Transgender women in PH: Accepted or merely tolerated?
Rewind 6 years ago, I was working in a call center for 4 years. I was so happy with my job because back then, I freely dressed, acted, lived, and presented myself as a woman. They actually accepted me as a woman, yes, a transgender woman.
What was sad about it was that I still needed to go to the male toilet, which was not the right toilet I identified myself with based on my gender identity. But I could not object nor find a way to fight for my right to be in the toilet that I prefer, because there was no law protecting and supporting my gender identity in the Philippines.
Every time I went to the toilet that I prefer, the female toilet, I got reprimanded and that was jeopardizing my job. This was the scene 6 years ago, yet until now, my trans sisters who are working in call centers still experience the same thing.
I thought I was free from the corporate insensitive gender policies, but no, there are other establishments that are also gender biased. A discriminatory experience that I had at a fitness center in Cebu City gave me the opportunity to talk about an unnoticed problem concerning transgender women.
I used my blog to share my story, and took to social media the fight for my right. I created an online campaign with the call "My genitalia has nothing to do with my gender identity." The campaign aims to educate people about gender identity, with a hope that the general population will not only tolerate us but also fully accept and recognize us.
It is ironic because you can be the woman that you are in public, here in the Philippines, but if you do not pass the standard of beauty of a cisgender woman - a term referring to a woman whose gender identity matches with her assign gender/sex at birth - they still consider you a man.
Even if you pass the standard, as soon as they know that you are a transgender woman, born with a male genitalia and assigned a boy at birth, they will still consider you as a man. No matter how feminine you are and even if you’ve done your very best to become the woman that you want to be, the public still see you as a man.
The media are still even using the male pronouns every time they talk about transgender women. Yes, we can live as women, and express ourselves as women. We are very visible in the community, in fact we are even celebrated through transgender beauty pageants in barangay fiestas, in major cities and municipalities, and even on national TV. And yet there is no law protecting transgender women. We are still considered, regarded, and treated as men.
I do not believe this is acceptance.
No, we are not accepted, we are only tolerated, and that is the truth.
The reason why the Filipino community lacks understanding about transgender women is because our stories have not been told, in fact never been told, and I believe it is just about time to tell our stories. We have long been quiet and this silence needs to be broken!
Last month, Geena Rocero of Gender Proud came back to the Philippines and had a conversation with us, telling how essential our stories are, and how important it is to tell our stories. Stories of both happiness and struggles need to be shared.
We have no law that supports gender recognition, no law that protects the LGBTIQ community. The public does not understand gender identity and its difference with sexual orientation. Hence, transgender women are still regarded as gay guys, and in layman’s terms we are being referred to as bakla, bading, bayot, agay. These terms refer to sexual orientation, and has nothing to do with gender identity. But I cannot blame the public because we have limited access to information regarding SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression).
We are only just tolerated, and I am done with the toleration. We are now asking for acceptance. Let us be part of the community as Filipino citizens with laws that support and protect Filipino transgender people and the rest of the LGBTIQ community.
In these videos I created, you’ll meet some very brave trans women. I ask that you open your heart and your mind to their strength and courage.
Being transgender and deaf
The struggle of being a transgender student
A transgender woman's dream job
Maki Gingoyon is a marketing director of a dating site for transgender women and men. She is an advocate for transgender rights, a model, and a transgender beauty queen. She blogs to share her thoughts on LGBT rights and issues.