Miss Universe pageant allows transgender women to participate

Last Updated: Apr 11, 2012, 08:23 AM IST

New York: The Miss Universe Organisation has announced that transgender women will be allowed to participate in the annual pageant.

The decision came after a transgender participant from Canada was given permission by the Donald Trump-led organisation to compete in this year`s competition.

President of the organisation Paula Shugart said the pageant had been working on allowing transgender women to participate and the decision is not because of legal issues raised on behalf of 23-year old Canadian model Jenna Talackova by women`s rights lawyer Gloria Allred.

Talackova was disqualified from the Miss Canada pageant because she is a transgender. The Miss Universe organization reversed that decision about a week ago and had said it will allow Talackova to compete.

A Vancouver resident, Talackova was born male and had undergone a sex change procedure four years ago. She was disqualified from the 61st Miss Universe Canada pageant in May by the organizers who said the rules required her to be "naturally born" woman to compete.

"We want to give credit where credit is due, and the decision to include transgender women in our beauty competitions is a result of our ongoing discussions with Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD) and not Jenna`s legal representation, which if anything, delayed the process," Shugart said in a statement.

"We have a long history of supporting equality for all women, and this was something we took very seriously." GLAAD spokesperson Herndon Graddick said Trump, who runs the Miss Universe Organization, had assured them that the pageant was open to making a policy change to include women who are transgender.

"The Miss Universe Organization today follows institutions that have taken a stand against discrimination of transgender women including the Olympics, NCAA, the Girl Scouts of America and The CW’s America’s Next Top Model," Graddick added.

Graddick said Talackova and all LGBT advocates who have spoken out in support of transgender women should be commended for their efforts to work with the Miss Universe organization and bring about this change.

"At a time when transgender people are still routinely denied equal opportunities in housing, employment and medical care, today’s decision is in line with the growing levels of public support for transgender people across the country," she said.

Trials for the 2013 Miss Universe pageant will begin this summer.

PTI