Canadian transgender beauty contestant wins Miss Congeniality

Sun May 20, 2012 5:59pm EDT

Transgender contestant Jenna Talackova takes part in Miss Universe Canada competition in Toronto, May 19, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Transgender contestant Jenna Talackova takes part in Miss Universe Canada competition in Toronto, May 19, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Mark Blinch

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(Reuters) - A transgender Canadian beauty contestant who was initially disqualified from taking part in the Miss Universe Canada pageant because she was not a "naturally born female" failed to win the crown but was awarded the title of Miss Congeniality.

Jenna Talackova, a tall blonde who underwent gender-reassignment surgery at age 19 and holds legal documents affirming her identity as a woman, made it into the top 12 in the Miss Universe Canada pageant on Saturday night in Toronto.

She shared the title of Miss Congeniality with three other women voted on by their fellow contestants.

The winner of the overall competition and the new Miss Universe Canada was Sahar Biniaz, 26, of Vancouver, who will represent Canada in the international Miss Universe pageant in December, according to the Miss Universe Canada website.

Talackova, 23, was kicked out of the Miss Universe Canada competition in March after she was selected as one of 65 finalists.

Her disqualification sparked commentary on the Internet and cable television news shows about the boundaries of gender identification, civil liberties and the rights of private organizations to set their own rules.

Talackova, whose Canadian passport, driver's license and birth certificate all identify her as a woman, later appeared with Los Angeles-based attorney Gloria Allred, a high-profile advocate for women's causes, demanding to be let back in.

After some public back-and-forth with Donald Trump, whose Trump Organization owns the contest, competition officials agreed to let her compete. The Miss Universe pageant also later said it would change its rules to allow transgender women to take part in all of its competitions starting in 2013.

Talackova is currently a student at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition and counts sports and fitness among her passions, according to the Miss Universe Canada website.

"One of my key traits is positive thinking," Talackova says on her profile. "I believe you create the world around you with your thoughts."

(Reporting By Karen Brooks; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech)

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