Transgender activist not cheering Jenna Talackova’s Miss Universe breakthrough

While many LGBT rights advocates are celebrating Jenna Talackova’s successful fight to open the Miss Universe beauty pageant to transgender women, a Vancouver activist says it’s not much of a victory in the struggle for equality.

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Tami Starlight, the executive director of the Vancouver Transgender Day of Remembrance Society and an organizer of last year’s Trans Celebration and Liberation March, told the Straight that there’s “almost nothing good” about the Miss Universe Organization’s announcement today (April 10) that it plans to change its rules to allow transgender women to compete.

“This whole deal is complicated at best,” Starlight said by phone from her home. “She’s fighting to get into a space in a system that is really terrible in general. It’s highly objectifying. It’s all about making money.”

The U.S.-based Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and National Center for Transgender Equality have both commended the New York–based Miss Universe Organization, owned by Donald Trump and NBC Universal, for the move. It came just weeks after Vancouver’s Talackova was disqualified from the Miss Universe Canada contest for being transgender.

“I feel that the community does a disservice by supporting and applauding this kind of nonsense—that she’s allowed to participate in such a thing,” Starlight said.

Indeed, Starlight asserted that the “only good thing” about this “sensationalized” story is that people are linking it to the need for the rights of transgender people to be protected by Canadian law.

On September 21, 2011, Randall Garrison, the NDP MP for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, introduced Bill C-279 in the House of Commons. His private member’s bill would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to include gender identity and gender expression as prohibited grounds of discrimination. It would also amend the Criminal Code to outlaw hate speech that advocates genocide against groups distinguished by gender, and to allow evidence that a crime was motivated by hate based on gender to be taken into account during sentencing.

A previous version of the legislation was passed by the House of Commons in February 2011. But former Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Bill Siksay’s Bill C-389 died in the Senate when the last federal election was called.

“We need hate-crime laws passed,” Starlight said. “We need inclusion laws passed. We need full recognition everywhere, hate-crime enhancement laws within the legal system—all of those things. We need the Canada Health Act to step up and identify trans people’s medical needs as necessary as anything else that’s deemed medically necessary in this country, instead of playing political football with our lives province by province, and delisting and relisting over and over. This stuff has to stop. Those are the fights.”

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Comments (23) Add New Comment
This statement by Tami Starlight is very disrespectful toward Jenna Talackova. Ms Starlight has some nerve to critisize. Pageants are about women and Ms Talackova wanted to enter this pageant and be accepted fully as female and that is her right. In doing so Jenna is advancing human rights for transgender people and that should be applauded rather than ridiculed. Shame on Tami Starlight.
Rating: +11
Jenna has broken ground and inspired change for equality in a most unlikely territory that is known for objectifying women.

if Miss Starlight thinks that this isn't good news just because "it's all about making money", does she also believe that there shouldn't be equality in sectors like finance, politics, or real estate?

i believe that the GLBT community should have equality in ALL respects, and especially in those that make money.
Rating: -13
Steve Y
It is no wonder a professional complainer and whiner like Starlight has to find something wrong, even when her side wins. She probably thinks there shouldn't be a Canada, never mind a Miss Canada because it is "occupied territory"
Rating: -10
Gentleman Jack
"In doing so Jenna is advancing human rights for transgender people and that should be
applauded rather than ridiculed."


And I find it disturbing that the quoted individual above is suggesting a change in the fundamental freedoms of the Kingdom. If the individual quoted above is "fighting" to have laws passed that will curtail certain forms of speech, the implication is that such speech is now lawful.

Since when did the Georgia Straight become a mouthpiece for fascists dressed in PC garb?
Rating: +14
I'd venture to guess that part of the problem is that pageants such as these continue the oppression of women, whether cisgendered or trans and that equality for anyone should be based not on perpetuating stupid stereotypes and encouraging the commodification of women. Beauty pageants continue to entrench the idea that a woman's worth is based solely on her appearance of some kind of femininity.
Rating: +10
Tami Starlight
No big surprise by the same ol rhetoric by some of the same ol community peoples.

Land of greedy capitalists with their multitude of oppressions.

Right on Simkha!
Thanks for sending me some hope....and for the first 4 postings. Get with the times or stay in the dark oppressive dogmatic past.
Rating: +6
Misha B.
Anyone who misses the point that the assimilationist politics that dangles carrots in front of drop-dead gorgeous transwomen to fight for the right of transgender women to be allowed to box themselves into the same rigid and misogynistic stereotypes of femininity that disempower women in general, and maintains the culturally accepted socio-political oppressive patriarchal norms that are, taken as a whole, killing our society and causing us to take the planet down with us as we all compete to keep up with the Jones's, and it's undeniable connection to the systematic oppression and enslavement of all "othered" races, genders and classes of people against the "Top Dogs" of "white christian male", is in no way ready to argue the points that necessary need to be understood in order to make any headway in our fight to save our society any more homicides or suicides of our trans-community, let alone any more abuse of all humans perceived as feminine and oppressed and victimized for it.
Tami, Beautiful job sister! Thank you!
(Steve Y and the rest who showed their ignorance of the depth of the oppression and your complicitness in the maintenance of that oppressive system, y'all need to pull your heads out!)
Rating: +25
rain on someone else's parade, ffs she's 23 get over it. You go girl dont listen to the nay Sayers no matter what side of the fence they bleat from.
Rating: +14
Claire Louise Swinford
I really find the negative tones here a bit disturbing. You can agree or disagree with the article, but it still represents a conversation that needs to be had. In as much as the trans* community is subjected to a large amount of animosity and repression of rights, all of which is patriarchal at its core, all of which is designed to enforce, by force if necessary, gender stereotype and delineation, there is value in discussing the notion of fighting for trans* inclusion in the ultimate symbol of patriarchal gender stereotyping. I will gladly go on record as saying that the rights of my community to be comfortable as objectified, oppressed women is not something I care to fight for. But, I am willing to have the discussion, give opposing points a fair hearing. I do not see that happening here, I see people attacking the authors person, not debating her position. This is a futile notion that can serve no purpose but to somehow make the attacker feel superior. That goes nowhere, and adds nothing to understanding of this, or any issue. If anyone would care to present a position without an attack, it would go a long way towards offering credibility to the counter position here. Right now, I see none, just attacks.

So let us discuss rationally. What is the benefit of fighting for the right to transition from oppressed trans*woman to oppressed woman?
Rating: -12
Robyn Jane
I agree that it is high time trans women were allowed to parade themselves in such a high-profile meat market and cattle call. There is no excuse for us not being allowed to objectify ourselves and pander to the low tastes of the largely-male audiences who don't already fetishize us enough.
Rating: -18
Jennifer McCreath
as a transgender activist, you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but as a transsexual activist (, i respectfully disagree. any acceptance by the cis community towards a transperson is a step in the right direction, whether it be government or the private sector, as it is in this case.

Also, the significant mainstream media attention about Jenna has opened the door for many others to get subsequent media attention, where we can talk about the real issues we all face.. If it wasn't for Jenna, i wouldn't have had the chance to do thi sinterview, which was watched live by thousands, and viewed subsequently on youtube by over 2000 people..

While trump's position is strictkly towards accepting post-op transsexuals, and not others, this is still a stepping stone for bigger and better things to come. While i personally feel that beauty pageants are superficial and problematic in many ways, i'll take any victory in terms of acceptance.
Rating: +10
when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, it didn't end the Civil Rights Movement over night. it was just one small, brave action that called attention to a much larger and more complex issue of discrimination and basic human rights. she started a wave of revisionary debate, exactly as Jenna has done.

if people had responded by criticizing the forum where that brave action happened, then everyone would have just have complained about the public transit system and we would still have racial segregation today.
Rating: -75
This issue is not about whether beauty pagents commodify or fetishize women. The only issue at play here is whether a transsexual female Jenna Talackova had the right to compete in a pageant with other women. At first the pageant said no because they believed Ms Talackova not to be a natural born female which is a very mean-spirited, spiteful and discriminatory act. After much attention was brought by Ms Talackova on this highly discriminatory and exclusionary policy, Miss Universe officials have now changed their position and will allow transsexual born women to compete with other women for the Miss Universe title.. That is progress and this high profile issue has advanced the human rights agenda for transsexual women. It is really unfortunate that Ms Starlighht is so blinded by her ideology and can't see how this issue has galvanized and advanced our movement forward for equality rights .
Rating: -12
I agree with Shimka that beauty pageants continue to distill unhealthy and destructive values. But so does the military and I still advocate the right to serve openly there.

I am not religious and I certainly question the teachings of the church. But I applaud those who have taken a public stance against discriminatory exclusion, just because the others haven't.

I don't want to get married, but I want the equal right to do so fully legalized and protected, so that it is there for those who choose to participate in what I think is an outdated and patriarchal institution. One that also objectifies women.

Also, I think country music is annoying and stupid. But if you set one up and tell me that no LGBT person is allowed to enter there and do the same stupid dance that everyone else is doing, you will be AMAZED at my sudden and intense passion to get inside and boot-scoot-my-mother-loving-bootie.

all. night. long.

Rating: -20
Indi Edwards
seriously as an activist i find all this pretty lame way of going about your activist activities,. Tall Poppy cutting. I agree with jamie in the first instance and this reeks of jealousy and sour grapes to me. No thy enemy, she inst our enemy. Get real. There are so many positive things we could be doing and you do this???? IMO its ant productive and just makes us look like ass holes.
Rating: +1
Jeff T
I think many of you need to give your head a shake for a moment. Jenna Talackova participated in multiple transgender beauty pageants AROUND THE WORLD well before trying to step foot into "TRUMPS" empire. Jenna already had a large porfolios based under the pageants she appeared in.

READ BETWEEN THE LINES!.. If you believe that TRUMP and his executives at the Miss Universe pageant didn't know Jenna was transgender... Then I got news for you... They did.. The reality is is that they USED Jenna for RATINGS and nothing more. When you walk into a Miss Universe pageant or any pageant of such magnitude, you have to have a portfolio on who you are.. what you've accomplished.. various awards in other pageants and a list of credentials. etc..Thats how your judged.

In Jenna's case, TRUMP and his executives took advantage of the situation for nothing more then ratings. Regardless of the outcome if they let Jenna stay or disqualify her, the fact of the matter is that they literally USED Jenna and the LGBT community for nothing more then PROFIT.
Rating: -20
R U Kiddingme
@Jeff T

Assuming your theory is true, then, congratulations LGBT community! You are now accepted enough to be greedily mined for profit by mainstream entertaiment -- like the rest of us! (Whoever "us" is.)
Rating: +485
Ms Raigen D
I had a dream about 40 years ago when I was a child, in some rural town that I could try out for Miss Canada as I watched the Miss Canada Pageant on television. It was a beautiful dream but it was just that a dream. I look at the situation and I am so grateful for Jenna because if I were that child watching this, all - I can imagine is how it is helping a young trans-child who now knows they aren't alone in this world. If this helps, which I am sure it does, helps to save another young trans-person to realize their dream then Jenna has done great.

I remember the first time I ever saw a sex change, it was on the CBC on a black & white TV, goodness I feel old, I believe they were on 'The Fifth Estate'. There was a sex change and her husband being interviewed. That was the very first time I knew I wasn't a freak, I wasn't alone, there is place for me in this world. It gave me hope, it gave me the strength to go on, it was very lonely for me, as it is for many young ones that are trans.

You can have your debate on oppression, meat markets, etc. I will see the beauty in all of this. If this saves one child, it is beautiful.

In my life time - to see this happening gives me so much warmth in my heart. Thank you Jenna for having the strength to go through this
Rating: +13
Kristen Worley
"The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives." - William James
Rating: -16
Ms Femme
Fortunately Starlight speaks for a small grouping of people, not the majority. Jena fought for something she believed in and in the end she won. It was her face that has now meant she will never have that ability to fade away into the woodwork. She didn't ask to be the poster girl for everyone else, nor is that her role.People can take her win and use it now, to their own benefit. Course except those like Starlight who can't fathom anything positive. Just what is it about some people who need so badly to attack, that they can see nothing good in anything anyone else did. I bet had the shoe been on the other foot, if this were Starlight she'd be ranting about how important this was. This comment by her reeks of jealousy.
Rating: -5


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