Christin Milloy, Canada
Miss Universe Ditching Anti-Trans Rule a Sign of Change in Public Attitudes
Posted on Thursday, 2012.04.12 by Christin Scarlett Milloy
Note: This article was published in XTRA (slightly edited) as Donald’s
pageant trumps our legislators on trans rights
on April 12th 2012.
This has been a big year so far for the advancement of trans people,
and I’m not just referring to legislative efforts like C-279 and
Toby’s Act. Take a look in the media.
In January, a TV show based on the juvenile notion
that male bodies in women’s clothing is inherently gigglesome aired
only two episodes before it was summarily cancelled, universally
panned as offensive and unfunny trash.
Last fall, people tuned in to see how Chaz Bono would do
on Dancing with the Stars.
And just recently, not only was trans bombshell Jenna Talackova
to the Miss Universe Canada competition after being disqualified, but
the organization has agreed to rescind its now infamous “must be born
In a public statement on the decision, Miss Universe organization
President Paula Shugart credited the advocacy work done by GLAAD
(the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). In reality, the
decision rested with pageant owner Donald Trump.
In a radio interview with TMZ, after tastelessly bragging about his
, Trump discusses his reasons for reinstating Jenna but makes no
mention of GLAAD.
“We said she would be able to compete, based on the laws of Canada,
and the laws of the United States… So we go by the law, and based on
the laws, she’s able to compete if she wants to.” He continues later:
”The law of Canada is very clear, and the law of the United States is
very clear on this, and we go by the law.”
After tens of thousands of people cried out online
against Jenna Talackova’s disqualification, the response throughout
social media was heavily in Ms Talackova’s favour. As the story
spread, even mainstream media began to smear the Miss Universe rules
as discriminatory, outmoded and unfashionable.
Like any billionaire, Trump chooses words very carefully. By repeating
the word “law” a total of seven times, he subtly appeases any offended
conservatives in his audience by artfully assigning the impression
that the decision was legally foisted upon him, even though that’s
Under the current nebulous law in Canada, Miss Universe could have
fought Talackova in court and may have succeeded. In the States too,
precious few jurisdictions have any sort of gender identity
discrimination protections in place. However, such a battle would have
certainly generated more public ill will toward the Miss Universe
Questioned further, Trump reveals what is likely the real motivation
behind his decision. “Certainly it’s gotten a tremendous amount of
publicity, and the Miss Canada pageant has become very sought. I tell
you, the tickets have gone through the roof, and everybody wants to be
there (…) in certain ways, it’s not necessarily the worst thing that
could ever happen.” Profit is paramount for Mr. Trump; hence,
Talackova is in, transphobic rules are out, and we have a recently
forceful pro-trans public opinion to thank for it.
In separate polls conducted recently, Canadians
and Americans <http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/11/03/poll-americans-favor-protection...>
both responded overwhelmingly in favour of giving trans people the
same rights and protections as everyone else. The numbers were about
the same in both countries, over 90% in favour. In 2012, the populace
is less divided on trans rights than they are on same-sex marriage.
The force driving this phenomenon is likely education. The American
poll revealed something interesting, and perhaps unexpected: more than
two thirds of people have a pretty good idea of what it actually means
to be trans. When asked, the majority gave reasonable answers like
“switches from one gender to another,” or “born in the wrong body,”
outweighing a much smaller percentage who could only provide
fallacious responses such as “has a different sexual preference” or
“has both sex organs.” I think positive media portrayals of trans
people, both in the news and in entertainment, are to thank.
To a cisgender person who has never had any trans exposure, the idea
that one might feel they were born in a mismatched body can seem
weird, even preposterous or creepy. But in my experience, all it takes
to convert someone who was previously transphobic is to actually meet
a trans person. When they see and hear us express ourselves, it just
clicks for them. You can tell the moment they realize we’re legit. The
subsequent change in perspective is easy to understand—once you’ve got
a friend, an acquaintance, or even just a celebrity you respect who is
living the trans experience and teaching you about the realities
inherent to that, cracking jokes about it is no longer funny.
So private organizations are beginning to do the right thing, not
necessarily out of altruism, but mainly because they are accountable
to their customer base—and marketers recognize the rising tide of
cultural acceptance and respect for trans people.
Private companies have certainly outpaced our federal government. As
an excuse to vote against C-279, most Conservative MPs are claiming
trans people are already sufficiently protected enough under existing
law. This, despite ongoing
problems for trans people getting
access to gender-appropriate identification
documents, gender identity cases
being lost <http://www.xtra.ca/public/Ottawa/Supreme_Court_Of_Canada_wont_hear_Ki...>
in court, and with Transport Canada instituting carelessly worded
regulations which technically ban trans people
from flying on airplanes
With government squarely to blame for the harshest, most
institutionalized and least movable transphobic discrimination,
perhaps public opinion can sway our legislators to catch up with
contemporary attitudes. I urge you to contact your federal MP
and provincial MPP
regardless of their party affiliation, and tell them you support
explicit human rights protection for trans people.
It’s sad when our leaders and lawmakers are less progressive than an
American billionaire’s beauty pageant.