She could have made history, only if it was not for transphobia, or the fear of transgenders that plagues people. Jenna Talackova, a 23-year-old transgender, was thrown out of the Miss Universe contest, after the organisers discovered that she had undergone surgery to become a woman. Talackova had reached the finals of the Miss Vancouver competition, but she was ousted from the pageant by the Miss Universe Canada organisers. The organisers on their part argued that according to the official rules, each contestant must be a ‘naturally born female.’
The incident has lead to an uproar worldwide, and rainbow groups are slamming the move on social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter.
Back home, where there is no dearth of transgenders who aspire to enter the glamour industry, LGBT activists are angry because of the denial of opportunities and lack of platforms, that keep transgenders from proving themselves. “The denial of a fair chance to this contestant is a result of transphobia. It makes people lose their sense of natural justice. The girl must have been given a chance,” says LGBT activist Ashok Row Kavi.
Shashi Bhushan, lawyer and LBGT activist, calls the incident “a violation of human rights.” He adds, “A transgender is someone who is born in a wrong body. It’s no fault of her own. There’s no reason why someone who has undergone the painful Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) should be stopped from competing. Do they (pageant organisers) have any explanation for their fears? It’s clearly a case of deep rooted prejudice against transgenders...There are a large number of disheartened transgenders who have no choice but to get into prostitution post surgery.”
The incident has also dampened the spirit of city based transgender models, who think that the West has set one of the worst examples of bias against them. “If this is what the ‘liberal West’ is doing, you can well imagine our fate in a country where the majority is transphobic. Forget about an entry in a national competition, I have started doubting my future as a model,” says 24-year-old transgender, Chahat, who claims she has resorted to sex work after not having found a break in modelling.
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