Oscar Dimant had not heard of Jenna Talackova until Sunday. But when Dimant, a 22-year-old college student in New York City, read the news that Talackova, a Vancouver-based model was disqualified from the Miss Universe Canada competition because she is transgender, he knew he had to take action.
"I was pretty disgusted," Dimant told the Daily Dot. "She's trans—it doesn't really matter. It's nobody's business what she has in her pants. If she was beautiful enough to make it as a contestant, then she's beautiful enough to compete. End of story."
But it wasn’t the end of the story.
Dimant argues that Talackova's sex change is no different from other plastic surgeries that he believes other contestants have gotten—like nose jobs and breast augmentations that may make a contestant more desirable to a panel of beauty pageant judges.
"That people would disqualify her over what genitals she may or may not have, or what she was born with, or what kind of surgery she had; you don't have to give your medical history when you're applying for these things. I was upset."
That evening, Dimant went to change.org and opened a petition to "Reverse the Unfair Disqualification of Jenna Talackova." Dimant said that he didn't expect for the petition to get very much support, but when he woke up Monday morning, the petition’s count had already risen to over 20,000 signatures. As of press time, more than 31,000 people had signed Dimant's petition. Many who have signed have also left messages supporting Talackova's cause.
"Jenna is legally and physically a woman," supporter Kaylie Clendenon wrote on Monday.
"Her being trans represents that it was harder for her than most to get to where she is today, and that makes her the perfect Miss Universe contestant. How much do you think that those other girls, biological girls, had to struggle to become beauty queens? The majority of them were born as beautiful women, which is not something most humans can totally relate to."
"Jenna has gone through one of the toughest journeys that none of us will ever have to venture through," wrote Dennis Gross. "Not only has she survived the psychological and physical staring of such a journey, but she overcame the very people who discriminated against her. It's hard to overcome society, your peers, and even yourself. Jenna has done all of this and gone above and beyond any requirements that she may have to meet."
On Monday, Talackova responded to supportive messages on Twitter (Talackova has a protected account), writing, “These words of inspiration have touched my heart, all of you are the miss.Universe beauty queens and kings in my eyes !”
Dimant said he hasn't had any contact with Talackova aside from sending one tweet to notify her of the petition, and he's not looking to foster an ongoing conversation with the model. Rather, he wants his efforts to cast light on the discrimination that transgender individuals face every day, in every realm of daily life.
"Transgender people face discrimination at jobs; they face discrimination when they're looking for homes—in dating. Every comedy movie makes a joke out of a transgender person, especially transgender women.
“I don't know Jenna, and I don't follow beauty pageants, but here's yet another transgender person facing discrimination, this time in a very public way.
“People standing in support of her are standing in support of transgender people everywhere who face discrimination across so many avenues."