Freeman Cebu Entertainment

22 trans women vie for Queen of Cebu City Pride 2024 crown

Januar Junior Aguja - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — In time for Pride Month, the Cebu City LGBTQIA+ Federation unveiled 22 transgender women candidates for the Queen of Cebu City Pride 2024 pageant, during a June 3 press conference at Cebu City Hall.

Set to vie for the title in the June 28 finals at Sawang Calero Gym are Samantha Diola, 24; Naya Marie Coquina, 21; Jan Genson, 20; Jane Mendoza, 18; Ning Ning, 25; Yanne Yan, 25; Jic Mandel Quebec, 30; Martha Gabonada, 20; Erin Suralta, 21; Rian Bacalla, 23; and Jessica Bajenting, 25.

Completing the roster are Roby Martin Fabular, 17; Jolina Gomez, 20; Flor Cuevas, 36;  Jes Rodriguez, 20; Mattie Lumapas, 31; Haycee Marie Zamora Nacua, 36; Kielsy Mercado Aliñabon, 18; Ana Flores, 35; Julia Marie Villa, 26; Channy Ang Mendez, 27; and Leigh Justine Romina Ortiz, 17.

Bacalla of Barangay Labangon was chosen Darling of the Press.

“I watched the pageant last year and they told me that being Darling of the Press would give me an advantage in the finals. I was about to back out from joining the press con, but I can’t risk the opportunity and here I am,” Bacalla told The FREEMAN.

- Equality -

Equality for transgender women is the backbone of many of the candidates’ platforms.

Having faced discrimination in school and in the workplace, Quebec supports the Safe Spaces Act, emphasizing its alignment with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal No. 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.

“I can educate people in the workplace and neighborhoods to highlight the importance of recognizing people by their preferred pronouns, as well as fighting problems circulating in the community like discrimination and prejudice,” said Quebec.

Genson supports the SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression) Equality Bill, saying, “Educating people about sexual orientation and gender identity is relevant to our society because so many members in the LGBTQIA+ community are loud and proud.”

Having joined the pageant last year, Coquia learned about the anti-discrimination commission established by the Cebu City government.

“When I visited various cities, I saw that Cebu City is number one in implementing anti-discrimination laws. I was inspired by a lot of the transgender women in Cebu City who were fighting for their rights. The woman standing in front of you was inspired by the trans women who aren’t afraid of coming out,” said Coquia, who hails from Barangay Buhisan.

Coquia, who was disowned by her parents, added, “Having this crown is more than just a title; it’s a responsibility to inspire other little kids. Imagine a world where our kids don’t have to explain who they are, but are still supported. As trans women, we advocate for a more inclusive Cebu City.”

On dealing with transphobia, Mendez of Barangay Tejero, said, “We have been asked so many times why we chose to be women. It’s not our choice, but that’s what our heart says. I will tell them all the stories about my life and explain the SOGIE bill.”

- Trans health -

Other candidates are taking up transgender health as their causes.

One of them is Bacalla, a volunteer at the Cebu United Rainbow LGBT Sector Inc. – an organization that has assisted 8,000 transgender people with hormone therapy (a medication process where the patients’ bodies match their gender identity) thanks to funding from partners in Australia, the United Nations, and the World Health Organization.

“We were able to cater to thousands of transgender people and hear their stories about going through hormone therapy. Doing this without the guidance of a medical practitioner is risky. That’s the difference in trans health because we have special needs,” Bacalla said.

Mendoza also tackled concerns about self-medication with hormonal drugs. “Young transgender women take their hormonal meds without the guidance of a healthcare professional. This is alarming. We need to take care of ourselves physically and emotionally.”

Mendoza and Ortiz share similar advocacies of raising mental health awareness for trans.

- Inclusive education -

Villa, who used to teach at Zapatera National High School before moving to Cebu City National Science High School, advocates for safer educational spaces for transgender faculty.

While the educator has yet to receive complaints from parents, Villa emphasizes the importance of trans educators being exemplary role models.

“As a teacher, you have to maintain integrity because we are seen as role models. Being an educator and trans means you will be judged. Once you commit a mistake as a trans teacher, you will be judged harshly,” said Villa of Brgy. Sudlon.

Gomez, on one hand, aims to promote an inclusive environment for trans students, recalling being forced by her Catholic school to cut her hair.

- Family care -

Nacua’s advocacy in elderly care for transgenders is rooted in the Brgy. Quiot resident’s upbringing, having been raised by grandparents, one of whom came out as trans.

“While they may have benefits as senior citizens already, they also need specialized medications as part of the LGBTQIA+ community,” said Nacua.

“They also need support because they may not be accepted by their own families. It’s heartbreaking, and I have been there, so I want to push this advocacy as a way to look after my [trans] grandparent.”

Diola’s cause in family care is universal but with the significance of a transgender family member being the breadwinner.

“I was working at a young age while I was still in school. Until now, I still do. I am advocating for this because it should start in our homes,” Diola said.

“I think we should implement discipline and responsibility through family planning. This is a gateway for a better future and a better life for everyone.”

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