The decision comes after the controversy that has surrounded the disqualification of Jenna Talackova, who was banned from Miss Universe Canada on the grounds that she was not a “naturally born female.”

Miss Talackova has a passport, driver’s licence and other documentation that identifies her as a woman, and she underwent a gender reassignment surgery at the age of 19. However, Miss Universe had initially banned her from participating becasue she was born male.

Miss Universe “discussed a policy change that includes transgender women in time for the start of this fall’s 2013 pageant season,” during consultations with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (Glaad), which campaigns for an end to discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender individuals. 

“We have a long history of supporting equality for all women and this was something we took very seriously,” Miss Universe President Paula Shugart said of the organisation’s decision, which now brings it in line with organisations such as the Olympics and TV show America’s Next Top Model.

Photo: Getty.