“Disqualified for being born? Really? I don’t think so.”

Before Donald Trump restricted trans students from using bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, there was Jenna Talackova, transgender beauty queen.

After competing in a Thai beauty pageant for transgender and transsexual women, Jenna registered to compete in Miss Universe Canada 2012. Someone recognized her from Thailand’s contest and contacted the Miss Universe organizers (owned by the Trump Organization), who disqualified Jenna because she was born male, saying that pageant rules require contestants to be “naturally born” women. Jenna has identified as a female since age four, underwent gender reassignment surgery at 19, and is listed as female on her documents. Feminist celeb lawyer Gloria Allred stepped in, launching a legal challenge that pushed Trump to allow Jenna entry, “As long as she meets the standards of legal gender recognition requirements of Canada.”

Jenna called this concession “confusing,” expressing concern that since the Trump camp hadn’t actually rewritten the rule, other transgender women would face the same discrimination. “She did not ask Mr. Trump to prove that he is a naturally born man or to see photos of his birth to view his anatomy to prove that he was male,” Allred mocked. In the following days, DJT did his thing: digging his heels in, criticizing Jenna’s chosen name, and even calling Allred’s own gender into question while reassuring that pageant ticket sales would be “through the roof.”

Though still overlooked in official pageant language, a handful of transgender contestants have been permitted to compete in recent years. Jenna didn’t win the title, but her case shed light on an industry mired in traditional standards of beauty and femininity, where adaptation to changing cultural standards has been slow, nudging it ever so slightly into the future.
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