Lawyer calls on pageant to scrap 'abhorrent' gender rule
Published Tuesday, April 3, 2012 3:36PM PDT
The lawyer for a transgender Miss Universe Canada hopeful is calling on the pageant to clarify whether her client will be allowed to compete, and to scrap the "abhorrent" rule excluding others like her.
Jenna Talackova, 23, was named among 65 Miss Universe Canada finalists last month, only to be disqualified days later after news broke online that she had undergone sexual reassignment surgery.
"Jenna was being eliminated as a contestant not because she lacked beauty or charisma, but because, according to pageant representatives, she was not a ‘naturally born' woman," said famed feminist lawyer Gloria Allred, who is representing Talackova in the U.S.
After an outpouring of public support for the 6-1 tall blond, the pageant issued a statement Monday indicating Talackova could compete only "provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions."
But Allred, who recently represented Tiger Woods mistresses Rachel Uchitel and Joslyn James, says the Donald Trump-owned beauty contest has only managed to confuse the issue.
"Instead of stating clearly that Jenna will be allowed to compete, Mr. Trump qualifies it by adding conditions that are ambiguous," Allred said at a Tuesday press conference in Los Angeles.
"We are asking Mr. Trump to step up and be a leader in the fight against discrimination. Or would he prefer to hide behind other organizations and say that if they discriminate, so can he?"
Talackova's Canadian driver's licence, passport and even birth certificate indicate that she is a woman, Allred said.
The pageant said it disqualified the beauty queen because she lied on her application when asked if she was born female. Talackova, who appeared on camera Tuesday for the first time since the controversy arose, says the rule amounts to blatant discrimination, and should be removed.
"I also want Mr. Trump to clearly state that this rule will be eliminated," Talackova said. "I do not want any other woman to suffer the discrimination that I have to endure."
"I am a woman… I have never asked for any special consideration. I only wanted to compete."
Trump told gossip program TMZ in a phone interview after the conference ended that Talackova would unequivocally be allowed to compete if she so chooses.
"We go by the law, and based on the laws she's able to compete if she wants to. She can take her shot, she can maybe win and maybe she won't win," he said.
The billionaire businessman refused to apologize for Talackova's initial disqualification, however.
"There'll be no apology whatsoever," he said. "Frankly, if she competes that's wonderful and if she doesn't want to compete because maybe she thinks she can't win that's fine also, I couldn't care less."
The controversy has been a boon to Miss Universe Canada ticket sales, Trump added.
Talackova has previously represented Canada at Miss International Queen, a transsexual beauty pageant in Thailand, where she placed as a finalist.
In an interview posted on YouTube, she describes herself as having identified as a woman at four-years-old, beginning hormone therapy at 14. She had her reassignment operation at 19.