A local woman who recently represented Canada in an international transgender beauty pageant says she wants to bring the competition home.
Bringing the trans pageant circuit to Vancouver will spread international awareness about Canada’s acceptance of queer people and help support trans people at home, Katie Kennedy says.
“The objective is to let the whole world know that they shouldn’t be ashamed of who we are,” she says.
“A lot of trans are hiding,” she notes. “They are still afraid of who they are. This pageant will harmonize them.”
Kennedy finished in the top 20 contestants in the Miss International Queen held in Thailand last month. The pageant features transgender and transsexual contestants from 15 countries who are judged on beauty, personality and intelligence.
Kennedy says she initially had no plans to compete.
“I wasn’t interested in the beauty pageant,” she admits. “I don’t like to be famous.”
But the 32-year-old says she decided to participate because she wanted to help demonstrate that transgender people can be beautiful.
“I want to change the idea of beauty. It has to be inside and out,” she says. “Trans people can be beautiful inside and out.”
Kennedy, who grew up in Thailand and moved to Canada 15 years ago, says she lived as a gay man until a year ago, when she decided to become a woman.
She says it’s been difficult for her family, but the pageant helped thaw her mother’s reluctance to accept her.
“She told her friend that I am her daughter,” Kennedy smiles.
Thailand may have hosted the pageant, but trans rights are still not recognized in her homeland, Kennedy says.
“In Thailand it looks like they accept trans people, but they do not,” she explains. “The eyes of the law are very conservative. They don’t protect LGBTQ people at all.”
Kennedy says Canada is different. “I’m safe and very happy to be able to live here as a trans person and have the rights that I do.”
Kennedy asked Raigen D’Angelo, fundraising director of the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS), to support her plan to host the pageant here.
“I like the idea but I’d like to see more,” D’Angelo says, adding she would need to see a proposal for the pageant.
D’Angelo says Kennedy’s idea has not yet been brought to the board for discussion and notes that the VPS’s current focus is on the Outgames and Pride next summer.
“I don’t think the VPS has the time or resources to address this issue,” she says, suggesting Kennedy might have better success appealing to BC’s Trans Alliance Society for backing.
That said, D’Angelo, who has lived as a transgender woman for more than 30 years, says she supports Kennedy’s initiative.
“I have the utmost respect for what she’s doing,” D’Angelo says. “To make change in the community, trans people must step up and bring awareness to issues.”