Jenna Talackova Calls for a More Inclusive Miss Universe Competition

Following the announcement that the Miss Universe pageant would allow transgender contestant Jenna Talackova to compete, and that GLAAD would be working with Miss Universe to open the competition up to the transgender community, Talackova says she wants pageant owner Donald Trump to make sure “no one else has to suffer the discrimination I have had to endure.”  The statement was read at a press conference with Talackova’s attorney Gloria Allred in Los Angeles today.

Yesterday, GLAAD announced plans to continue working with The Miss Universe Organization to review current policies and update for full inclusion of transgender women.

GLAAD contacted the Miss Universe Organization last week after Jenna Talackova was disqualified and called on the Miss Universe Organization to review her case, as well as open the competition to transgender women.

Talackova’s full statement from today is as follows:

When I was selected as a finalist, I was thrilled.  I had always dreamed of being in the Miss Universe competition, and having an opportunity to represent my country, Canada.

After I was chosen for the finals, I was told that there was an issue that had arisen regarding my being a contestant, and that the final decision was going to be made by the Miss Universe organization.

Then I was told by representatives of the Miss Universe Canada Pageant that I could not compete, because the rule stated that I had to be a “naturally born” woman, and they said I was not.

I am a woman.  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.

I saw the statement by Mr. Trump’s representative that was issued yesterday, and I find it quite confusing.

I wish Mr. Trump would just say, in plain words, whether or not I will be allowed to compete and, if I win, whether I will be allowed to represent Canada in the Miss Universe competition.

I also want Mr. Trump to clearly state that this rule will be eliminated because I do not want any other woman to suffer the discrimination that I have to endure.

The Miss Universe Organization said in a statement last night:

“The Miss Universe Organization will allow Jenna Talackova to compete in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada pageant provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions.”

In speaking for her client, Allred reiterated that Trump and the Miss Universe pageant needed to clearly rewrite the competition rules to be inclusive of transgender contestants.   GLAAD’s VP of Programs and Communication Herndon Graddick said yesterday that “The Miss Universe Organization made the right decision (allowing Talackova to compete) and has taken an important first step.  Now, GLAAD urges the Organization to include all women and use the incident to speak out in support of the transgender community.” 

Graddick continued: "So many women today do not have equal opportunities for employment, housing and safety simply because they are transgender. The Miss Universe Organization should look to state non-discrimination laws and institutions including the Olympics, NCAA and The CW’s America’s Next Top Model, which do not discriminate against transgender women."

The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition’s Executive Director Gunner Scott also released a statement about Talackova’s inclusion in the pageant today, attributing the victory to the advocacy work of groups like GLAAD and the MTPC, while also reminding readers that “this situation is not unlike discrimination in employment for transgender people. Many transgender youth and adults do not get the same opportunities, even when qualified, because of gender identity discrimination.”

We will update with developments as they occur.