Jenna Talackova: The New Civil Rights Icon? – By Aidan Press

22 May

On 4 April 1968, the day following the now famous ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’ speech, the sound of a gunshot filled the air around the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee; Martin Luther King Jr., the icon of the 1960’s civil rights movement, had been shot dead.  Since the death of King, the battle for civil rights for ethnic minorities appears to have advanced with Barack Obama having been elected President of the U.S.A. whilst North Carolina and Louisiana have elected Governors with Asian heritage.  Now, however, it appears that a new civil rights movement is advancing, not only in the U.S.A. but, throughout the entire planet: the LGBTUA+ movement.

Over the last few decades, the LGBTUA+ movement, LGBTUA+ standing for  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Undefined, Asexual and others which may include Pansexual as well as simply friends, has gained momentum and prominence within the political world.  The community has successfully campaigned for the introduction of civil unions in a number of countries, such as the United Kingdom and Iceland, as well as for states to condemn the homophobic actions of other, religious, states such as Iran and further, for the U.S.A. to end its ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy.  The movement, however, has never had a clear leader in the same style as Martin Luther King was in the 1960’s for the black civil rights movement despite individuals such as Peter Tatchell, Lady Gaga and Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the world’s first openly lesbian head of government, amongst others being considered as spokespeople for the movement over the last few decades.

In the view of this writer, however, this may be about to change.  Over the last year, the LGBTUA+ movement appears to be finding progress in the west with both President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron declaring support for same-sex marriage as opposed to civil unions, however, another story that has been making waves within the LGBTUA+ community is that of Jenna Talackova.  Ms Talackova, of Canada, has made history in the last few weeks by becoming the first transgendered person to compete in the Miss Universe Canada and, in doing so, finishing 12th.  Whilst lesbian, gay and bisexual issues have become major issues in the political arena, those who are transgender often find themselves to be overlooked and often find themselves subject to abuse by those who do not understand their plight; Talackova may be about to change all that.

Ms Talackova has fought a long and hard battle to be able to take part in the Miss Universe Canada competition having been disqualified back in March on the grounds that she was not a naturally born female.  With Talackova as the head of the campaign, LGBTUA+ activists demanded her reinstatement into the competition and eventually Donald Trump, who runs the Miss Universe Organization, overruled the decision to disqualify the six-foot-one blonde.  Throughout the campaign, Talackova appeared on many talk shows and always managed to clearly get across her message as well as her story and emerged as a hero of the transgendered community.

Although at this point in time, the 23-year-old Talackova, who underwent sexual reassignment surgery at the age of 19, has only really seemed to have spoke on the issue of transgender rights, it is clear to see that the potential is there for her to become an icon of the LGBTUA+ community both in Canada and worldwide.  Indeed, with her fantastic communication skills, which are evident in any interview, she has the potential to become the LGBTUA+ community’s very own Martin Luther King figure; this may be what is needed to further the push for rights.

It is important to note that whilst Talackova is not the first member of the transgender community to make waves in recent times, Kim Petras of Germany and Jackie Green of the United Kingdom have also been in the public spotlight, she is the only one who has emerged as someone who may be able to lead the LGBTUA+ community; Talackova’s story is truly inspiring.

Having considered the above, it is clear to see that, in recent times, the LGBTUA+ community has made a massive amount of progress, however, there is still a long way to go with, at last count, homosexuality being illegal in 72 countries amongst other continued inequalities.  In the opinion of this writer, the LGBTUA+ has never really had a true leader to rally around and I believe that this may be vital in order  to make the movement legitimate in the eyes of some governments and further LGBTUA+ causes.   Moreover, I believe that there is a chance that the LGBTUA+ community may have found a true leader and spokesperson in the form of Jenna Talackova who, with time, could become the Martin Luther King of the LGBTUA+ community.

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