Vancouver's Jenna Talackova has won her high-profile fight to have the Miss Universe pageant opened up to transgender women.
Weeks after Talackova was disqualified from the Miss Universe Canada contest, the Miss Universe Organization and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation announced today (April 10) that the rules will be updated to include women who are transgender.
Talackova has been cleared to compete this year, and other trans women will be allowed to enter the Miss Universe competition, owned by Donald Trump and NBC Universal, starting in 2013.
"For more than two weeks, the Miss Universe Organization and Mr. Trump made it clear to GLAAD that they were open to making a policy change to include women who are transgender," GLAAD spokesperson Herndon Graddick said in a statement. "We appreciate that he and his team responded swiftly and appropriately. The Miss Universe Organization today follows institutions that have taken a stand against discrimination of transgender women including the Olympics, NCAA, the Girl Scouts of America and The CW’s America’s Next Top Model.
"Jenna and all of the LGBT advocates who have called for this change and spoken out in support of transgender women are to be commended. At a time when transgender people are still routinely denied equal opportunities in housing, employment and medical care, today’s decision is in line with the growing levels of public support for transgender people across the country."
However, Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization, took a shot at Talackova's feisty lawyer, Gloria Allred.
"We want to give credit where credit is due, and the decision to include transgender women in our beauty competitions is a result of our ongoing discussions with GLAAD and not Jenna’s legal representation, which if anything, delayed the process," Shugart said in a statement. "We have a long history of supporting equality for all women, and this was something we took very seriously."
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, thanked Talackova for "standing up for herself and for all of us".
"No one likes it when they’re left out of something because of who they are," Keisling said in a statement. "This is especially true for transgender people—people like Jenna Talackova—who are denied opportunities because they’re told that who they are is ‘unnatural.’ So I get that Jenna probably still doesn’t feel good about the situation. But it’s a noteworthy thing for a group like the Miss Universe Organization and Donald Trump to switch positions allowing Jenna to participate, and to commit to developing transgender inclusive rules. This is a good thing, and it’s a sign of how more and more people get trans issues."