Beauty Pageants and Natural Women

One of the big raps directed at Jenna Talackova and her participation in this pageant is that she is “not a natural woman.”

Which is a little strange since not one of the women in that pageant was a natural woman.

Every one of them wore make-up.  Many had breast implants and other plastic surgery.

Their hair was styled by experts.

A make-up free, unplasticized, hippie woman, with a tangle of hair and natural beauty wouldn’t have stood a chance against the women who enter these contests.

I’ve even heard some snots saying that Jenna was “double dipping” by having competed in a transgender pageant prior to this.  They ask should “natural women” be allowed in those pageants.  Which is sort of like over-privileged white shits claiming scholarships directed to minorities are discriminatory since they favor groups of lesser privilege.

“Transgender Pageants” are the way a “despised and dispossessed” minority group celebrated the beauty of a few of its own.  An alternative to the world they were denied entry into.

I have a confession…

From the time I was a teenage transkid I have been awe struck by the absolute beauty of some of my sisters.  It doesn’t matter that beauty pageants and fashion magazines trivialize women.

The mere knowledge that there are a handful of sisters out there at any one time, among those publicly considered  to be among the most beautiful women in the world makes me feel good inside.

I modeled for a short time in 1974.  Something that a number of sisters in the Hollywood TS/TG community knew about.  On a few occasions I was approached on the street by sisters who told me how much they admired me and how proud they were of me.

Of course, sisters also told me how proud they were of me for speaking at the Gay Pride Rally and of my work as an activist and photographer.

Being part of a minority community is why we look up to other members of the minority community who excel.  I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t.

Which bring us back to Beauty Pageants and natural women.

Beauty pageants aren’t about natural women. They are an art form, performance art perhaps but an art form nonetheless. Like formal dance or the tea ceremony.  Like high opera they are an anachronism.

The women who perform in them are performers in a stylized presentation of a concept of femininity. A presentation of gender if you will.

This is something some of my sisters have turned into high art.  Others have turned it into low art and that is perfectly fine too.

I never managed to pull off the artifice of presenting that sort of femininity.  Sisters labeled me a “natural born beauty.” Every Day People Some sisters with that natural beauty also have the skill to pull off the presentation of stylized femininity as well.

When I hear objections from assigned female at birth women directed at sisters participating in any thing that puts them in competition with AFAB women, I smell the same sort of fear that a member of a minority group might be able to not only compete but win a competition with members of the dominant culture.

PBS has documentary they show occasionally “Unforgivable Blackness: the Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson.” None of the white heavy weight champions wanted to face him out of fear they would lose and their loss would threaten the foundations of white supremacy.

I sometime think, transsexual and transgender people in general, but more sisters than brothers threaten a lot of the pillars of belief regarding the differences between the sexes and proper gender roles.  That is why we aren’t supposed to be included in the class women, but rather set aside in a separate and unequal minority class suitable for abuse and not for equality.

As I said most TS/TG women will never compete in a beauty pageant, only a minority will even compete in a TS/TG pageant put on by members of this minority class.  Just as the chances of one of us ever competing in the Olympics is slim, while some may compete in the minority community Gay Games.

The sisters who inspire me tend to be those in the arts who manage their lives with grace and aplomb.  They are a pretty diverse group including poets, writers, musicians and performance artists.

A Miles Davis album during his fusion period was titled, “Tribute to Jack Johnson.” On it James Earl Jones speaks the lines: “I’m Jack Johnson, Heavy Weight Champion of the World. I’m Black, they never let me forget it. Yeah, I’m Black, I never let them forget it.”

I’ve been disgusted by some of the filth I’ve seen directed at not only Jenna but at almost any transsexual or transgender person who does anything of which they can be rightly proud.

Now some would say that we should just disappear and live our lives never doing anything that would bring any scrutiny into our lives that would expose the dark horrible secret of our having been born transsexual or transgender.  Even though that means never doing anything in the arts or even seeking a promotion at work that might attract attention.

After all damn few of us want to wear transsexual or transgender as an honorific in place of Ms. (or Mr. in the case of brothers).

But the press is nasty and the British Press seems worse even than the American in that respect . They seem to think transsexual or transgender is the appropriate title for those of us born into this minority class.

Those of us who write, or are out when we do our art, even if we keep some separation from the issue in our daily lives are saying we too are human and accomplished.  You may not ever let us forget what we are, but we are not ashamed and will not let you deny us our right to be part of the entire culture.  We will not stay in our minority culture just so the dominant cultural paradigm may go unchallenged.

See: The Vancouver Sun:  No such thing as a natural-born woman: The category of women – and men, too – are human inventions, not facts of nature … and many of us do not fit those categories

2 Responses to “Beauty Pageants and Natural Women”

  1. oatc Says:

    To call the Thai pageants “transgender” is cultural imperialism.

    To call Jena transgender is to label her forever in terms of the sex she was born and not the sex she is, to deny the identity she needed to fulfil, and magnificently succeeded in doing.

    Protesting Miss World at London’s Albert Hall was the very first feminist action in which I participated. Bob Hope panicked, and turned even more leering and nasty. It had been tacky meat market for some years. But pageants do not have to be that way. As you say they can be an art form, a vital cultural manifestation, an opportunity. Thailand’s most excellent, and most prominent activist woman of transsexual history first gained stature by winning one, on national television. I guess it depends how it is done, but certainly condemning anything to do with beauty or appearance, whether competitive or not, is just “radfem” – way out of order.

    WBT have a minority culture? Really?

    • Suzan Says:

      Transsexual and transgender people do have a minority culture, just as any other minority group has.

      as a minority culture it has artists, writers, musicians, politicians, activists etc. You can choose to not be part of that culture, or think you are too pure to be part of the culture your sisters and brothers have created over the ages but that minority group ethos persists.

      It ce4nters around common shared experiences of growing up trans in a world where so many try to abuse it out of you.

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