The Donald has a birth-certificate-conspiracy fetish.
After making the where of Barack Obama’s birth the cornerstone of his short-lived, Apprentice-like run for president, Mr “You’re Fired” or, to be precise, his Miss Universe franchise, decided to query the birth-gender credentials of trans contestant Jenna Talackova.
Unless we were born yesterday, we all know pageant organizers first disqualified Talackova for not being a “naturally born” woman, then reinstated her — and finally went a step further. In the future, trans contestants can apply and are welcome in the competition, organizers say.
All is apparently well on the pageant front. End of story.
But even as the storm in a teacup was being sorted, The Donald, being The Donald, felt the need to deal the ultimate Trump card on Barbara Walters’ ABC vehicle, 20/20.
Curious isn’t it, he posited, that if you combine Ms Talackova’s first name, Jenna, with the first three letters of her last, Tal, you come up with . . . JENNATAL?
And for pseudodramatic effect, the raj of rugs produced a cue card displaying his discovery in all-caps.
Too much of a planetary alignment to be an innocent coincidence, he facetiously concluded, complete with schoolboy smirk. That Jenna is working this.
And so, after declaring he “couldn’t care less” if Talackova competes or not, all of a sudden there’s the spectre of a conspiracy and — well, looky here — a potential ratings bonanza on pageant night.
At last year’s White House correspondents’ dinner, Obama himself noted, in a ROFL riot of a Trump roast, that The Donald is well-equipped to get to the bottom of all manner of conspiracies. He even offered him a few suggestions for further investigation: moon landing — fact or fiction?; that 1947 UFO conundrum in Roswell, New Mexico; and what really happened to rap royalty Biggie Smalls and Tupac?
But forward to 2012, where the Miss Universe pageant could benefit from a good kick in the ratings crotch. So what better way to get folks riled up than for Trump, and his made-for-straight-men’s-fantasy-lives franchise, to focus on genitalia?
In his clumsily adolescent way, Trump — plus Walters’ own nails-on-a-blackboard interview with Talackova about birth names, boyfriends, hormones and vaginas — has made discussion of gender identity, expression and transitioning glaringly and brashly Main St. No dry-as-dust, impenetrable gender-studies academic jargon in sight.
A poised Talackova has calmly asserted her womanhood and right to compete throughout the furore. And, absent the revelation of her birth, she looks, moves and plays the part of the traditional beauty contestant preparing for a performance of mainstream hyper-femininity.
Yet Talackova’s pageant presence troubles norms of desire, attraction and beauty, the contours of which are both tangible and inexplicable.
How many men watching live, or in TV land, will be able to get past their instinctive “but she’s a dude” reflex and admit their attraction to her in a bar full of their buds?
How many women appreciate or envy Talackova’s cover-model looks yet still wonder about her masculinity and look for its vestiges — and find the mystique alluring?
And will Trump’s panel of supposedly impartial pageant judges get bogged down in a silent, collective mind-fuck as they watch Talackova strut her stuff in evening gown and swimsuit?
Or will they see her as she says she sees herself: a woman with a history, and a beautiful one, who can get the job done. Period.