() — years before would say Running for president to “defeat the cult of gender ideology,” Donald Trump welcomed and praised the inclusion of transgender women in the Miss Universe pageant.
In unreported television and radio interviews from the spring and summer of 2012, Trump celebrated interest in a 23-year-old transgender woman named Jenna Talackova who entered a Canadian pageant. He then effusively praised Miss USA pageant winner Olivia Culpo for saying transgender women should be allowed to compete.
Trump, then owner of the Miss Universe pageant, would go on to cite the possible participation of transgender women in Olympic sports to justify his decision to end the ban on participating in the transgender pageant.
But a decade later, as he prepared to run for a second term in the White House, Trump promised “ban men from women’s sports” when discussing transgender athletes, a reflection of how restricting transgender rights has become a powerful talking point among conservatives and a potential litmus test for candidates republicans.
Since the launch of his 2024 campaign, Trump has also has referred to gender-affirming surgery for minors as “child sexual mutilation,” said he would seek to make such surgeries illegal if he returned to the White House, indicated he would sign executive orders directing federal agencies not to promote transition at any age, and will ask Congress to pass a bill that would require the government to recognize only genders assigned at birth.
This is a notable departure from how he approached the inclusion of transgender people in society more than a decade ago.
For example, at the Miss USA pageant in June 2012, Culpo said that he appreciated the participation of transgender women in the competition, a comment that Trump seconded.
“I think that would be fair, but I can understand people being a little apprehensive about taking that path.” said blame when asked if transgender participants should be allowed. “But today, where there are so many surgeries and so many people who need to change to have a happier life, I accept it because I believe it is a free country.”
Trump seemed sympathetic to that.
“She gave a great answer, a very difficult question — about transgender — just the question that everyone wants to hear, and she gave a great answer and she really did a great job.” trump said praising Culpo on Fox and Friends in June 2012.
“It was a great response,” Trump added. “Brilliant, [ella] He gave a great response.”
“Her response was very smart and that is one of the reasons why I assume the judges chose her,” Trump said in another interview in June on Fox and Friends.
In 2012, Talackova was allowed to compete after threatening legal action over the Miss Universe organization’s ban on transgender contestants, which had come under scrutiny.
Trump he told at the time when he personally made the decision to end the ban even before learning about the legal considerations from Talackova’s lawyer, Gloria Allred.
A statement issued by the Trump Organization at the time said the change was to modernize the pageant.
“The contest rules have been modernized to ensure that this type of issue does not happen again,” the statement read, issued on Trump’s behalf by his then-attorney Michael Cohen.
Cohen told on Thursday that the decision was made to follow the Olympic guidelines for transgender athletes. At that momentthe Olympics allowed the participation of transgender athletes who underwent sex reassignment surgery and two years of hormone therapy.
In an April 2012 appearance on “The Laura Ingraham Show,” Trump celebrated the uproar associated with Talackova’s entry into the pageant.
“Well, it became a big deal in Canada,” Trump said. “And you have Miss Canada, which is essentially Miss Universe. It’s the pre-Miss Universe, it’s the Miss Universe screening, and a transgender woman was in it.”
“But there are many, many, many contestants and they agreed to let her participate, under the laws of Canada and the laws of the United States, they agreed to let her participate,” he added. “So I will say that there is a lot of interest and if you look at it from a showbiz standpoint, that’s wonderful. But there’s certainly a lot of interest.”
In an interview on Fox News also in April 2012, Trump defended his decision to let Talackova compete.
“It has become a hot topic. It’s being talked about all over the world right now,” Trump said. “This is a young woman who, under the laws of Canada and under the laws of the United States, can enter the contest system.”
In the same interview, Trump quoted the Olympic Games as part of its justification.
“We didn’t have a rule. This is a kind of new territory. We will go through the Olympic rules at some point because the Olympics have a very important question about this: should this be allowed? Trump said. “I said we have 58 contestants in Canada, I said let her participate and maybe she’ll win and if she wins she’ll go to Miss Universe. And I think I made the right decision, I feel good about the decision.”
Trump’s decision was praised at the time by GLAAD, an LGBTQ advocacy organization.
“For more than two weeks, the Miss Universe Organization and Mr. Trump made it clear to GLAAD that they were open to making a policy change to include transgender women. We appreciate that he and his team responded quickly and appropriately,” they said in a statement.