Miss Universe Disqualified Transgender Contestant

30.03.2012

(CNN) -- A Canadian beauty pageant contestant who was disqualified when the Miss Universe Canada organizers discovered she was transgender is not ready to speak to reporters, a representative for the 6-foot-1-inch-tall blond model said Tuesday.


Jenna Talackova was one of the 65 finalists selected to contend for the title of Miss Universe Canada and the honor of representing her country in the Miss Universe competition, but she will not be allowed to compete because organizers say Talackova lied about having undergone sexual reassignment surgery and did not meet requirements for the pageant.


"As with any competition, the Miss Universe pageant has rules which apply to all of its franchises around the world. Such rules include, but are not limited to, citizenship, age, and marital status requirements. Additionally, the rules currently state that all contestants must be naturally born females," the Miss Universe Organization said.


Those rules are not mentioned on the Miss Universe website.


Rory Richards, a spokeswoman for the 23-year-old Vancouver resident, said Talackova will not be able to talk to reporters pending possible legal action.


"Jenna is overwhelmed, and deeply moved, by the support she has received from around the globe, but especially from fellow Canadians that have said how proud they would be if she represented Canada in the Miss Universe pageant," Richards wrote in an e-mail to CNN on Tuesday.


Before falling out of the public eye, Talackova took to the social networking site Twitter, implying she felt the actions of Miss Universe were the result of prejudice.


"I'm not going to just let them disqualify me over discrimination," she tweeted, ""I'm not giving up."

Michael Cole-Schwartz, spokesman for the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, called the decision unfair and unnecessary. "Jenna is a woman," he said. "She presents as a woman, she lives as a woman, and that's all that matters."


"Any term that separates her from any other woman is demeaning," he continued.


He isn't alone in his support for Talackova. The Facebook page of Miss Universe Canada is full of comments criticizing the pageant's decision.


"Perhaps you're unaware that the Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination based on gender identity," wrote one Facebook user. "If your requirement is that only women who were born in the right body can compete, then you should probably change the requirements," posted another.


The controversy has prompted a petition on the social change website Chang.org, which has nearly 32,000 signatures. The petition prompts Beauties of Canada, the company that runs Miss Universe Canada, and Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe competition, to reverse the decision.


In a 2010 interview in Thailand, where she was competing for Miss International Queen, a competition for transgender women, Talackova said she knew she was a girl at age 4. She said she started hormone therapy at age 14 and underwent sexual reassignment surgery at 19.


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