ones. So a note to future Miss Universe organizers: if you can’t even tell to begin with that she was once a he, why discriminate when you learn the truth?

In the end, thanks to Canadian law—and Donald Trump’s choice to respect it—Talackova will no longer face discrimination in her fight for the right to be objectified; nor will every trans woman and child after her. And it’s very possible that her supposed handicap could transform into a legitimate advantage. After all, what’s more impressive? A beautiful bikini-clad woman, or a beautiful bikini-clad woman who used to be a man? There’s no denying that Talackova will get an A for effort where her opponents won’t even qualify. And with transphobia on its way out—however slowly that exit may occur—chances are audiences will be increasingly impressed with, rather than put off by, a beautiful transgendered contestant. Who knows? One day it might be the “naturally born” females hiring the likes of Gloria Allred and crying foul play. Stranger things have happened. So perhaps where one Miss Universe rule was discarded, another should be added: if you’re a woman now, you were always a woman—at least in the eyes of the judges. A Change.org petition signatory wrote online recently, “Her being trans represents that it was harder for her than most to get where she is today, and that makes her the perfect Miss Universe contestant.” Not so. Jenna Talackova is no more or less qualified than any of her fellow competitors. She is merely equal to them. And that is her triumph.




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Jenna Talackova: Born to be queen

  1. “It’s also painfully dumb: The merits of Ms.
    Congeniality notwithstanding, pageants are vapid and superficial; their
    beauty is skin deep. So why should Talackova’s go any deeper?”

    Yes, the pageant is dumb, but if this opens the door to less “dumb” things, it’s worth everything she’s gone through.

    •  Agreed, it’s a start. Breaks down barriers.

  2. Let us call a spade a spade. Talackova is a transgendered woman and not a naturally born woman, since a naturally born woman has all the parts that come with being a female. She will always be a transgendered woman and never “just” a woman.

    •  And if someone is born with both male and female ‘parts’?

      • A king will abdicate his throne.

      • Let’s hear it for the Hermaphrodite Universe Canada pageant!

        • Hosted by Ezra Levant and Brian Lilley.

      • Then it all comes down to Jenna..tailia

        •  LOL top marks for cute!

    • What do we call a spade then, when we’ve had to replace the handle?  Obviously, not *just* a spade.

      What difference does the history of the spade make?  It’s still a spade!

    •  So does that mean a woman who has had some of the “female parts” removed is no longer a true woman?  I’m thinking hysterectomy, mastectomy …

    •  And your point is ?

    • A transgender woman would still suggests he is a man in his dna. We cannot play with this part of science anymore. Jenna should have not been allowed its unfair for the other true girls. What is happening to the world???

  3. Speaking of Trump showing his…ummm……. do you suppose it has a comb over too?***

    ***not responsible for any visuals conjured up by the reader

    • Argh, tear out my mind’s eye!

    • Gawd! I’m scarred for life!

  4. While I admit it is unfair, Talackova is a hypocrite, because in 2010 she participated in a pageant that only allows transgenders or transsexuals. If this is legal, how is it discrimination for there to be a pageant, where naturally born women are only qualified.

    • 1. “Transgenders” is incorrect and offensive; more appropriate usage is “transgendered person,” “trans woman,” or similar. 

      2. So…in your universe, would it be hypocritical to participate in an all-comers national event after participating in one restricted by locale, “Miss Toronto” or similar? It’s no more unfair that cis women couldn’t participate in that, than that Albertans couldn’t participate in a Miss Toronto pageant.

      • False comparison.  It would be improper for someone to participate in Miss Toronto and Miss Calgary, but not Miss Toronto and Miss Canada. Yawney is arguing that  Miss Universe is non-trans-only, and that no one can participate in both trans-only and non-trans-only competitions. Whether or not this is legally true, it is logically true. 

        Yawney may alternatively be arguing that if a competition is non-trans only, it’s hypocritical of someone who participates in trans-only competitions to try insist that the other must change.

  5. This comment was deleted.

    • Are you having trouble finding 100 people in Florida?

  6. So by the same logic as this blog post, because golf is pointless and doesn’t produce anything other than entertainment, Augusta National Golf Club should be allowed to continue discriminating against women and perhaps re-instate it’s ban on membership for non-whites?

  7. JENNA TALACKOVA ITS MY G1RLFR13ND. JESUSVENDETTA & JENNA TALACKOVA.

  8. The most insightful, intelligent and articulate article I have read on Jenna’s journey.   Emma is absolutely right:   Jenna’s personal triumph can be attributed to her ability to level the playing field with the other contestants.  She is just as pretty, just as feminine,  just as graceful, just as poised, just as…..

  9. Hmmmm. Am I allowed to not be attracted to Jenna Talackova? Does that make me [homophobic]? Kinda like, does not being attracted to black men make racist? Is “transgender” a scientific or medical term indicating scientific breakthrough and the cellular and molecular level where you can rip apart chromosomes and add new ones to make superficial (i.e. outward appearances) match what appears to be an immutable and fundamental, defining characteristic of what it means to be male or female? 

  10. I find humor in peoples beliefs, or one should say, there idea of gender especially when using the really big word of transgender.  One must understand the only knowing of one’s gender is in the heart of the person a better definetion of MS. Talackova would be that of human being.  Why is everyone so mistifyed on what she is or not is she is a human being,I would bet doughnuts to dollars that over 90% of must people today without having any knowledge of Ms.Talackova on first sight would all agree she is just simply beautiful and gorgeous but as soon as they were to have knowledge of her there opinion would change usually with hateful comments or demeaning remarks. As all can see once again  everyone can see how cruel and hateful the human race actually is. Ever wonder why the world is never at peace? Rather simple if you think about it, Peace is the enemy of memory, One must respect Ms. Talackova for she has for ever opened the worlds eyes and hopefully made people think and understand that if one must lable us with a word that would be the lable of human being. I hail from a country that embraces prople for there heart and soul. It is what one does in this world at this thing we call life,not what one does in one’s prayer’s,dreams, or meditation’s that helps us become a human being,therefore when one looks back in his or her’s life this will help one make the right choice and become a unique individual. All should remember as each day comes to a end that When the earth smells of dew,and the winds crossed the moors,when the mist holds the land for day’s; know this and know it well,All are of this land and no man nor beast nor willof god’s of old, will  hold you from what you know you should do or become,live your life and know when the time has come to pass from our world that your name shall be carved in stone never to be forgotten. I’am am Sir Croisda’dhean Mykhail MacreGreghoir of Aberlour,Caladonia or as most know of it as Scotland and I hail from Roinn na Healtachd, The region of the highlands and was blessed being born into a family of knights, Templar knights as my brother and I are as of this day

  11. I guess one could say that Miss Talackova has figured it out, you know the middle word in LIFE “if”most people will go there whole life not knowing that the little word “If” was even in there, more or less figuring it out.  As you can see she smiles only people that smile have figured out the if in there lifes people who write or comment hate,venom or cruelty never smile and never will they hate life especially there life, because they cain’t figure out the if in there life, once the understand that they are the only one who can figure out the If in life maybe they will smile again

  12. I’m a very strong support of Jenna. However this article definitely brings up so important points, especially about the nature of beauty pageants. I’m impressed with the way that was addressed without diminishing the impact of her success. Well done.
     

  13. I am so glad that Jenna will participate in the pageant! She is amazing and I know that she will become a role model for all of us out there to fight against what we know is wrong! #girlslikeus

  14. Nicely written.
    Thanks.

  15. Walter talckova Aka Jenna  is using the 5 minutes of fame!! thats all!! Most of the times if you talk with a person who take hormones to enhance (men or women) their feminine or masculine side you could tell its something wrong with them!! I experience deal with both sides (interacted with them) and clearly i can see they are no funtion ok on their way of thinking!!  and we have enough problems to solve in this actual society to deal with this indivuduals!! I dont discriminate but this is wrong!!! WALTER GET A LIFE!  FIND A REAL JOB!! AND IF YOU WANT TO BE A GOOD CITIZEN, SAVE THE WORLD ONE PROBLEM LESS!!!
    TO BE A BEAUTY QUEEN IS NOT SOMETHING THAT ITS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD!!!

  16. MAybe in his/her world she is living in a fairy tale  But WALTER THIS IS THE REAL WORLD!! STOP TAKING ADVANTAGES OF THE CANADIAN SYSTEM( PERSONALLY I THING IS WRONG)  YOU NEED TO SHOW WHAT KIND OF REAL JOBS ARE YOU PERFORMED…. and HONEY hand and blow and get laid doesn’t count as jobs…

  17. It’s them that make themselves look awkward.  If they can’t recognize their past themselves, and go far to ask everyone of us to identify with their claim “no past has ever happened”; I really can’t describe how sick I feel!

  18. Ms. Page thinks demanding to see Trump,s birth certificate is analogous to seeing Talackova,s. That is all you need to know about her judgment. 

  19. Regardless of what mud slinging tactics people want to use, it doesn’t change the fact that this woman is very comfortable with who she is, and that’s what should be respected by all.
    I, for one, could care less that she was born as a male. She obviously wasn’t comfortable with that fact and did something about it. I don’t have those feelings so I will NEVER truly understand what the woman has gone/is going through but I do know one thing…… She deserves to be treated just like any other human being… with dignity and respect..!!!
    If you meet the woman and she’s a nasty, spiteful, vindictive bitch…. then talk smack. Until then we should do the world a favor and shut our collective mouths and let the woman be happy.
    Just my $.02…. -SG

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