'We're here to help': Gender Diversity Center opens in Manila Med

MANILA, Philippines – Ice Seguerra grew up in the limelight, entering the national consciousness as a precocious child who stole our hearts while we all were eating lunch.

And as with most celebrities who entered the business young, the public expected a linear transition – from child star, to loveteams and more. Instead it was a different transition that happened – the kind many, perhaps, did not see coming. 

During the launch of the first ever Gender Diversity Center (GDC) last May 25, 2018 at the Manila Medical Center, Ice, together with spouse Liza Diño' shared their story about going through gender identity issues. 

According to Ice, it was easy for him to understand sexual orientation because it boiled down to who he likes, who he loves, who he’s attracted to, but admitted he used to be confused over gender dysphoria.

Gender Dysphoria is when a person does not identify emotionally or psychologically with the sex that his or her outward appearance suggests. Sexual orientation refers to whom one is attracted to — some are attracted to the opposite sex, the same sex, both, or neither.

Before medyo nalito ako dun sa gender, because siyempre alam naman natin na, in the Philippines, sa Tagalog, bakla o tomboy, tama? Akala ko talaga, pag iniglish mo yung tomboy - lesbian. So all the while, I thought I was lesbian,” he said.

(Before, I was confused with the gender because in the Philippines, the Tagalog terms are gay or lesbian right? I really thought that in English, tomboy means lesbian. So all the while, I thought I was lesbian.)

So medyo, hirap ako noon because even though I have, meron akong label na binigay sa sarili ko, it was still very different kasi parang for some weird reason, I still can’t relate, and then it all fell into place when I found out about trans."  

(It was difficult because although I had a label I assigned myself to, it was still very different because for some weird reason, I still can't relate. It all fell into place when I found out about trans.)

It wasn't an easy journey but now, Ice feels right at place. He was asked: "Ano ang tingin mo sa sarili mo?

He proudly answered, “lalaki (a man).”

Never-ending journey  

Ice said that growing up, he felt some resentment because he could not be himself. As early as 3, he said he knew he was different because all his crushe swere girls. As a young star, his colleagues would scold him for "acting like a boy." 

“There are so many times, that even until now, that I don’t really like [what I see] in [front of] the mirror because I see boobs," he said. 

It also took time for Liza to fully understand how Ice felt. 

"There was a time na, she was also trying to understand - I am her first ever LGBT relationship so she was having a hard time understanding because for her, she sees me as a man and at first, she thought that would be enough. I keep telling her, ‘no it’s different’, it’s not enough, it’s not enough that you see me as a man, it’s not just like that,' I said," recalled Ice. 

Eventually, Liza understood when Ice put it this way: "What would you do if one day you wake up and you see yourself in front of the mirror with a penis? What will you feel?"

"Finally, she understood that that's how I feel every single day," he said. 

EXPERIENCES. Liza and Ice listen to Rep. Geraldine Roman during the opening of the first Gender Diversity Center.

EXPERIENCES. Liza and Ice listen to Rep. Geraldine Roman during the opening of the first Gender Diversity Center.

“It’s still an ongoing journey for us,” said Liza.

“From the time he realized he was transgender and then he realized that he wants, he’s considering sexual reassignment, and then considering changing his name — it’s not something that just happens overnight, and then he just said 'Oh, I'm a transgender person' and then everything will just fall into place. No, it comes in phases, it comes in… it’s manifestations in different situations wherein he will feel compelled to do something about his journey and to act on it," she added. 

Ice admitted that things would’ve been easier had he known about being transgender or gender dysmorphia earlier – information the center now aims to provide.  “Maraming, maraming salamat (Thank you so much) for doing this,” he said.

Battle to pass the Anti - SOGI bill

Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman is another person who wishes the center existed back in her youth. Geraldine, who hails from a well-entrenched political family, is the first openly transgender Filipino to be elected to office. 

Napapahon na, ang dito sa ating bansa na tinaguriang one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world - by name, by reputation, but I don’t know in practice, napapanahon na na merong isang institusyon na katulad ng ospital na ito," she said.

(It's about time in our country, which is known as one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world — by name, by reputation, but I don't know in practice, time to have a institution like this.)

UNDERSTANDING. Geraldine Roman says that  a gender diversity center is one step to understanding the issues the LGBT community go through.

UNDERSTANDING. Geraldine Roman says that a gender diversity center is one step to understanding the issues the LGBT community go through.

"To discover that there is a group of doctors who are open-minded enough, generous enough, who actually want to cater to the medical needs of a sector...is truly encouraging," she added. 

Roman, recounted the struggles of passing a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity or Expression (SOGIE) in the Senate because a couple of senators “in the name of religion... [tried] to impede the passage of such an important bill.”

You know, pag ganun ang naririnig mong mga challenges, parang gusto na nating sumuko, pero kung kayo na hindi naman miyembro ng kumunidad ay tumitingin sa aming pangangailangan...I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for being generous. Thank you for being Christian. Para sa akin, ito po ang pagiging tunay na Kristyano- ang magkaroon ka ng empathy, solidarity, pag-uunawa, at pagmamahal sa iyong puso.”

(You know, if you hear those kinds of challenges, you feel liek giving up, but if you, those who are not members of this community are looking into our needs... I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for being generous. Thank you for being a Christian. For me, this is the real Christian- to have empathy, solidarity, understanding and love in yor hearts.)

She also announced that she has already filed the Gender Recognition Bill in congress.

The Gender Diversity Center

The Gender Diversity Clinic (GDC) in Manila Medical Center (ManilaMed) is the first of its kind in the country. The center, which is the first of its kind in the country, aims to provide the care and support not only for LGBTQ persons but for their families as well.

FIRST IN PH. The Gender Diversity Center gives the chance for the LGBT community to assess themselves.

FIRST IN PH. The Gender Diversity Center gives the chance for the LGBT community to assess themselves.

 

CARE AND AWARENESS. The Gender Diversity Center aims to be a help for people with identity issues.

CARE AND AWARENESS. The Gender Diversity Center aims to be a help for people with identity issues.

Dr. Susana P. Campos, a pediatric endocrinologist and ManilaMed’s medical director, said the decision to open the center was not made lightly. She recalled that it was the loss of a patient that really made her see this through, along with the many conversations with both her patients and their parents that opened her eyes to the fear and intolerance being experienced by the LGBTQ community.

Thus, she saw the need for a safe place not just for members of the LGBTQ community but also their families to receive informed and compassionate care as they go through their journeys.

The center is composed of a multidisciplinary team of highly trained professionals and offers services such as psychosexual evaluation and exploratory counseling, family counseling, psychiatric assessment, puberty suppression therapy, gender-affirming hormone therapy, infectious disease consultation, gender reassignment surgery, legal status transitioning, and pastoral services.

Its aim is to help each person work out his or her own gender identity, assess his or her own biological sex, allow him or her to choose his or her sexual preference and help them transition to that gender role.

They also help people and their loved ones accept and embrace whatever the outcomes are.  – Rappler.com

 

The Gender Diversity Clinic is located at the 6th floor of Manila Medical Center at #850 United Nations Avenue, Ermita, Manila. It’s clinic hours are from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Mondays to Saturdays (except holidays). You may call 02-523-8131 local 3008 to set an appointment, or email them at info@manilamed.com.ph.

Editor's Note: In a earlier version of the story, we used the term Gender Dysmorphia. It should be Gender Dysphoria. We apologize for the error.