One of the things that is irritating me is hearing the comments coming from elements of the online trans peanut gallery who are criticizing the Jenna Talackova Los Angeles press conference her attorney Gloria Allred set up and Jenna’s nervous reading of her statement at it.
As someone who has had the task a few times to speak and advocate for this community in front of legislative bodies, there have been moments I’ve been a little nervous at the start of my testimony, especially if I’ve had time to think about the importance of what I’m about to do and realize that what I say may sway votes in either a positive one for this community or a negative one.
But I’ve been doing this since 1998 and have the experience, skill set, intestinal fortitude and abilities to do so. I also volunteered after some deliberative thought before taking on that leadership responsibility on behalf of the trans community. Jenna Talackova didn’t ask for this drama and probably wasn’t expecting to become an international news story or trans rights warrior for simply wanting to enter a pageant.
I’m willing to bet that Jenna would rather be preparing herself to compete against 65 other Canadian women next month in Toronto, not being in Los Angeles for a press conference having her trans business exposed due to a discriminatory and transphobic pageant rule that has negatively impacted her life.
Sometimes through no fault of their own, transpeople find themselves combating injustice and becoming reluctant trans human rights warriors. When that happens, we as a community need to be ready to give them the support they will need to successfully complete the job.
Yes, we’d all like the perfect person who can speak eloquently, has a grasp of our history of struggle and our community, and good looks to go with it. But many times, as in this case, fate intervenes and you have to fight injustice with the advocate you have at that moment in time who is in the public eye. Right now 23 year old Jenna finds herself being that advocate..
As Bet Power said during a discussion we were having about this case on my Facebook page:
I can’t believe some are critical of Jenna’s appearance on national TV with Atty. Allred. Who cares if she was nervous enough to read her statement instead of speak extemporaneously? How many of us would have done the same thing if we were suddenly thrust into the national spotlight as an out trans person?
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this brave trans woman has (a) Just successfully fought back against rejection and discrimination to win reinstatement to the Miss Universe Pageant as an out trans woman, (b) Has broken a major glass ceiling by being included in the top-level pageant worldwide, and (c) Has a chance at winning! Not all of us are activists. Jenna is a pageant competitor, which doesn’t always (or even usually) require one to be intensely political.
However, by her actions alone thus far, Jenna has won a victory for trans people everywhere. She will continue to influence positive change by her presence in the pageant and all of its surrounding publicity. Why is it so hard for our trans community to applaud its trail blazers and celebrate our victories and those who win them?
The trans person in the spotlight is going to get enough Hateraid from ignorant cis folks for standing up for their human rights. We don’t need to be adding to it.
We also need to focus on the fact that by standing up for her human rights, as Bet pointed out, Jenna not only helped achieve an unexpected trans human rights win, she may also be in position to make some history and help change some hearts and minds about us when she steps on that stage at the Miss Canada Universe pageant next month.
Trans human rights victories are not just won by direct action protests, litigation or legislation, but in some cases by people like Jenna Talackova who had the courage and determination to fight back against an injustice aimed at her and by doing so, advanced trans human rights for all of us.