Miss Universe Reverses Policy to Allow Trans Contestant, But Discrimination Persists
After public pressure from LGBT rights groups, Donald Trump's Miss Universe Beauty Pageant, no stranger to controversy over homophobia thanks to Carrie Prejean, has announced that it will allow a trans contestant, Jenna Talackova, to particpate.
The National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling released a statement:
"No one likes it when they're left out of something because of who they are. 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."
This column in the Huffington Post by Laverne Coxalso reminds us of the violence and on-the-books discrimination faced by the trans community.
For example, we have been trying to get the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) passed in New York for the past 10 years. In the state of New York It's still legal to fire transgender people from our jobs just for being trans. Trans people face disproportionate amounts of discrimination in housing and health care and are often victims of violence simply for being who we are. Jenna's victory against discrimination in the Miss Universe pageant will be for naught if we don't use it to shine a light on the struggles that have yet to be won for trans people around the world.
Beyond this, there are a shocking number of murders and violent acts directed at this community, particularly trans people of color. This highly-visible dustup will hopefully be the beginning of a growing mainstream awareness and advocacy efforts.