Legal options explored for transgender beauty queen
Published Tuesday, April 3, 2012 8:39PM EDT
Famed women's rights attorney Gloria Allred says she wants the Miss Universe pageant to not only let her transgender client compete, but also to eliminate a rule stating that contestants must be born female, or she will consider her client's "legal options."
Allred issued the ultimatum at a Los Angeles news conference Tuesday alongside her client, 23-year-old Jenna Talackova. Talackova had made it to the finals of the Miss Universe Canada pageant, scheduled for May 17 to 19, but was later told by pageant officials that she did not meet their requirement that a contestant be a "naturally born woman."
Talackova underwent gender reassignment surgery at age 19, and carries a Canadian birth certificate, driver's licence and passport that all identify her as female
Even though the pageant appeared to do an about-face on Monday and indicated Talackova may still be allowed to compete, Allred said she wants her client back in the pageant, and for Donald Trump, the pageant's owner, to state that the rule will be eliminated.
"We need a clear answer. Not a wimpy, wish-washy type of answer, but something that we can take to the bank," Allred told reporters. "Will Jenna be allowed to compete or not? Will he eliminate this abhorrent rule, or not?"
Otherwise, Allred said, "we are considering all of Jenna's legal options."
Allred did not specifically address what those legal options include. She said Talackova's legal teams in Canada, New York and Los Angeles have explored the options, "and at an appropriate time, if there is one, we will state what they are."
Talackova said Tuesday that after qualifying for the Miss Universe Canada pageant finals, she was told that an "issue" had come up, and was then disqualified because she was not a naturally born woman.
"I am a woman," Talackova told reporters. "I was devastated and I felt that excluding me for the reason that they gave was unjust."
Allred directed questions about how the pageant came to question Talackova's birth gender to pageant officials.
Talackova said she does not want special consideration. She wants to compete for the chance to represent Canada at the Miss Universe pageant, and for the rule that got her booted from the pageant to be eliminated, "because I do not want any other woman to suffer the discrimination that I have endured."
On Monday, the Trump Organization issued a statement that appeared to allow for Talackova to be reinstated.
"The Miss Universe Organization will allow Jenna Talackova to compete in the 2012 Miss Universe Canada pageant provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions," Michael D. Cohen, executive vice president and special counsel to Trump, said in a statement.
Allred said Tuesday the statement confuses the issue of whether Talackova will be allowed to compete. Allred said her client clearly meets Canada's gender recognition requirements, because of the legal documents she has that identify her as female.
She questioned why the pageant and Trump specifically would look to standards established by other competitions.
"Does he want to be a leader, or a follower?" Allred said. "We are asking Mr. Trump to step up and be a leader in the fight against discrimination."