Transgender activist not cheering Jenna Talackova’s Miss Universe breakthrough

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      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.

      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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      Apr 10, 2012 at 3:31pm

      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.

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      Apr 10, 2012 at 4:15pm

      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.

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      Steve Y

      Apr 10, 2012 at 6:58pm

      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"

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      Gentleman Jack

      Apr 10, 2012 at 7:27pm

      "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?

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      Apr 10, 2012 at 7:32pm

      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.

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      Tami Starlight

      Apr 11, 2012 at 12:54am

      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.

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      Misha B.

      Apr 11, 2012 at 1:45am

      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!)

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      Apr 11, 2012 at 1:50am

      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. < Nearly 20 years in trans activism and this article is just stupid.

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      Claire Louise Swinford

      Apr 11, 2012 at 7:49am

      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?

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      Robyn Jane

      Apr 11, 2012 at 8:13am

      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.

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