Thursday • 2012.04.26
Another Pageant Convinced to Revise Anti-Trans Rules
A month ago, the Jenna Talackova Miss Universe Canada disqualification controversy brought transphobic beauty pageant rules under mass public scrutiny for the first time ever.
However, trans activists had already been aware of the now notorious “born female” pageant rule since long before that.
Michelle Weswaldi is Pageant Director for Miss Teen Canada World (MTC-W for short). It’s a smaller Canadian pageant, which is not directly affiliated with Trump’s Miss Universe.
Unlike the larger competitions, which don’t seem to publish their rules as openly, MTC-W’s website clearly states “contestant must attest that she was born a female,” a fact which was brought to my attention earlier this year.
Several weeks before the Talackova story broke, I asked Ms Weswaldi why her pageant carries this rule. At that time, she (a former MTC-W winner herself) informed me in no uncertain terms that “Miss Teen Canada World is for female teens. Teens born a female, not teens dressing like a female or in the transgender process.”
She went on to explain this was because of standards set by larger international competitions. “A trans gender [sic] can not enter the pageant. They [can’t] enter Miss Universe or Miss World [or] Miss USA or Miss Teen USA who are much bigger then [sic] we are (…) and they can not enter Miss Canada either.”
In light of Jenna Talackova’s heroic actions in the face of adversity, and the ensuing public uproar which led Donald Trump to change his Miss Universe rules, I optimistically wondered if we’d seen the tipping point which would result in the complete elimination of this all-too-standard discriminatory rule, from any and all pageants which might have previously carried such a regulation.
On April 10, I caught up with Ms Weswaldi to ask her if the Miss Universe Canada decision would impact the anti-trans rule at her own organization. “At this time we are not following suit,” she said at first. She expressed concern that since most Canadian teenage trans women are pre-operative, or non-operative, that they would therefore not be considered legally female (sadly, as of this writing she is correct). However, she went on to say that “if ever there is a teen that has transitioned we will consider the applicant as we do all applicants and if (…) they meet the requirements they will be interviewed for possible selection into the provincial competition.”
I found her statement to be slightly ambiguous, and I wanted to make absolutely sure that I understood her correctly. So, I wrote back to obtain complete clarity.
I asked, if MTC-W will accept a transitioned teen who meets the legal requirements (as Michelle indicated they would), does that mean the rule on their website could be updated so that instead of reading “Contestant must attest that she was born a female,” that it might instead be made to read “Contestant must be legally recognized as female?”
Ms Weswaldi’s answer came rapidly. Simply, “Yes.” A minor victory, but even still. More baby steps toward equality.
It may be years before a young, beautiful, confident post-transition teen girl takes MTC-W by storm. In fact, it may never happen. But thanks to the courageous pioneering effort of Ms Jenna Talackova, if that hypothetical girl does come along, she will get her shot to compete on equal ground for the crown.
As of this writing, the Miss Teen Canada World website has not yet been updated with revised wording on this rule, but hopefully it will be fixed soon.