The recent furor over a ruling issued by no less than Donald Trump himself owner of the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) allowing transgender contestants to vie for the Miss Universe title sparked numerous debates around what it means to be a “woman” and what defines “beauty”. The Miss Universe pageant after all is a beauty contest where contestants are judged presumably on the basis of criteria around feminine beauty.
A rule requiring contestants to be “naturally born” human females was originally applied by the MUO which was criticised as being “an antiquated rule grounded in prejudice, fear and stereotypes”. So, obviously, it seems that being woman is now considered by the chattering classes to be a debatable concept. I also picked up amongst the social media chatter someone insisting that the Miss Universe contest is a beauty contest and “not a vagina contest” (transgenders do have a vagina of course, a man-made one perhaps, but a vagina nonetheless). But if, as the assertion implies, we are taking off the female aspect of these contests and focusing more on the “beauty” aspect of it, then beauty, it seems, is also up for re-defining today. Not surprisingly then, much of the debate revolves around definitions of what a woman is and what one would consider a beautiful “woman”. It’s a minefield of a debate made more complicated when the concept of “woman” was conveniently divorced from its biological aspect by some camps in this “debate”.
Perhaps a different way to approach the “debate” is to move away from the intractable issue of what a woman is and what feminine “beauty” is and focus more on why feminine beauty exists. In other words, why do heterosexual men take certain specific qualities in a woman as bases for determining how “beautiful” she is? Why, for example are men generally attracted to women who sport long thick shiny hair, smooth soft skin, a slender waist, proportionately broad hips, full lips, full breasts, and facial symmetry among others? All of these qualities seem to offer no significant survival advantage in the wild (i.e. a “beautiful” individual is not necessarily more adept at acquiring food or evading predators than an “ugly” individual). So they obviously evolved and survived natural selection because they offered individuals that possessed these features an advantage when it comes to attracting sexual partners (which is a key step to propagating one’s genes).
Many of the “beautiful” qualities highlighted in beauty contests involving females are fitness indicators. Heterosexual human males have evolved a finely-tuned mate selection mechanism that carefully evaluates prospects on the basis of these — and many of these aim to send out one primary message: this specimen is fertile!!. And because youth is a big determinant of female fertility, many of these fitness indicators are reliable gauges of youthfulness. Indeed, it is mainly most of these that tend to degrade most quickly with age — most prominently the luster of hair, the fullness of lips, and the suppleness of skin. Indeed, much of the products hawked by the beauty industry centres around these three main features that strongly determine female “beauty” in the eyes of heterosexual men.
In short, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, but in the survival agenda of our unique individual DNA sequence.
Thus, one cannot deny that beauty pageants are won on the basis of standards set by what human heterosexual males have been programmed by tens of thousands of years of evolution to find “beautiful” in human females. It is for this simple reason that the highlight of the Miss Universe pageant — and most other conventional beauty pageants for that matter — is the swimsuit competition portion of the contest. After all, when else is the executive summary of the mating call (and fertility advertising) of each contestant most evident than when there is not much on to degrade the signals being sent out by the candidates’ fitness indicators?
[Photo courtesy Wikipedia.org.]
Consider then what transgenders and/or transsexuals have to go through to achieve this feat of biological marketing…
When changing anatomical sex from male to female, the testicles are removed and the skin of foreskin and penis is usually inverted, as a flap preserving blood and nerve supplies to form a fully sensitive vagina (vaginoplasty). A clitoris fully supplied with nerve endings (innervated) can be formed from part of the glans of the penis. If the patient has been circumcised (removal of the foreskin), or if the surgeon’s technique uses more skin in the formation of the labia minora, the pubic hair follicles are removed from some of the scrotal tissue, which is then incorporated by the surgeon within the vagina. Other scrotal tissue forms the labia majora.
Results may vary. However, in the best cases, when recovery from surgery is complete, it is often very difficult for anyone, including gynecologists, to detect that someone has undergone vaginoplasty. Because the human body treats the new vagina as a wound, however, any current technique of vaginoplasty requires some long-term maintenance of volume (vaginal dilation), by the patient, using medical graduated dilators, dildos, or suitable substitutes, to keep the vagina open. It is very important to note that sexual intercourse is not always an adequate method of performing dilation.
There wouldn’t be much point to the surgical changes performed on sexual organs unless other aspects of the person are modified to resemble the female anatomy — specifically aspects of it that weigh heavily on attracting heterosexual males. Facial feminization surgery (FFS) is a set of reconstructive surgical procedures that alter typically male facial features to bring them closer in shape and size to typical female facial features. FFS can include includes various bony and soft tissue procedures such as brow lift, rhinoplasty, cheek implantation, and lip augmentation. Breast implantations is the enlargement of breasts, which some trans women choose if hormone therapy does not yield satisfactory results. Some individuals may elect to have voice surgery altering the range or pitch of the person’s vocal cords. Tracheal shaves are also sometimes used to reduce the cartilage in the area of the throat to conform to more feminine dimensions, to greatly reduce the appearance of an Adam’s apple. Because male hips and buttocks are generally smaller than those of a female, some MTF individuals will choose to undergo buttock augmentation.
Are transgenders therefore entitled to participate in a contest that, at its most fundamental, is really a contest where participants aim to convince the panel who is most fit to bear and raise healthy offspring?
You be the judge.
[NB: Parts of this article were lifted off the Wikipedia.org articles “Sex reassignment surgery (male-to-female)” and “Facial feminization surgery” and used in accordance with that site’s Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License consistent with the same license applied by Get Real Post to its content.]