Social and Cultural Issues

March 25, 2012

Transgender Contestant from Miss Universe Canada Disqualified

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Written by: Ralph King
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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.

About the Author

Ralph King
Ralph King
Ralph King is one of the two Editor-in-Chiefs of He is a 5th-year Communications student who is passionate about advertising and media studies. His hobbies include obsessing over the NBA and listening to Hip-Hop music. Once in a while, you'll see him strolling the streets with a DSLR.

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad you shared your thoughts on this issue with us, Ralph. I agree with your stance on Jenna’s situation. I think it’s completely unfair that just because she was not born with the right gender that she should be disqualified from and denounced in the pageant. Just because someone was born  with the right gender does not make him or her more superior than those who weren’t. This issue demonstrates that society as a whole is still intolerant to ‘unconventional’ forms of gender identity. We still hold onto conservative notions on what constitutes as ‘normal’, but we should all know that normalcy is socially constructed.

    I learned more about Chaz Bono in a group presentation I did in my Feminist Theory class. He’s a good example of someone who has and still remains outspoken about his vulnerable identity amidst harsh media attention.

  • I’m surprised at the people saying that they need to change the rules to include transgenders. Judges and the audience are expecting the contestants to be natural born females. Not transgenders, not a guy in drag, not a blow-up doll, not a baboon with lipstick and a wig. This is a private organization and they can set whatever rules they want to for this competition. You have no right to tell them to change their rules to accommodate your views. If you don’t like it, don’t watch the pageant. There are many other competitions for all sorts of contestants: married women, women of ages outside this competition (children’s pageants, Ms. Senior America). There’s even a transgender beauty pageant (Miss International Queen). Jenna Talackova knows of this last competition because she was in it last year. None of those other women are telling this organization to change their rules. This is just another case of the militant freaks trying to force everyone to accept their perversions as normal.

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