VANCOUVER – The case of a transgendered Vancouver woman kicked out of the Miss Universe Canada pageant reached a new high on Monday, pitting Donald Trump’s Miss Universe Organization against a prominent American lawyer.
Trump’s New-York-based organization released a statement late Monday saying Jenna Talackova, 23, who was dropped from the beauty contest last month after admitting she was born a male, can compete in the May 19 event “provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada.” The statement, posted on the pageant’s website, did not elaborate on what those requirements were.
The statement came shortly after Talackova announced a news conference in Los Angeles with high-profile lawyer Gloria Allred for Tuesday.
Allred’s office said its news conference is still proceeding as planned and that Allred would not comment on Monday night.
Back in B.C., Canadian lawyer Joseph Arvay, who said he was retained over the weekend, said he hopes the announcement means Talackova can compete but he’s not yet sure.
“It’s gobbledygook to me,” he said of the announcement.
When talking about the legal gender recognition requirements in Canada, human-rights laws in B.C. and Ontario apply, he said, adding those laws “prohibit discrimination based on being transgendered.”
“So one would think that she therefore meets the legal gender requirements in Canada.”
Arvay said he has been given instructions to begin legal proceedings against pageant organizers on the grounds that they’ve discriminated against Talackova and he hopes developments on Tuesday add clarity to the situation.
The decision to drop Talackova from the pageant raised her profile considerably, with pictures and YouTube videos of the six-foot-one-inch blond getting plenty of clicks. News outlets in the United States, Britain, Canada and elsewhere picked up the story.
Talackova vowed to keep up the fight and is urging supporters to sign an online petition calling for her reinstatement. By Monday night, more than 40,000 people had signed the petition, which calls the decision to disqualify her “discriminatory, unjust, and quite frankly disgusting.”
Officials with Miss Universe Canada denied the discrimination claims, saying the rules established by the Miss Universe franchise state each contestant must be a “naturally born female.”
In an interview posted on YouTube during the Miss International Queen 2010 contest in Thailand, Talackova said she knew at a very young age that she was female and started hormone therapy when she was 14.
She said she went through gender reassignment surgery when she was 19.
The Miss Universe Canada pageant was created in 2002 by Beauties of Canada, which says it holds the exclusive rights to send contestants to the Miss Universe Pageant.
_ With files from The Associated Press.