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When young transpinays take up space

BROAD CAST - Jing Castañeda (Philstar.com) - June 14, 2021 - 11:58am

Throughout my media career, I’ve always expected myself to learn something new in every show hosted or coverage conducted. I would always retire at the end of the day feeling fulfilled—not just for having done my job as a journalist, but for having nurtured myself too with new information and insights I can apply in my own personal life and advocacies.

I yearn to be educated, so in turn I can educate more. I’ve had a similar opportunity again lately, courtesy of our “Pamilya Talk” guests proudly representing the transwomen community. Meeting Miss Trans Global Philippines queens Mela Franco Habijan (2020) and Albiean Revalde (2021) among others would enlighten me more about where our Filipino trans sisters are at present. At the end of the conversation, I got to further appreciate what an LGBTQIA+ inclusive, accepting and loving home could do. A mom myself, my main thrust has always been empowering families for a better world. I’ve always believed that by helping the family—one story, one family, one child at a time—we would someday wake up to a happier, healthier, stronger community we once dreamt.

The conversation proved fitting for Pride Month, despite our own lawmakers still on a standstill concerning SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression). In particular, the SOGIE Bill or Anti-Discrimination Bill, seeking to grant the LGBTQIA+ equal rights and protection, is the longest running bill under Senate interpellation.

In our episode, Mela and Albiean plus our other guests drew out from their personal experiences and struggles to once again push for the cause. “Intersectional” became a buzzword in the fun-filled chat, pointing out how simply similar our fights are no matter the sex, orientation or identity.

Why they are queens

Mela and Albiean would have to be among the most delightfully intelligent interviewees I’ve had recently. As the crowned Miss Trans Global PH queens, the two young ladies spoke with such poise, eloquence, and smarts comparable to, well, honestly, any beauty queen in memory.

Actress, businesswoman and school directress Mela won the first ever Miss Trans Global in September last year. As part of her duties, she helped the organization in raising money for its causes and inspire transgenders worldwide. She has also landed as the cover model of the London-based TransBeauty magazine cover last January.

Albiean, meanwhile, is technically the first Miss Trans Global PH winner. Besting 24 others at the recently held pageant, the Iloilo City native became the youngest pageant contender at 19. The industrial engineering sophomore from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines also presides as vice chair of Sandigan ng Mag-aaral para sa Sambayanan PUP.

The two queens share different journeys of growing up and coming out. Mela, one could say, is lucky to have the most accepting parents behind her. She only succeeded in whichever career she chose because of a strong support group. Albiean, on the other hand, came out twice—first as nonbinary and then next as a woman. A transwoman coming from a family of farmers, the younger queen experienced marginalization beyond one layer. To help in her hormonal replacement therapy and school finances, she sold her artworks online. She later used all these as the inspiration behind her pageant advocacy.

All these different transwomen and their stories only make the Miss Trans Global PH more of a reflection of different realities, says pageant national director Janlee Dungca. All the while, she adds, the conversation toward a more inclusive society only gets louder.

 

“We have to remember our struggles are intersectional. Ang struggles ng kababaihan ay intersected sa struggles ng LGBTQIA+ community. Ang mga ipinaglalaban po namin ay di nagkakaiba at di nagkakalayo sa iba. Ang ipinaglalaban namin ay makita kami as equals,” she shared.

“Nag-uugat lahat sa patriarchy kung saan mataas ang pagtingin sa lalaki kumpara sa babae. Lalo na mas mababa pa ang pagtingin ng tao sa LGBTQIA+ community. Ang punto dito ay magkaisa, hindi lang ang mga kababaihan at LGBTQIA+ community, kundi lahat ng mga tao sa buong mundo.”

In her early 30s, the talented Mela personifies the pageant’s message: That transwomen are more than just their identity. She has starred in iWant’s Manilennials and GMA-7’s Magpakailanman and Asawa Ko Karibal Ko. Way before her pageant career, she wrote for some of ABS-CBN’s most successful talk shows including Gandang Gabi Vice and The Buzz.

“I’m proud that many more transwomen are coming forward. So many LGBTQIA+ have discovered bravery in their course of enlightenment, at mas may pag-angkin sa identity nang walang takot. Unti-unting nagkakaroon ng tapang, at ang tapang na yun ang lengguwahe ng pagmamahal,” Mela said.

“From doctors to lawyers, I see many transwomen flying in their respective fields. These include those working in multinational companies integrating policies within,” she added. “Soon enough we will be seeing many LGBTQIA+ people across many fields just simply saying ‘I’m good at what I’m doing. I can actually become a collaborator, and more so, a catalyst of change in whatever field I am.’ I am looking forward to many younger generations like Albiean occupying more spaces—confident that their dreams can come true.”

Despite her youth, Albiean for her part walks the talk. She was among those who’ve protested against her high school’s administration, which reportedly threatened to hinder her and her fellow queer seniors from graduating simply for sporting long hair.

A transwoman from a family of farmers, Albiean Revalde experienced marginalization beyond one layer. To help in her hormonal replacement therapy and school finances, she sold her artworks online. She later used all these as the inspiration behind her Miss Trans Global PH 2021 advocacy.

Calling these injustices out as a manifestation of our country’s patriarchal capitalistic, and macho-feudal roots, Albiean said, “When people tell us that we will fail in life because we’re trans, remember it is not our (fault). Sino ba ang naglagay sa atin dito? Even at a young age, bine-break na nila ang dreams natin dahil sa identities natin. During our time, umiiyak ang mga kapwa ko transwomen, di pumapasok, dahil takot silang pagupitan.”

Society’s role

Despite platforms like Miss Trans Global PH blazing the trail toward inclusivity, many of the Philippines’ institutions have yet to embrace diversity. Besides the government’s inaction regarding the passage of the SOGIE Bill, many private companies still operate obliviously to SOGIE-related situations. In 2018, for example, the Philippine Corporate SOGIE Diversity and Inclusiveness Index reported that zero out of 100 Philippine-based companies implemented policies protecting employees from SOGIE-related prejudice.

“Wala tayong policies enough to educate people about our plight and to protect us as well. Hindi natin ma-blame sa mga tao kung paano sila nag-re-respond. We should see it more as a systemic matter on how institutions mold our minds. Hindi ito mabilisan, but these institutions can change so much of our policies and (ultimately) our culture,” Albiean asserted.

“I think this stems from how we are molded in society. People fear what they do not know. And not being educated with our LGBTQIA+ community is rooted in how institutions respond to us.  Society should be held accountable on how they treat us, of what conditions and situations they present to us.”

Besides Albiean, Mela, and Janlee, proud LGBTQIA+ member and advocate Macoy Dubs also joined our episode to rally behind the SOGIE integration into our institutions.

“Let’s be open and progressive. Once na tinaga mo na sa bato na, ‘Babae ako,’ that’s it. No ifs, no buts, no other reactions to it,” he said. “It’s also a clarion call kasi it’s a good conversation to open with the government to really review and approve the SOGIE Bill. Parang bakuna (ang identity), once you’re vaccinated, walang tanungan ng brand, walang ganon.”

To help the cause, the host and digital content creator highlighted the importance of other institutions following suit.

First, Macoy said, there’s the academe. “Isama sa curriculum (ang SOGIE education) para may alam sila at pagtanda nila, di sila takot. Ang pagpatay, pangnungutya, at pang-aasar—lahat nag-uumpisa dahil sa takot.”

And then there’s the media, he added. “Acknowledging true representation din sana from the media lalo na sa telebisyon na main driver of entertainment here in our country. Tama na siguro na gawin tayong katatawanan at pulutan ng discrimination at iba’t-ibang salita na nakakasakit sa komunidad. Ang mga brands naman, di naman natin kelangan pilitin pero sana may mga brands na ina-acknowledge and nire-recognize ang LGBTQIA+.”

Speaking of media and entertainment, Macoy and the rest believe that world beauty pageants can also further the cause by finally allowing more entries from the transwomen community. For example, Miss Universe—which included transwoman Angela Ponce representing Spain on 2018—has yet to welcome another.

“Transgender women are women, period. All women should be able to join any other pageants originally meant for women. Wala po dapat tanong kung dapat kaming sumali kasi karapatan po namin yun bilang babae,” Janlee pronounced.

“Pag dumating sa point na magkasama na sa isang pageant ang cisgender at transgender women, ibig sabiin nito ay mas nauunawaan na ng mga tao at natatanggap na nila kami.”

Trans-forming the family

Ultimately, our guests said in unison, a loving and inclusive community boils down to a family that’s the same. UP Diliman Center for International Studies assistant professor Rae Macapagal thus stresses the importance of the parents’ role in helping their child navigate his/her/their identity and expression.

“Mahirap intindihan pero naniniwala ako sa taglay na katalinuhan ng mga tao na makita at ma-appreciate ang pagkakaiba-iba ng tao. So kelangan lang natin ito aralin,” he said.

“Kahit di mo maintindihan nang buo, ang importante ay mapagkalinga ka at natatanggap mo ang ganitong klaseng identidad lalo na kung di naman nakakasakit ng tao. Importante lang naman dyan ay edukasyon at kalinga.”

For further help, Macapagal suggests seeking professional guidance online or from centers like the UP Center for Women's and Gender Studies.

From my end, I’d like to send out a message to my fellow parents to educate ourselves more with SOGIE. We must understand that besides bullying, insecurities, and other issues and crimes, our children might have to struggle too with their orientation and identities. We must remember that such can be a major factor behind their mental health problems, trauma, and even death. If we truly stand by our loved ones, we must be the first ones to be loving and accepting whatever life they live or lifestyle they chase. Let’s take that first step. Let’s educate ourselves and each other, so we can in turn educate more.

 

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Please watch Pamilya Talk on Facebook, YouTube and Kumu (@JingCastaneda – 6pm Monday & Wednesday; 7 p.m. Tuesday). Please share your stories or suggest topics at jingcastaneda21@gmail.com. You can also follow and send your comments via my social media accounts: InstagramFacebookYouTubeTwitter and Kumu.

 

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