How do we define what’s male or female today? Is it simply the gender we are born with or is it the gender we perceive ourselves as?
This social dilemma has caused problems for the transgender community. When a transgendered individual fills out an application form, does he/she check ‘male’ or ‘female’ when it asks for gender?
It is exactly what happened to 23-year old Jenna Talackova. The contestant from Vancouver was born male but has always considered herself female since she was four. She also started hormone therapy at the age of 14 and underwent sex change surgery when she was 19. Talackova had just been selected as one of 65 finalists for Miss Universe Canada which will be held in Toronto in May.
However, the controversy arose when the nationwide beauty pageant soon discovered her past and therefore disqualified her to compete. According to Denis Davila, the national director of Miss Universe Canada, pageant rules state that a contestant may only qualify if she was a “naturally born female”.
So again, let’s ask ourselves how we define gender. Does one’s gender at birth really matter?
Take Chaz Bono for example. Bono, the only child of Sonny and Cher, was born female. Like Talackova, Bono considered himself male at a very young age. Eventually, he also underwent sex reassignment surgery like Talackova. Now, is someone like Bono allowed to join the Miss Universe pageant? Of course, that person wouldn’t in the first place, but what I’m doing is just putting the rule in question.
Why does one’s gender at birth matter? Outside of hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery, Talackova does the things some of the contestants do anyway – like makeup and plastic surgery. If a person born female is covered up in artificial products anyway, why can’t someone like Talackova join the competition?
It seems like the rapid progress of science and medicine has only given us more questions than answers.