Miss Universe Contestant & The Transsexual Separatist Debate
Photo Credit: Miss Universe Canada.
Donald Trump’s decision to allow trans woman Jenna Talackova to compete in the Miss Universe contest represents a huge civil rights gain for transgendered people. Or does it? Transsexual women have often born the brunt of radical feminist wrath. As Janice Raymond put it “all transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves.” In a day and age when beauty pageants seem to be remnants of a sexist pre-feminist culture, beauty pageant contestants seem to play into the sexist image of an objectified woman. Janice Raymond would look at Talackova as the quintessential trans woman, I’m sure. However, Jenna Talackova did win the right to compete in what was a women born women only space.
What is a woman born woman anyway? A woman is sexually and emotionally mature; we don’t consider infant girls to be women. An article in the Huffington Post reported that 23 year old Jenna Talackova was “born a man,” started hormones at 14 and completed her transition four years ago. It’s odd that a fourteen year old kid is only considered a “man” by reporters when considering the life story of a transsexual woman. Jenna Talackova was born, went through female puberty at a normal age, matured into a woman and has had corrective surgery. Her life story is not as sensational as the media has portrayed it.
I lost interest in the Talackova story as soon as she was allowed to compete. I firmly believe that no women should be barred from a woman only space simply because of a medical condition, but I also am not particularly interested in who wins the Miss Universe competition. This story, however, has continued to be covered within the transgendered press. The current debate in the trans community is over transsexual separatism. Ms. Talackova is a perfect focusing point for this debate.
The term “trangendered” was coined to include all people who transgress the expectations of the gender they were assigned at birth. It includes cross-dressers, drag queens, transgenderists, bi-gendered people, and transsexuals. The problem with lumping all transgendered people together is that we are distinct groups with distinct identities. Many transsexuals (including myself) consider transsexualism to be a treatable physical disorder not in the same category as other forms of transgenderism. Jenna Talackova, for example, is not living across genders; she competes in beauty pageants. There is nothing trans about her gender identity.
Transsexual seperatists believe that transsexuals need to have a separate identity from other transgendered people. We don’t transgress gender like other transgendered people do. We fit within and are comfortable with the gender binary. It is important for us to be accepted as the sex that conforms to our gender identities; we don’t want to be third gendered. We don’t want to be included with cross-dressers, drag queens, transgenderists, and bi-gendered people. We don’t look down on these people, nor are we embarrassed by them, but we are not the same. Transsexualism is a physical condition; transgenderism is mental.
The fact that Jenna Talackova was allowed to compete in the Miss Universe pageant is a civil rights victory for transsexual women, it is one more public acknowledgement that trans women are not in a separate category from other women, but I think it is foolish to believe that any beauty pageant contender is going to make it more socially acceptable to cross gender boundaries. Ms. Talackova’s inclusion in the Miss Universe competition does not challenge gender roles or expectations; it is not a victory for transgender or feminist rights in the least.
Janice Raymond would look at Talackova’s inclusion in the Miss Universe pageant as proof that transsexuals are male appropriations of femininity. The press has sensationalized it as a “former man allowed to compete for Miss Universe Crown.” The reality is: she is only a woman who wanted to compete in the Miss Universe competition. She, like many other transsexual women, probably doesn’t identify as transgendered. It is unfair for transsexuals to represent groups they don’t belong to. Let’s judge her as a woman who happens to be transsexual not as a former man or transgender activist; she is neither.
Natalie Gates loves food, cooking and her dog. She is passionate about art, transgender theory and politics. She writes about gender and publishes recipes online.
NEW YORK — Thomas Roberts, an openly gay journalist and news anchor for MSNBC, announced Thursday he plans to host the upcoming Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, calling it a “huge, visible opportunity for LGBT people. Everywhere.” Roberts said he “aggressively” pursued the hosting job after Bravo’s Andy Cohen declined to host the pageant, statingRussia’s “discriminatory policies make it [...]October 18, 2013
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