We’ve come a long way, baby – even if they don’t always notice.
On May 10, Amelia Maltepe made the pages of the Sun Media papers as the Sunshine Girl – the daily piece of female eye-candy on page 3 – and ended up being a big first for the paper, even if its staffers weren’t aware.
Maltepe is the paper’s first known transsexual Sunshine Girl. “They didn’t ask me, I didn’t tell,” Maltepe tells Xtra.
And, according to the Sun‘s editor, they certainly don’t mind.
The photo shoot shows Maltepe laid out in various poses – the main picture is a shot of her in a white shirt, jean jacket and cut-off shorts. Others have her stretched provocatively in a skin-tight one-piece unitard that shows off her thighs.
“Amelia, 21, wants to be Miss World!” the caption reads. “And while she waits for that big day, you’ll find her shopping, cooking, dancing and watching movies.”
Maltepe, who moved to Canada four years ago from Bangladesh, says she is planning to enter the Miss World beauty pageant. She would follow in the footsteps of Jenna Talackova, the Vancouver woman who last year broke the glass ceiling in that regard, competing – and eventually placing as a finalist – in Miss Universe Canada after a hard-fought court battle with Donald Trump.
Maltepe wants the same but not quite yet, she says. “I need more time.”
Toronto Sun editor-in-chief James Wallace wasn’t surprised when Xtra reached him for comment. He says it wasn’t until after the Sun ran the photos that there was “suspicion” that Maltepe wasn’t quite like the girls it usually runs for the feature. But that doesn’t make a lick of difference, he says.
“She’s cute and we ran her photo,” Wallace says.
While the Toronto Sun may not have picked up on the significance of its Sunshine Girl right away, one ornery reader was none too pleased, creating an anonymous online petition objecting to Maltepe’s spread. “Is nothing sacred? Now, MEN get to be Sunshine girls?” begins the petition, which had garnered 26 signatures at publication time.
It continues, “Sun Media has now allowed transsexuals, or women with penises, to pose as Sunshine girls. This is plain wrong. Let’s send them a message so they understand Canadians want some things to stay the SAME! WOMEN ARE WOMEN AND MEN ARE MEN!”
The comments mostly riff on the same theme. “Disgusting,” says one, going under the name Elias Winston. “This is not what god intended,” writes one signee by the name of Julian Subrowski. One comment laments the decline of civilization to a place where “everything is now possible, like putting whipped cream on your pizza,” but concedes, “we can’t control Shemales.” A couple of readers vow to boycott the paper chain.
But the Sun has no plans to give in to the naysayers.
“We don’t ask about gender identity when we screen Sunshine Girls,” Wallace says. While he doesn’t have much to say about the petition – the Sun always supports freedom of speech, he says, even if it may offend others – Wallace points out that Maltepe’s photos are still online, and will remain there.
Not all the comments on the petition are negative.
“I’m very sorry but [she’s] not only a beautiful girl but [she’s] one of the most gorgeous girls I have ever seen in my life,” commenter Charles writes. “I hope she will fight for her rights. This is the future and outstanding people must be accepted.”
Maltepe isn’t dissuaded by the “bullshit,” she says. “I know I’m beautiful.”
Susan Gapka, chair of the Trans Lobby Group, tends to agree.
“She is a beauty,” Gapka tells Xtra. “It is unfortunate that negative comments are posted and proves we as Canadians still have a ways to go to ensure that trans people are treated with respect and dignity.”
Maltepe points to such negative comments as exactly what she plans to overcome. “I want to say something. I don’t want to be quiet,” she says. “I want to fight.”
That the Sun has no problem with a trans Sunshine Girl marks a step forward for the paper chain, which has long had a terse relationship with the queer community – this paper included.
“For the record, she wasn’t the first ;)” Wallace writes.
Maltepe, at least, is the first to speak out.