REUTERS - The Miss Universe pageant is changing its rules and will allow transgender women to take part in all of its competitions starting in 2013, the organization and gay rights group GLAAD said on Tuesday.
Tuesday's decision follows a media outcry over the disqualification of Canadian contestant Jenna Talackova from the upcoming Miss Universe Canada contest because she was not a "naturally born female."
Talackova 23, who underwent gender reassignment surgery when she was 19, was reinstated to the Canadian competition last week by businessman Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe organization. Talackova has a Canadian passport, driver's license and other documents that identify her as a woman
Following consultations with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Miss Universe "discussed a policy change that includes transgender women in time for the start of this fall's 2013 pageant season; a time when most of the competitions around the world begin to take place," the two groups said in a joint statement.
The change brings Miss Universe into line with other groups that have taken a stand against discrimination of transgender women, including the Olympics, the Girl Scouts of America and TV show "America's Next Top Model", GLAAD said.
"We have a long history of supporting equality for all women and this was something we took very seriously," said Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization.
The exact language, which will abolish the long-standing rule that contestants must be "naturally born females," is still being worked out, officials said.
National beauty pageants are currently being held around the world to chose contestants to compete in the 2012 Miss Universe contest, to be held later this year.
Reporting By Jill Serjeant