Would-be transgender model fights for Battle of the Babes entry

An aspiring transgender model has vowed to take to the catwalk on Saturday night despite a row over whether she was eligible to enter a Battle of the Babes contest.

Aucklander Amy Brosnahan, 18, said she wants to represent transgender women in the competition and show they shouldn't back down when they face opposition.

Organisers for the beauty contest were forced into a U-turn after initially telling Amy she could not compete when she came out as a trans-woman.

Amy said she initially wanted to take part in the competition because she enjoys modelling, but now wanted to send a message.

"I'm sort of doing it as a stand, to show other transgenders that they can do anything they want to do, they just have to sometimes fight for it,'' she said.

"Some of them aren't [confident enough to] take action, [but] things like this need to be spoken about more often.''

Amy had hidden the fact she was transgender from Battle of the Babes because she was worried she would be disqualified, but confided in one of the organisers on Tuesday. She was told that because she hadn't gone through gender reassignment surgery she couldn't compete.

"She was really keen for me until she knew I was transgender.''

Amy went to the Human Rights Commission as well as Northland lawyer and member of TransAdvocates, Kelly Ellis. A number of her friends also sent emails and messages to the organisers complaining about her treatment.

By Wednesday a Facebook message apologised for the "misunderstanding", and said Amy would be allowed to compete.

But hours later, an addition was spotted in the rules section of the official website, stating "contestants must be born female''.

It sparked another round of heated exchanges before it was removed.

Battle of the Babes' New Zealand organiser Andrew Featherston said the website change was "unfortunate", and was mistakenly published after he had reviewed the decision to bar Amy from the contest.

Telling her she couldn't compete was simply "confusion'' on their part as they did not know enough about transgender issues to make an informed decision, he said.

"It was the first time we've had to think about it. The event is a female model search, so when presented with that situation we weren't sure whether she was still eligible,'' Mr Featherstone said.

"We did a lot of research on it, had a lot of thought and discussions about it, and basically we had to get up to speed with what all that means because it's something we didn't really know much about.

"We were most influenced by the fact that Amy was really enthusiastic to participate and we felt like if we exclude her, that felt mean, so we decided the best thing was to let her go for it.''

He described the incident as a "big learning experience'' for himself and the team, but said he was "happy'' for Amy to compete.

The teen model would be "treated exactly the same as the other contestants", he said.

"In fact I don't even want to make an issue out of it on the night. I just want to proceed with the night as normal; she's a contestant, simple as that.

"And good on her to have the guts to still do it after there being a bit of a controversy.''

* The Battle of the Babes Auckland final will take place on Saturday night at The Empire Tavern.

- By Patrice Dougan of APNZ 

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