FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty

by

After coming in second in the Iowa caucuses, Donald Trump pulled off a significant victory in the New Hampshire primary.  As his campaign moves forward, more of Trump’s questionable business and personal practices are being critically examined.  Revelations about his four bankruptcies and misuse of eminent domain have raised questions about not only his business practices but his judgment as well.

One episode in his long and dubious career took place in 2012 when Trump, owner of the Miss Universe pageant, was forced to change the organizations’ official rules so that a 23 year-old transgender woman, Jenna Talackova, could compete.  This was not an easy defeat for the 2016 Republican presidential candidate.

Talackova sought to compete in the Miss Universe Canada contest.  A 6-foot-1-inch blond from Vancouver, she had lived as a female since the age of 4 years, started hormone therapy at 14 and, at 19, underwent male-to-female sex reassignment surgery.

Talackova had earlier attempted to compete in the Miss Vancouver contest, but was barred due to being a transgender person.  In 2012, she entered the Miss Universe Canada and reached the finals, but was disqualified because she was born a male.  The contest’s director, Denis Davila, pulled the plug, insisted that she had violated the organization’s rules requiring a contestant to be a “naturally born female” and had falsely stated on her application that she was born a female.  “We have to have the facts straight. There is no discrimination here at all,” he insisted.  “You can look at it the way she wants to look at it, but we all have to follow the same rules.”

Talackova’s expulsion provoked a firestorm of popular outrage, including charges that she had been discriminated against.  It led to 23,000 people signing a Change.org petition insisting that the contest reverse the decision.  The battle further escalated when Talackova retained the assistance of, Gloria Allred, a Beverly Hills attorney, who focused media attention on Trump.  “She [Talackova] 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.

Going further, Allred argued that how Talackova became a female was not important.  “The Miss Universe competition is designed to find the one person in the world whose human qualities make them worthy of the Miss Universe crown and title,” Allred insisted.  “Jenna is beautiful in every way. Her life story will undoubtedly inspire people throughout the world.”

Faced with the unexpected bad publicity, Trump made a rapid retreat.  Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s executive vice president and special counsel, announced: “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.”  Unfortunately for Trump, her Canadian passport, birth certificate and driver’s license identify Talackova a female.

In an interview on the TV show, Good Morning America, Trump declared: “I think Jenna should focus on running up in Canada and seeing how she does in Canada and then, if she does well, she has a chance to become what many, many young women all over the world want to be and that’s Miss Universe.”  He added, “That should be her focus.”

“I did not know that she had a lawyer and especially Gloria Allred,” Trump later said.  “In fact, had I known it was Gloria Allred, I probably would not have reversed my decision because, you know, Gloria is easy to beat.”  He argued, “The fact is we went by the laws of the country and the laws are very clear and, based on that, about two days ago, we decided to let her compete.”

But Trump’s capitulation did not go far enough for Talackova or Allred.  Talackova wanted Trump and the other contest’s organizers to drop all gender-based eligibility rules because, she insisted, they were discriminatory. “I want Mr. Trump to state that this rule will be eliminated because I do not want any other woman to suffer from the discrimination that I have endured,” she argued.  Allred added fuel to the fire, demanding, “Mr. Trump, admit that you are wrong and get rid of your Trumped-up rule.”

Talackova finally did participated in the Miss Canada contest, along with 65 other contestants, but did not win.  She did receive a “Miss Congeniality” acknowledgement.  Her very public stand was recognized in her hometown when was selected to be co-grand marshal of the 2012 Vancouver Pride Parade.

Under Trump’s initial agreement, individual countries were not required to go along with the Canadian decision.  Nevertheless, over the last few years, change has slowly begun to recast the beauty contest.  In 2013, Kylan Arianna Wenzel was the first transgender woman to participate in a U.S. event, as part of the Miss California USA pageant.  Born in South Korea, she is a mixed-race woman, the child of an American father and a South Korean mother.

In 2015, Carla Marie Madrigal, a transgender woman who had been crowned Queen Philippines Universe 2015, was selected to represent the Philippines in the Miss Universe contest.  Ironically, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, who had originally won the Miss Philippines contest, was disqualified because she was of mixed-raced, a Filipino-German, parentage; a similar decision was made against Miss Japan, Ariana Miyamoto, because she too had mixed-race parents, a Japanese mother and an African-American father.

In these cases, Trump insisted, “the goal of Miss Universe is to choose a world beauty that represents her country to the fullest extent. Having a half and half candidate from any participating country is not in keeping with the Miss Universe ideals.”  Will this be the next battle to move Trump’s dubious beauty pageants into the 21st century?

Sixty years ago, in 1952, George Jorgensen, a 26 year-old former private in the U.S. Army, traveled to Denmark to undergo a gender reassignment procedure, what was then known as a “sex change” operation.  Returning to New York as Christine Jorgensen, her daring gained a famous Daily News headline: “Ex-GI Becomes Beauty.”

In 2011, the Williams Institute, a research organization specializing in sexual orientation and gender identity issues, estimated that there were 700,000 transgender people in the U.S.  Gay and transgender rights have been formally acknowledged by a number of recent Supreme Court decisions, U.S. government actions and changes in popular values, represented by Chelsea Manning and Caitlyn Jenner.  Nevertheless, trans people continue to experience discrimination and social stigma with regard to employment, housing, health care, the juridical system (especially in prison) and simply using a public restroom.

One can only hope that the media will question Trump about his confrontation with the transgender beauty.

David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Jesse Jackson
Jeff Sessions is Rolling Back Basic Rights
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Rivera Sun
Blind Slogans and Shallow Greatness
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail