Before the Canadian news cycle was inundated by a series of political scandals, resignations, and smoke-outs, a decidedly minor controversy occurred within the pages of Canada's Sun Media newspaper chain. On Tuesday, Xtra revealed that one of the paper's “SUNshine Girls” (the scantily clad women who appear on Page three of every issue) was actually Amelia Maltepe, a transsexual model from Toronto by way of Bangladesh.
To their credit, Sun Media seems unconcerned with the revelation, even though they were unaware of Amelia's sexual identity. Sun Media may have a contentious history with Canada's LGBT community, but, as Toronto Sun's editor-in-chief Mike Wallace told Xtra “she's cute and we ran her photo.” He also let it slip that Amelia was not the first trans woman to become a SUNshine Girl.
Unfortunately, not everyone sees things that way. A petition titled “KEEP SUNSHINE GIRLS AS WOMEN NOT TRANNIES” originated at the white supremacist internet forum Stormfront (as noticed by Toronto Standard) and has so far gained a staggering 30 signatures. Nonetheless, I had a chance to talk with Amelia, who is evidently not bothered by the haters.
VICE: When did you realise that you wanted to live as a transsexual?
Amelia: It was on Halloween, a year and a half ago. I dressed up as a girl, and after I dressed up I started getting attention. I just thought, that's what I want to be.
How did your friends and family react to the news?
Oh my. I had a problem with my family in the beginning when I told them. Probably for two or three months I had problems. Then after my mother told me: “Well, If you like it, then do whatever you want to do, whatever makes you happy.” So now I have no problems with my family. They are very supportive and my friends are all the same. I have very good friends, and my boyfriend especially. He's very supportive.
Are your family still in Bangladesh, or do they live here in Canada?
I don't have any family here in Canada. They're all back home. Every two or three days I am in contact with my family. My father called me last night. I don't have any problems with my family.
What’s your relationship with your boyfriend like?
I dressed up as a woman on October 31st in 2011 and I met him in the first week of November, so he knew me as a transvestite. Like, when I was dressed up, but not living as a girl completely. Then we started dating and we have been together for a year and a half now. He already told his family about me and they are OK with it.
So when you met him, would he have identified as gay or bisexual?
No, I don't think he would have called himself gay. I am the first transsexual relationship he's had. Before, he was in relationships with girls. This is the first time he's gotten together with somebody like me. I would call him maybe bisexual, but still, he doesn't go with men.
How did you end up becoming the SUNshine girl?
I saw some of the newspapers. Afterwards, when I saw it, I said “Oh, why don't I try to do it.” So I filled out the form, and then I emailed it to them. And they replied to me and I went and I did the photo shoot. I didn't know it would be controversial. I didn't have anything like that in mind and they didn't ask me about my sexuality or whether I'm transsexual or not. If somebody doesn’t ask me, I don't have to tell, right?
Were you worried that they might find out and pull the plug on the shoot?
I'm confident about myself. I am never afraid in public, and I know that people don't know. People don't realise, so I was not afraid that something like that would happen. So I did the photo shoot.
Was the transition to doing that as a transsexual fairly easy?
I'm very happy that I did it and I don't have any problems because I'm more confident. When I was a guy, I wasn’t very confident. I was a cute boy. I was still beautiful, but after I did my sex change, it changed my life.
So, excuse me for asking this, but are you pre-op or post-op at the moment?
I still have my thing.
Were you worried, during the photo shoot, that the photographer might notice?
No, no. There is no way they could notice. How could someone notice? I could do a bikini shoot. I go to the beach, people don't notice. They don't see. I have my own underwear I can put on. Nobody would see.
Have you heard about the “KEEP SUNSHINE GIRLS AS WOMEN NOT TRANNIES” petition that your photo inspired?
I don't who made that, but I think this is very stupid whoever is doing it. It doesn't really bother me or make me feel bad. I know about myself, I am a very confident person. It didn't bother me for one second.
Are people ever shocked when they find out you're a transsexual?
My close friends know and they are my friends, so it's not a problem. In public, I go to the gym, I go to clubs, I go out, and people never realise. They see me as a beautiful girl. You saw my pictures, right? In real life, people never even think that. I don't need to tell anybody. If they ask me, I don't need to tell, because I have a boyfriend, so I don't need to get into that with anybody.
Do you end up surprising people?
With my close friends' friends, sometimes I say “Well, you know I'm transsexual” and people get shocked. They think I'm joking, but no, I'm not joking. I'm serious. But I have a few friends who are transsexual, and they talk about how they feel, so I know about that. People look at them a certain way. When they walk down the street, people make comments. I understand what they're going through, but I've never had that feeling.
On the SUNshine Girl bio, you say you want to be Miss World, were you inspired at all by Jenna Talackova's bid to be Miss Universe?
Yeah, I always wanted it, from the beginning, but I was not sure if I could do it. But after she came out, yeah, she inspired me.
Do you plan on having a full sex change later?
Honestly, I'm not thinking about that presently. I don't know what's going to happen in five years or ten years. I really don't know what's going to happen, but I don't think about that right now. I talked to my doctors, I talked to my friends. If I did that, my sex life would be finished. I won't have an orgasm and I won't feel like a real girl feels, even if I have a vagina. I won't feel it, so why do I need to do it?
Follow Alan on Twitter: @alanjonesxxxv
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