Diary of a Transgender Filipina

Archive for July, 2008

T community meeting

Posted by pinaytg on July 31, 2008

            Last Friday, July 25, 2008, The Library Foundation Sexuality, Health and Rights Educators Collective (TLF SHARE Collective) held an “exploratory discussion” among members of the transgender community at Chopstick Restaurant in Cubao, Quezon City. In attendance were people representing Laguna, Marikina, and Manila. The meeting was meant for those present to talk about their “life situations, sexual health and rights concerns.” I was there and the coordinator of the event, Shane, asked me to give a “trigger” presentation about my life story. Of course, I was more than willing to oblige.


            After me, each participant was asked to react to anything I said that struck a chord with them. I started my story when I was very young. As far as I could remember, I always felt a certain difference about me compared to kids my age, a feeling like something was missing, a feeling of being incomplete. When I was 6 years old I remember feeling so jealous of my sister. It was her birthday and my mother had a dress made for her. The dress was simple and made of ruffles. It had tiers of cloth that moved from the lightest to the darkest pink. Just one look and I knew I wanted to wear it. One afternoon while my sister was away in school and my mother was downstairs in the living room watching TV, I snatched the dress from where it was hanging and giddily put it on. When I saw myself in it, immediately I was awash in pure joy. I was ecstatic. I thought I was the prettiest girl in the world.


            So naturally I just had to show off.  I crept downstairs and jumped in front of the TV. I thought Mama was going to be happy to see me. Of course I was wrong. She started screaming at me, yelling for me to take the dress off. At first I didn’t understand her anger. She grabbed a soft broom and started hitting me. Only then did I become afraid and begin to cry. From then on, I knew better. And until I was in college I did not once act on that feeling. Until now, long after I have reconciled with the person I know I must be I can still remember how it feels. It feels like something is not right, like you are unhinged, empty, missing out, lost, uncertain, unprepared, inadequate, undone, unremarkable, pathetic, dirty, a loser, unlovable, in the dark, ugly. It’s not a good feeling. Imagine having to carry it for almost 20 years.


            That is why I was very happy about this meeting that TLF initiated. It’s always good to meet people you have something in common with, people who are like you somehow, who went through some of the same things that you did. It makes you feel you are part of a community—one that values your story, who you are, where you came from. And if it is a community that listens, that cares, that welcomes you, accepts you, loves you, it makes you feel that you are not alone.


            This is just a first and there will be more meetings to come. I told the group that came last Friday that hopefully in the next meeting each of us could bring another person, a friend, a member of our community. So if you know someone transgender who would like to attend that meeting please pass this along. You never know. Maybe you will help that person feel, finally, that he/she belongs. J







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Mae & Rio: Two stories of discrimination Part II

Posted by pinaytg on July 29, 2008



            For five semesters, Rio attended Nursing school wearing the women’s uniform. All her classmates and teachers referred to her as Miss Rio and she looked forward to finishing her studies and becoming a nurse. Rio has spent the last five semesters happy in the university which her boyfriend also attends.


            Sometime in July, after one of the security guards saw that Rio’s name on her ID was male, Rio was asked to go into the Office of Student Affairs (OSA). There the OSA Head discussed the next steps to take regarding Rio’s “true” identity. The OSA Head decided that from then on Rio should be addressed as male and required to wear the men’s uniform.


            Rio protested and made it clear to the school official that she did not identify as male, which is why she did not once come to school as one. The OSA head argued that until Rio’s gender in her official documents remains unchanged, the school is officially treating her as a man.


            Rio decided that her best recourse was to meet immediately with the President of the university to discuss her case. The President’s secretary scheduled a meeting for July 28, 2008, Monday. In the mean time, last Thursday, Rio showed up in school dressed as she had always been the last three years. The security guard, who let her in, in the past, now refused her entry. According to him, the OSA head left instructions to make sure that Rio came in wearing the prescribed uniform for male students. Feeling shamed and helpless, Rio just went back home. Already, she has missed two days of classes. This weekend, nothing else but her imminent meeting with the university President has been on her mind. Rio spent the last two days, restless, anxious and afraid. Like Mae, she fears for her future.


            Education and employment remain the two crucial areas where Filipino transgender people struggle for full participation. Despite comprising a big chunk of the total population and being acknowledged as part of a culture that dates back to pre-colonial times, transgender citizens of this country continue to face hurdles in trying to finish school and being gainfully employed. It’s time to put a stop to this oppression. It’s time to open the doors to full transgender inclusion.

* Thanks to Sass Sasot, co-founder of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP), for providing the details of Rio’s case.


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Mae & Rio: Two stories of discrimination Part I

Posted by pinaytg on July 29, 2008

           To most of us, this weekend would have been spent having fun, taking a rest and relaxing. Not to Mae and Rio, two women of transgender experience, who had to spend this weekend worrying about the coming week. Mae, who is just a week in training for a call center job, is afraid she might lose her recently acquired employment while Rio, who is on her third year in Nursing school, is agonizing about not being able to graduate despite doing well in school and  just having a year to go. Both women are nervous about what the new week will bring. Both women are being punished for their transgender status.




            When Mae attended her pre-employment orientation, she was informed that she could dress female as long as she followed the company’s dress code. So that’s exactly what she did. From Monday to Thursday last week, she dressed in business casual. On Friday, she wore a blouse over black pants and snickers. Needing to use the bathroom upon arrival at work Friday afternoon, she rushed to the women’s bathroom as was her wont.


            Five minutes later while powdering her face in front of the bathroom mirror, Mae heard the voice of a security guard ordering her to get out. The guard stood by the bathroom door barking reasons at Mae why she did not belong to the women’s bathroom. Shocked, Mae tried to explain to the guard that she was female. The guard was belligerent, however, and threatened her if she did not step out.


            Humiliated and scandalized by the growing number of onlookers, Mae thought she had no choice. She left the bathroom in tears. Later, Mae’s trainer told her that the company had an unspoken rule that bakla employees were not allowed to use the women’s bathroom. Mae said that she understood that if by bakla the trainer meant men who identified as male and presented as such and were attracted to other males. Mae tried to explain that she did not identify as one and that her gender identity was female as evinced by how she presented in public. Moreover, Mae pointed out the company’s core values which included belief in diversity. Mae thought this explained the company’s allowance for employees to wear the clothing of the gender they identify as. If the company lets her dress as female because that’s how she sees herself and is seen by others, then why can’t she use the corresponding bathroom?


            The trainer could not give Mae clear answers but promised Mae that she would do something about it. Mae decided to raise her concerns with the Human Resources (HR) department. Today, July 29, 2008, Tuesday, Mae is set to meet with HR. Mae is apprehensive about this impending meeting. This weekend it’s all that she could think about.           




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Reproductive rights and the LGBT community

Posted by pinaytg on July 25, 2008

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae (Latin Of Human Life), an encyclical written by Pope Paul VI in 1968 which explicitly directs the Catholic faithful to rely only on the rhythm method to space and control births in family planning and eschew any artificial means of contraception. A prayer rally organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) will be held today to commemorate the encyclical, which also condemns abortion, at the Parade Ground of the University of Santo Tomas (UST).


This document is significant because it has figured prominently in the very public feud recently between the CBCP and some members of Philippine Congress over provisions of proposed House Bill (HB) 812 or the Reproductive Health Care Act. The CBCP are against everything about the bill. During media engagements, for example, CBCP members point to the bill’s proposal to make available starting Grade 5 sexuality and reproductive health education in public schools. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that but you can guess that the Church is claiming that it will promote promiscuity. They are also uncomfortable about barangay health centers giving out free contraceptives which the bill ensures if ever it gets passed. A CBCP spokesperson argues that our local government units’ clinics cannot even provide the most basic of medicines, what more contraceptives. These are just a few of the charges being leveled against HB 812. What is more alarming is the framework the Church is using to campaign against it. It’s called Stop D.E.A.T.H. D.E.A.T.H. here stands for Divorce, Euthanasia, Abortion, Total Reproductive Health/Contraception and Homosexuality.


          Defenders of the bill are countering that the CBCP is spreading an outright lie. The bill does not allow abortion. I just read it and in fact it contains a provision that re-affirms the illegality and criminality of abortion in this country. The bill, although biased towards heterosexual women, is surprisingly well rounded as it uses a comprehensive framework for reproductive health programs. It contains elements that uphold the principles of informed choice, responsible parenthood, respect for life and birth spacing.  Church pundits of course know very well that the only way to kill this bill is to discredit it via baseless propaganda.


          How does the reproductive health debate affect LGBT people? Simple. We are as much sexual and gendered beings as we are reproductive ones. Our right to express our sexual orientations and gender identities is tied up with our right to bear offspring. In rights parlance they are called sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR). Theoretically they  should be covered by the Constitutional provisions on liberty, equality and privacy. In reality though, we know the flak that LGBT people get when they start exercising their rights over their own bodies. So we hear of lesbians being raped to be cured of their lesbianism, of transgender people being disallowed to be parents to their own children because they are simply not good role models, of gay men being barred from donating sperm, etc. The list goes on and on.


            HB 812, as expected, is silent on the reproductive needs, issues and concerns of LGBT people but I am hopeful that somehow it will cover us. It is clear though that we, as a community, should support it. The truth is that choice has already been made for us by the Church by its mere mention of abortion and homosexuality in the same breath.  Even if we do not see ourselves as reproductive beings, we have to see this bill through for those among us who will and want to be parents and raise families in the future. At the very least, I am confident that this bill will protect every single Filipino’s right to competent reproductive health care and reproductive self-determination. Who doesn’t want that?

A beautiful family.

A beautiful family.




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Transgenderism: The Philippine experience

Posted by pinaytg on July 22, 2008

Transgenderism in the Philippines dates back to pre-colonial times. Thanks to the babaylan chronicles (accounts of Spanish friars), it is now known that transgender people called asog/bayoguin held socially prestigious occupations as priestesses and healers in pre-Hispanic Philippine tribes, villages and communities.


The asog/bayoguin although “genitally male” had the gender identity and/or expression of a female. She worked as a babaylan/catalonan/daetan/baliana and served as a religious leader, equal in status to the community’s political leader. This tradition of transgender shamanism can also be found in many other Asian countries such as Burma/Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, India, China, and others. Like their counterparts in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Africa, these transgender priestesses from ancient times were venerated as either a third gender or a female variant and were thought to possess knowledge ordinary people did not. It is not known if “genitally female” persons with male gender identity and expressions were viewed in the same way by the same cultures.


The asog/bayoguin is considered the pre-cursor of the modern-day bakla or bayot (from the Visayas) and bantut (from Mindanao). It is important to note that that asog, bayoguin, bakla, bayot and bantut were not originally meant as categories of sexual orientation but rather gender terms. This means that Filipino culture is amenable to the idea of gender variance, that there are not only two but instead possibly a variety of genders. Clearly, ancient Philippine culture adopted a supernumerary gender system and not just a binary one.


More than three centuries of European colonization sadly erased and invisibilized this interesting tidbit about our pre-colonial past. Today, because the discourse of homosexuality has become so deeply entrenched in Philippine daily life and due to a lack of understanding of transgenderism or gender variance in our country, the bakla, bayot and bantut have been misinterpreted as the local equivalent of gay identity. The same goes for the tomboy which I feel was originally ascribed to people assigned female at birth but looked and acted male. The tomboy was possibly not lesbian but transgender.


Instead of looking at them as patterns and proof of gender variation, they are now thought of as patterns of homosexuality. The same mistake has been made in the West in the past in fact when so-called experts classified behaviors that crossed the genders as extreme forms of gayness or lesbianism. Precisely because homosexuality itself was a gender-nonconforming behavior it was not difficult to make the connection. Many of those who exhibited these “gender crossing” behaviors, however, did not identify as gay or lesbian. They were transgender.


In the Philippines, it is now more common for Filipinos, assigned male at birth by virtue of genitalia, who grow up with a male gender identity and expression and are attracted to other males to call themselves bakla or bayot. These indigenous terms are said to have now become homosexualized. People whose gender identities and expressions mismatch the sex they were assigned at birth must then use transgender, an admittedly Western term, for now to identify and distinguish themselves or create an entirely new one that resonates locally. 


I like Pinoy/Pinay TG. My friend Sass who co-founded the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) likes Trans (short for transgender) Pinoy/Pinay. What do you think? 😉

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Hello world!

Posted by pinaytg on July 22, 2008

Hello world!

Hello world!

          Welcome to PinayTG, the diary of a Filipino woman (Pinay for short) of transgender (TG) experience. What exactly constitutes that experience, I have no idea. This blog certainly lays no claims to being representative of the life of the average Filipina transgender. After all, there is no one way to be anybody, somebody in this world.

           What I do want this blog to do is serve as a looking glass for my life, thoughts, and interests. Ergo it will reflect (or refract, depending from where you’re looking) who I am, what I do and what I think. So here you will read about my friends, family, loved ones, my advocacy, the books that move me, the movies that tickle my fancy, fashion, languages, travel, shopping (and maybe love too, if I’m lucky!). Hopefully that will give you a glimpse into what it means to be transgender in the Philippines albeit from the perspective of one.


           So sit back and browse around. I hope you like it here. 🙂














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