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Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Jenna Talackova Story - some thoughts

You would have had to have been ignoring the news to miss the story of Jenna Talackova. She is the transgendered Canadian who has been seeking to compete in the Miss Universe contest. While there is a whole debate to be had on whether such contests should be held, Ms. Talackova's situation has some interesting lessons in social work and child protection.

She was born a he - Walter Talackova. By the time that she is 14, she has begun the transformation process to becoming a woman. What is worth knowing, the transgender process is one that is carefully considered by the medical profession before the process is undertaken and the surgery is arranged. She had the gender reassignment surgery at age 19. While the rules vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, there is generally a requirement to live as the new gender for about 2 years. It is not something that is done lightly or without going through several steps.

Recognizing that there are people who are born in one gender but, for all intents and purposes is the other gender requires us, as a society, to be tolerant and willing to see this reality.

What then does this have to do with child protection? Well, this may seem a stretch I suppose, but it may have a lot to do with the ability of a society to accept alternative lifestyles and parents who live within them. This is tricky territory but a parent should not be judged poor simply by the lifestyle - as long as - that lifestyle is not harmful to the child. But it is our willingness to be tolerant that may allow us to stand back and reflect upon the true nature of the risks - or the absence of them.

Jenna Talackova is about being open to see what should be acceptable and tolerated. You might think I am stretching the point - and I might be - but her situation caused me to reflect. I found her story interesting and compelling. I saw support from her family and acceptance from the Lake Babine Reserve in Burns Lake, B.C.,  where she is registered. They have even helped her with the costs of pursuing her dream to enter the competition. This is a story of change, difference but also one of family and community support and acceptance. These are the types of resilience factors that we are often looking for in the families with whom we work.

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