The winners of Brisbane Pride Festival’s inaugural Mr and Ms Pride competitions aren’t exactly what you might expect when imagining a pageant contestant. One is a butch lesbian, who was first completely turned off by the actual title of ‘Ms’, and the other used to be frightened of crowds and is a proud cub – a long way from the hairless, gym-obsessed bodies that may come to mind when one thinks of a ‘Mr Gay’ winner.

But that’s what this year’s competition was about; organisers wanted to find people best suited to represent the LGBTI community, regardless of which segment of the community they felt they belonged to.

For Shaz Gerchow, a self-proclaimed ‘butch’, there was nothing ‘Ms’-like about her. She soon realised it could be a chance to challenge people’s perception of a ‘Ms’ competition winner.

“I’ve battled with the issues that so many of us battle with; self-loathing, fear, homophobia, a sense of not fitting in, and I’ve come out the other side with an absolute sense of self worth,” Gerchow told the Star Observer.

“I’m not perfect by any means, but I won’t apologise for being a butch lesbian who has the same rights as anyone in this society. So hopefully I can act as a role model in that regard.”

David McCarthy was so completely overwhelmed when his name was called out that he almost fainted.

The passionate gay 4X4 and camping social group organiser said organisations that have supported him and the community were going to be his focus.

“Community groups need to be thanked for their dedication and hard work, especially the volunteers. It is easy for that hard work to go unrecognised and it is important that everyone knows how grateful I am that these organisations exist,” he said.

McCarthy credits the bear community for giving him the ability to love who he is and finally being able to be proud of how he looks.

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