Elodie Gossuin was a victim of a rumor that she was born a man
While it is true that there is no confirmed case that a transsexual has ever competed at the Miss Universe Pageant, attempts has already been made. But as in the case of Miss France Elodie Gossuin, being a transsexual is a no no in France and at Miss Universe. Shortly after being crowned, a nasty rumor circulated that Elodie was in fact born a man. This prompted a furious denial in part of Miss France organization. The rumor even followed Elodie when she arrived in Puerto Rico for the Miss Universe contest. It was further inflamed by the fact that Elodie refused to answer questions about her gender.
Miss Universe was pretty straightforward in answering the issue. "Our regulations say that all delegates must be natural-born females," Miss Universe spokeswoman Mary Hilliard McMillan said. "If she does turn out to be a man, we'll put her on the first plane back to France," she added.
Chen Lili is the first transsexual who attempted to join the national qualifiers of Miss Universe
But despite such declaration in 2001, many national pageants lack specifics in their requirements. In many countries, it is legal to change ones sex. That is why in 2004, Chen Lili, a transsexual, decided to join the Miss Universe China pageant. "A sex-change woman registering for the Miss Universe contest is something that has never happened before," Miss Universe selection committee chairman Zhang Ruiling told reporters. Chen Lili's application was denied. The public opinion was divided.
Cao Gang, a beauty contest expert in Shanghai, offered his support to Lili: "She has been granted the status as a woman, and is protected and recognized by law. There is no reason to kick her out." But some see it as a publicity gimmick. "Another media circus. They just want to have fun," Netizens addressed the issue a sheer farce, "Even Chen herself has deliberately staged the cooperation media gimmick."
Jenna official portrait at Miss Universe Canada website. It has been taken down since the issue of her gender surfaced
And so fast forward. The case of Jenna Talackova is indeed a divisive issue. I have personally contacted Miss Universe Canada and Jenna herself but I am yet to receive their replies as of press time. But the matter is complicated I suppose. It delves further into the issues regarding gender and how broad is the definition of being a woman.
I remembered the case of Caster Semenya, a South African athlete who competed in women's athletics but is alleged to be a man. CNN interviewed an expert guest (I really forgot who) and the host asked if it is simple to determine ones gender. I was surprised how complicated it is and it does not just involve a visual inspection of genitalia. It involves psychological, sociological and physiological aspects. So, even if Miss Universe had declared that a contestant must be a natural born female, the possibility of having a dilemma in this aspect is still there.
What this issue has brought upon us is a big debate on what it is really to be a woman. My hunch however is, so many people are yet to surrender the traditional definition.