Due to the tragic death of Ray Taavel, the Wayves magazine edition for May was shelved in favour of a well-deserved tribute edition. Here is my contribution that was hence, cancelled from publication:
The Jenna Talackova Story - Making an Impact Across Canada!
Well, it just wouldn't feel right to have a major LGBT Canadian periodical publication this month, without at least one story about the most-covered transsexual news story, perhaps in the history of
Canada. As I am sure many of you are already aware, British Columbia native Jenna Talackova made news all over the world when she was outted as a post-op transsexual woman who was initially disqualified from the Miss Universe Canada pageant when it was revealed that she was not supposedly a "natural born woman." Rather than taking this disqualification lightly, Jenna enlisted the help of famed lawyer Gloria Allred, and within a matter of days, pageant owner Donald Trump
decided to reverse the decision and allow Talackova to compete.
What does this have to do with Eastern Canada, you ask? Well, this story has stimulated conversations all over Canada, including right here in our neck of the woods. While there is a clear division of opinions in terms of whether or not having a transsexual entered in a main-stream beauty pageant adds value to the various fights of the trans community, is debatable, but what it has done is open the door for many other trans advocates to gain attention to speak about the issues.
While mainstream media in Newfoundland has generally ignored trans issues, I was among the first in the country to be contacted for a lengthy interview on province-wide television. Not only did I get a chance to speak about the pageant, but I got the opportunity to discuss trans issues in general, including the challenges we all face with regards to stereotypes and myths about our transition being a medical condition, as well as the challenges we face in society gaining acceptance and fairness in terms of access to health care, housing, employment, safety, and overall human rights recognition.
The story couldn't have come at a better time, given that federal private member's bill C-279, is in the process of being moved through the House in Ottawa. This Bill, if passed, would provide human rights protection to trans people, by virtue of having the words "gender identity" and "gender expression" added to the Human Rights Code. In addition, it would include the same terms under the grounds for hate crimes in the Criminal Code of Canada.
Finally, the Talackova story has stimulated so much interest, both in and out of the trans communities, that it is literally bringing more trans people out of the closet and into social media discussions. Not only has this allowed me to find and communicate with trans people in all four Eastern Canadian provinces, it has lead to several strangers stopping me on the streets of downtown St. John's to talk about trans issues. Additionally, this has opened the door for me to develop some
personal rapport with Talackova herself.
Ultimately, regardless of what you all think of beauty contests, and regardless of whether or not you feel Trump is just using Talackova as a pawn in his game of chess to attract media attention to his
business, it's hard to disagree that having Trump express trans acceptance, and change his company policy, within a matter of days, doesn't make a major statement to society at a global level.
Accepting trans people as equals is now good for business. Trump knows this, and so do I.
I can only hope that more and more examples of trans acceptance in the private sector, will occur, and that this will eventually put pressure on Government entities to move faster in terms of amending their policies to ensure rights for trans Canadians in the East Coast.