The Bitchin’ Table: Transgender Equality

This week internationalcupcakebandit and eszenyme talk about the debate surrounding the recent controversy of Jenna Talackova, a transgender pageant contestant, who was initially barred but then admitted to compete in the Miss Universe competition.

eszenyme: did you see this article about the controversy surrounding the transgendered competitor for Miss USA?

internationalcupcakebandit: Yeah I did! Truly crazy.. I can’t believe they were actually about to not let her compete, thankfully Trump gave in. I say, a big freaking, GOOD FOR HER! It’s really exciting that such a stereotyped role of the “pageant winner” is being challenged and broken down in the media. I’d say that’s a win right?

eszenyme: I have mixed feelings about it. While I definitely agree that she should be allowed to compete, I can’t help but wondering whether it’s a good thing. I know it’s a good consciousness raising event, whether purposeful or not. But it seems like now that Miss USA has allowed a transgendered competitor to be eligible, we’ve all forgotten how misogynistic pageants are in general.

internationalcupcakebandit: Yeah no I agree with you there, I clearly think that Jenna should be able to compete but it does raise a lot of questions about whether pageants are a good thing at all. Some part of me feels like even though it’s a step to equality, it’s also a step towards a more stereotyped society as a whole. Although, it does make me think of the recent drag show this Monday at JMU’s Artful Dodger. It’s a wonderful party/event that I personally love going to every year. Does that mean that’s a stereotype too?

eszenyme: I definitely think it’s a form of equality but is it the right forum? It feels like she’s fighting for equality to be treated unequally. I think drag shows can definitely be fun. But I think drag shows are more of a celebration of freedom of identity whereas beauty pageants seem to celebrate normative versions of beauty.

internationalcupcakebandit: Hmm interesting. Maybe you’re right! That’s makes a lot of sense. So, where do we go from here? That’s the real question. Do we try and stop beauty pageants all together or should we opt to try and make them “natural” like Miss America is? And not allow plastic surgery in hope for a more natural ideal? Or maybe these ideals are bad altogether!!

eszenyme: I don’t really know what we should do. I mean, what is the difference between altering your breasts to make them larger versus actually creating them during a sex change? If a transgendered person can get plastic surgery like breast augmentation, facial reconstruction, etc., to look more feminine, it seems to justify a “natural” woman altering her physical appearance. But then, doesn’t the question become, is the point of pageants just to see who can best become a real life Barbie?

internationalcupcakebandit: Ooh interesting point there! I think that if someone wants to alter their appearance they should be able to, it’s probably a right we should always have. I mean after all, it is our body. And focusing on being “natural” is probably just going to privilege certain “lucky” people over others.. I suppose the system is flawed all together. So an end to pageantry??

eszenyme: I don’t really know how to approach it. I think pageantry will be around for a long time. If it is going to exist, then I am glad it has become a platform for consciousness raising and awareness. Maybe this is the kind of discrepancy that will lead to other questioning. That, I can definitely get behind.

internationalcupcakebandit: Agreed! I hope this will make other people question this too. Skew the boundaries we have put on gender. It’s down to break downnnn! 😀

2 thoughts on “The Bitchin’ Table: Transgender Equality

  1. While I’m glad that you two are bringing up this important issue, I think it is important for me to point out that not all trans women pursue breast augmentation and “facial reconstruction” (generally referred to as Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS) in the trans community). As a trans woman myself, I have no intentions of pursuing any surgery other than “bottom surgery” (ie: construction of a vagina and labia) and many other younger trans women like myself are pursuing a similar path. For most younger trans women like myself, it is usually unnecessary to pursue these surgeries as hormones tend to effectively change our appearance to our satisfaction (though there are, of course, exceptions to this). I thought it was important to address this assumption that is made in this post and point out that it isn’t fair to jump to the conclusion that Ms. Talackova has undergone these surgeries. Again, I’m glad to see both of you invest your energies in discussing this important topic that hits especially close to home for myself, but I felt it necessary to attempt to address the common misconception that trans women generally always pursue breast augmentation and facial feminization. Many of us understand that there are much more important things that we can be spending our money on than our appearance and many more are unable to even afford “bottom surgery” due to the marginalization we generally face in the job market. Thank you, however, for your post.

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    1. Hi EmElizabeth19:

      Thanks for your response. I think it’s great that you are proud of your identity and willing to talk about it on the blog. I know we really appreciate personal comments and discussion that come from our readers. I want to respond to a few things that you said in your comment. I agree with you when you point out that not all trans women pursue either breast or FFS surgery. In fact, while internationalcupcakebandit and I were working on this post, we read tons of articles and watch even more video interviews she had done to make sure we were getting our story correct. I also ended up learning a lot about the sex change process. Jenna was also very interesting to study since she knew from a very young age that she is a woman. Because of that, she underwent hormone treatment during her early teen years as well as counseling before her surgical procedures. Eventually, she underwent a full sex reassignment surgery that included the construction of a labia and vagina, as well as breast augmentation, and later the removal of her “Adam’s apple.” I have also read other articles that suggest she has received other facial reconstruction, but they are not as explicit.

      Additionally, I think it’s important to note that internationalcupcakebandit and I were not trying to assume that everyone who goes through sex reassignment endures the same process. Instead, we were suggesting that cases like Jenna’s do raise questions about plastic surgery in beauty pageants and what is considered “acceptable.” I think the larger questions surrounding plastic surgery in pageants are two fold. First, why is only “natural” feminine beauty the only kind appreciated in our society. Second, even though beauty pageants are one step closer to equality, is this a good form of equality (i.e. are pageants still platforms for misogyny)?

      Again, I appreciate your response and I hope this clarifies any discrepancies in the original post. We were definitely not trying to assume there is a “correct” way to be a trans female (or male for that matter). But, I really appreciate you pointing that out.

      Here are three of the bazillion links we can across just in case you or anyone else is interested in reading. It’s really great to see her talk about her process and how she never really considered herself a spokesperson for the community.

      http://www.thehollywoodgossip.com/2012/04/jenna-talackova-i-was-born-in-the-wrong-body/
      http://www.autostraddle.com/on-2020-trans-beauty-queen-jenna-talackova-enlightens-barbara-walters-your-family-136155/

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