LGBT Perspectives editor
QUEBEC — Say what you will about Donald Trump — and there IS a lot to say — but he did the right thing by Jenna Talackova back in 2012, without much of a fuss by him.
You may recall that Jenna is a young trans woman in Canada who got the boot from the Miss Universe Canada pageant when it was discovered she was born male, or assigned male at birth.
Trump didn’t expel her; the contest’s Canadian director did.
But Jenna hired a famous Beverly Hills attorney and they took it to the media (i.e. the court of popular opinion), where the case because a cause célèbre.
Disclosure: I wrote a lot about the case for my now-defunct Montreal Gazette blog, and was interviewed on CBC Radio about it.
Trump didn’t put up much of a fight. In fact, he didn’t fight at all. As he said in a Good Morning, America interview: “The fact is we went by the laws of the country and the laws are very clear and, based on that, about two days ago, we decided to let her compete.”
The law he was talking about, quite simply, is that it was illegal in Canada to discriminate against Jenna because of her route to womanhood. She is legally a woman in Canada, and should be treated no differently than any other woman.
In the immediate aftermath of the whole affair, other countries were not bound by the Canadian decision. But as an article on the Counterpunch site points out, “over the last few years, change has slowly begun to recast the beauty contest.” More and more trans women are participating . . .
So, why am I bringing this up now?
Well, the Counterpunch article frames the Trump/Talackova incident as some sort of capitulation by the Donald, a defeat, a retreat.
Back in the day when I covered it all for my Gazette blog, I congratulated Trump for doing the right thing. Law or no law, we all know that if Trump disagreed with Jenna participating in the Miss Universe Canada pageant, he would have made his views known — loudly. But he never spoke against Jenna or trans people. He simply did his research and did the right thing, behaving like a perfect gentleman throughout it all. I promised to buy him a drink if he ever came to Montreal . . . and that offer still stands.
I suspect that Trump learned a lot from that incident, and that he’ll remember it when he is faced with transgender issues in his bid to be Republican leader and, quite possibly, president of the United States.
I don’t think transgender people should fear him, because he has already stood up for them. He did the right thing for them once; I think he will do right by them again.