"I want to introduce the public to shemales as the third gender, and I want to bring the shemale community together," says Amanda Taylor, founder of the first annual Miss Shemale World Pageant. "And I thought this would be a nicer way of doing it than picketing at city hall."

The Sun, Jun 2 event at El Convento Rico, featuring six shemale contestants, will be presented in the familiar style of a traditional beauty pageant, complete with evening gown and fashion shoot categories, and a provocative swimwear segment in which the contestants have the option to appear topless.

It will also include shemale-related interview segments led by Taylor.

"I'm going to ask the contestants things people want to know," says Taylor. "Like how they deal with government bureaucracy, or acceptance in public restrooms."

"And, as hostess," she adds, "I will be entertaining for the first time since my transition. It's going to be a lot of fun."

The contest was open to "the world" via the Internet, but the response was not overwhelming.

"People are waiting to see how this goes," says Taylor. "Maybe more will enter next year. This is only the first one."

It could actually be the very first organized event of its kind in the world.

"We don't want to mislead," says Taylor, "but we did a lot of research, and couldn't find any other pageant like this one."

The transgendered spectrum is wide, and there are still many grey areas which are misunderstood. Taylor defines shemales as "people who are comfortable living with their male genitalia, but present themselves and live as females 24/7."

Within the transgendered community, however, there are some who are uncomfortable with the term "shemale."

"Many of us like it because it's a word we made up on our own," says Taylor. "It wasn't a label given to us by the medical community, or the public."

Until now, shemales have mostly been grouped with female impersonators and drag queens. Taylor felt it was important to create an event that would give shemales an identity of their own. "A lot of the time people expect us to be like what they see on those freak shows on TV," she says, "but I believe that education and exposure is the way to acceptance.

"People need to meet us to know what we're all about," she says, "and if we can make others laugh with us, they won't be so afraid."

It is surprising to find that the shemale community hasn't found a way to connect as a group. "There is no feeling of unity… yet," Taylor explains. "But I believe events like this might help us get there."

In addition to the stereotyping shemales endure as a result of exploitation TV, they are also fighting for recognition and respect amongst other transgendered people as well.

"I feel that we are looked down upon by some of those who have had the courage to go through with the complete sex reassignment surgery," Taylor notes. "We are all different, and we can all be proud to be who we are."

"I have no problem standing up and saying I'm a shemale," Taylor exclaims. "I've still got a penis, and it's time for the world to get used to it."

Miss Shemale World Pageant.
$20adv; $25 door. 8pm. Sun, Jun 2.
El Convento Rico.
750 College St.
(416) 588-7800.
www.missshemaleworld.com
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