Donald Trump's Miss USA pageant — which, along with the other Miss Universe contests, is the only mainstream beauty pageant that permits transgender women to compete — has invited Caitlyn Jenner to serve as one of its judges. The Olympic gold medalist and former stepmother to the Kardashians is herself transgender, sharing her new name with the public on the cover of Vanity Fair last week.
But take this progressive gesture with a grain of salt: Miss Universe's inclusive admissions policy was born from an embarrassing controversy. Twenty-three-year-old model Jenna Talackova was banned from competing in the Miss Universe Canada pageant in 2012, when the organization discovered that she was transgender. Officials argued that Talackova had been disqualified because she lied about being "naturally born" a woman on her application.
Firebrand attorney Gloria Allred took Talackova's case. The pageant organizers ultimately reversed their decision and allowed her to compete.
In a surreal 20/20 interview with Barbara Walters, Trump — in his capacity as the owner of the Miss Universe Organization — affirmed Talackova's eligibility for the competition before making an off-color, bizarre comment about her name and anatomy:
I looked at her name, and somebody brought this up to me: "Jennatal." Those are the first letters of her name. And it's "genital." And I'm saying to myself, "Hmm, that's strange, could there be an ulterior motive?'"
What "ulterior motive" would that be, exactly?
Congratulations, Mr. Trump. You managed to tell a joke (at least, we think it was a joke?) that was both offensive and incomprehensible. (Trump is also a noted misogynist.)
We'll leave you with this retort from Allred, offered in the same segment:
With all due respect to Mr. Trump, he really needs to stop being focused on genitals. His, or anyone else's. This world does not revolve around his penis or anyone else's genitalia. Whether a person is a woman is not simply defined by her genitalia.
Jenner has yet to accept or decline the Miss USA pageant's invitation.
Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.