MANHATTAN — In a significant policy reversal, Donald Trump's Miss Universe pageant has changed its rules to allow transgender women to enter the competition beginning next year, organizers and the gay rights organization GLAAD announced Tuesday.
Miss Universe also said that Canadian contestant Jenna Talackova will now be allowed to compete, after she was disqualified several weeks ago because she was not a "naturally born female," organizers said.
Her removal from the pageant sparked weeks of controversy surrounding the contest's longstanding policy barring transgender women.
The exact language of the new rules have yet to be worked out, according to reports, but GLAAD said the decision brings Miss Universe in line with the Olympics, Girl Scouts of America and the TV show “America’s Next Top Model,” all of which have banned discrimination against transgender women.
"At a time when transgender people are still routinely denied equal opportunities in housing, employment and medical care, today’s decision is in line with the growing levels of public support for transgender people across the country," GLAAD spokesman Herndon Graddick in a statement.
Talackova, a 23-year-old Miss Universe hopeful, received gender reassignment surgery when she was 19 years old. After she was disqualified because she was not born biologically female, Talackova enlisted the help of high-profile attorney Gloria Allred.
But in a statement, Paula Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization, said legal threats did not influence their decision to become more inclusive.
"We want to give credit where credit is due, and the decision to include transgender women in our beauty competitions is a result of our ongoing discussions with GLAAD and not Jenna’s legal representation, which if anything, delayed the process," Shugart said.
"We have a long history of supporting equality for all women," she added, "and this was something we took very seriously."