Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays to All!!!

STRAP Christmas Postcard 1
May this season bring us all joy, love and peace!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Asia Pacific Transgender Network launched

Below is the press statement of the newly-formed Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN) which I am cross-posting from Leona Lo's blog here. Transwomen from Singapore, Nepal, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Cambodia, Thailand and Bangladesh came together in Bangkok, Thailand in early December to form APTN. For some reason, no one from the Philippines was invited to take part in the meetings. There was also no representative from transmale communities and from Pacific countries.

I have personally met three of the members of APTN. Hua from Thailand I met during the 60th anniversary celebrations by Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender (LBT) Asian women of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in December 2008 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Luluk from Indonesia I met at a sexuality and rights training in May 2009 conducted by TARSHI. Manisha from Nepal I met in Copenhagen for the 2nd International Conference on LGBT Human Rights which was part of World Outgames 2009.

And then there's Leona who I have not met yet but have much respect for. I am very happy that she is part of APTN. I hope that in the next meetings of APTN, a transgender Filipina will be invited to share her own perspective on protecting transgender human rights, health and well-being in the Asia Pacific Region. Nonetheless, I would like to congratulate my sisters for this pioneering initiative. Everything that each of us does to further the cause of improving the lives of transpeople in the world must be recognized and celebrated. Great job to all those who make up APTN! Long live the strong, smart, beautiful and independent-minded transwomen from Asia and the Pacific!

World’s First Asia Pacific Transgender Network Launched to Champion Health and Rights of Transgender Women in the Region
  • Diverse groups from warias, kathoeys and hijras to be represented
22 December 09, Singapore. Transgender women from 10 Asia Pacific countries and areas are coming together to say “No!” to discrimination and marginalisation by forming the world’s first Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN). After three days of intense meetings, it was decided that the APTN, composed entirely of transgender women across the region, will champion transgender women’s health, legal and social rights.
Ms. Khartini Slamah, Founding Working Group member and Core-Group Chair of the Transgender Programme in Pink Triangle (PT) Foundation, Malaysia, says this represents a milestone in the history of transgender women in the region. She says, “For a long time transgender women have been represented among the MSM (men who have sex with men) sub-population group, but there is now a recognition that we are a distinct demographic with our own unique needs. We wish to be separated from the MSM umbrella and inform The United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to stop clustering us under the MSM umbrella. Transgender women are not men – we have different issues and needs. Thus we have formed a network addressing the needs of transgender women only.”

From hijras in South Asia to warias in Indonesia

The group represents a broad spectrum of transgender women from sex workers to career women, from hijras (South Asia), warias (Indonesia), kathoeys (Thailand) and sao praphet songs (Thailand) to specialised interest groups such as youth, Muslims and elderly transgender women.
Ms Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, another Founding Working Group member and one of the most recognisable faces of hijras in India, says she is pleased the community is being represented by the network. She says, “For the first time in history, hijras from Nepal, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh are joining hands with our transgender sisters from Asia Pacific to say ‘No!’ to being treated like second-class citizens. We know there is strength in numbers. Together, we can advance and improve the health, legal and social rights of transgender women.”

The network will also tackle issues in the region such as HIV prevalence among transgender sex workers, especially in countries such as Indonesia and Cambodia, where infection rates are extremely high and resources in place are inadequate to ensure access to quality healthcare, as well as to protect the rights of the sex workers.

Outreach activities

The network is developing a workplan for the next two to three years. The Working Group will identify and explore key populations/ groups in immediate need of support and plan activities to reach out to these target groups. Transgender representatives have also been appointed from every sub-region and from key sub-populations to rally transgender organisations within their respective sub-regions or areas to become members of the network.

Ms Sitthiphan (Hua) Boonyapisomparn, APTN Coordinator who is based in Bangkok, says, “At this stage, it is important that we develop a comprehensive workplan that addresses the needs of APTN members. We are already in discussion with potential donors and sponsors to explore how they might support APTN programmes.”

For more information about the network or to support its programmes, please contact Ms Sitthiphan at huab2007@gmail. com.

Note to Editors

The APTN is categorised according to seven sub-regions and seven key populations. Each group is represented as follows:
Danisha (Malaysia) for transgender drug users
Jetsada Taesombat (Thailand) for transgender youth
Jin Qiu (China) for China Sub-Region
Khartini Slamah (Malaysia) for senior transgender women
Laxmi Narayan Iripathi (India) for India Sub-region
Leona Lo (Singapore) for Developed Asia Sub-region
Luluk Surahman (Indonesia) for Insular Southeast Asia Sub-region
Manisha (Nepal) for South Asia Sub-region
Prempreeda Pramos Na Ayutthaya (Thailand) for the Greater Mekong Sub-region
Sam Sela (Cambodia) for transgender people living with HIV
Sulastri (Malaysia) for transgender sex workers
Zahida Hijra (Bangladesh) for hijras
Vacant – for transgender Muslims
Vacant – for Pacific Sub-region

About APTN

The mission of APTN is to enable transgender women in the Asia Pacific region to organise and advocate to improve their health, protect their human rights, and enhance their social well-being and the quality of their lives. The network startup is supported by the 7 Sisters Coalition of Asia Pacific Regional Networks on HIV/AIDS, Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM), and Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers (APNSW)
- Ends -
Media Enquiries
- Ms Sitthiphan (Hua) Boonyapisomparn
APTN Coordinator
Email: huab2007@gmail. com
- Ms Leona Lo
Founding Working Group member, APTN
Email: leona@talksense. biz

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Party 2009

Last Sunday, 20 December 2009, we had our Christmas Party at the Patio of the offices of Isis International. Isis, a feminist NGO, recently gave us a gift check amounting to free use of any of their facilities for eight hours in exchange for our participation as respondents in a new research they are conducting on Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender (LBT) women in Asia. We asked Isis if we could use their patio for our Christmas party and they said yes. The Isis patio is interesting because in one corner one will find a statue of the Virgin Mary. A few feet away from the Blessed Virgin is a fountain where another statue, this time of a naked woman sits. The first time I saw the statues I instantly thought, "The virgin and the vamp!"

I thought Virgin or Vamp would be a great theme for our Christmas part. The girls will come to the party as one or the other.

I chose to come as a vamp (see pic below):


I was overjoyed that many people showed up at the party with many new faces. The girls' pic follows below:

STRAP women

One of the heartwarming highlights of the party was the presence of some of the girls' friends, husbands, fiancees and boyfriends. Below is a picture of the couples present during the party:

STRAP Couples

Of course the party would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the officers below:

STRAP Officers

It was a great party. The food and drinks were overflowing and one of our members prepared games that everyone enjoyed. I am still on a high from the party actually and am sorely missing everyone who was there. I pray that this holiday season, they will all be safe and happy.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

2009 UP Diliman Lantern Parade

STRAP at the UP Lantern Parade

On Friday, 18 December 2009, I went to the premiere state university, the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman campus to join this year’s lantern parade (see pic above).

The lantern parade is a traditional UP activity and one of the highlights of the national university’s annual academic calendar. Each year, right before the students go on holiday, usually on the last school day before Christmas, the different UP colleges, schools, organizations, other constituent campuses and all other academic, research and extension arms of the University come out with their Christmas lanterns and parade around the UP Diliman campus for what has now become the annual lantern parade.

I have attended different lantern parades as a UP student in college in the past. The last lantern parade I attended was last year during the University’s celebration of its centennial anniversary. I attended it as an employee of one of UP’s constituent campuses which number 7 in all: UP Diliman, UP Manila, UP Los BaƱos, UP Baguio, UP Open University (UPOU), UP Visayas, and UP Mindanao. All these campuses save for UPOU hold their own lantern parades in fact. But last year, all campuses sent representatives to the Centennial Lantern Parade in UP Diliman.

I was very happy that this year, I was able to attend this annual festivity. I was invited by the UP Center for Women’s Studies (CWS) to join the annual lantern parade. I think it is a good start. The UP CWS carried the issue of human rights this year and there is no better way to initiate the University to the transgender struggle for equality and acceptance than having transwomen at the parade. When we passed by the three main points where the lantern parade participants had to stop and present themselves—the old Arts and Science building now known as Palma Hall, the College of Engineering and the Administration building—we heard people cheer us on. It was a very heartwarming experience.

As usual, the College of Fine Arts (CFA) which is now a Hall of Famer of the parade, having won the Best Lantern prize one year after another in the past, outdid itself. CFA students made larger than life lanterns which were truly a sight to see. Below are pictures of some of the lanterns that caught my attention: a Buddhist temple, a dragon, and a giant female head/figure.

Buddhist temple lantern

Dragon lantern

Female figure lantern

Next year, I hope more transwomen will make it to the lantern parade. It is truly something to look forward to.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Transwomen go to Congress

Congress of the Republic of the Philippines

On Monday afternoon, 14 December 2009, I went to the House of Representatives (see pic above). The Lower House was in joint session with the Senate that day to deliberate on the President's Martial Law declaration in Maguindanao following the now infamous massacre there orchestrated by the powerful Ampatuan clan, said to be very close to the President. The Maguindanao massacre where almost 60 people were murdered in broad daylight including women, journalists and innocent passerby, is now being touted as the defining moment of the morally bankrupt rule of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA). It trumps the other scandals that rocked her administration including the corruption allegations regarding the building of the Macapagal highway, named after her father, the Hello Garci scandal, the ZTE scandal and so many others.

Transpinays in Congress

While we have rallied against GMA, it was not because of her that we were in Congress last Monday. We were there to have a brief audience with Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel of AKBAYAN (see pic above).
Rep. Baraquel joined the 2009 Manila Pride March where we were formally introduced by her assistant, a long-time friend of mine, Jet. When we saw each other last Monday, she said she could not forget the sari I wore during the Pride March. I actually wore a traditional Indian dress not a sari during the Pride Parade but I chose not correct her. I told her that we were there to discuss the possibility of her helping the Filipino trans community by filing a gender recognition law similar to the one in place in the UK and elsewhere.

Risa was about to speak in the deliberations that afternoon so she just asked us to set up another meeting with her office. We thanked her for her time and told her that we would schedule a meeting as soon as possible. I know that I may be aiming too high and I do want to be realistic. But I have hope that if we do what we need to do, that is if we continue educating people and bringing our advocacy all over the country, getting a Gender Recognition Law passed in the Philippines is not too big a dream. It is always, always a possibility.

I hope it becomes reality in my lifetime.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Taking a stand on HIV/AIDS

In the hustle and bustle leading up to the 2009 Manila Pride March, I almost forgot that I along with two other members of the Executive Committee (ExeCom) of Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines 2009 joined a World AIDS Day (WAD) campaign initiated by the writer and make-up artist, Anna Santos. Anna, who has taken up HIV/AIDS advocacy recently, attended the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP) in Bali, Indonesia in August.

It was in Bali that she thought up the idea of a "Dare to Bare" WAD campaign. The campaign was going to showcase photographs of various advocates wearing nothing but the iconic AIDS ribbon "to make a stand, and to hopefully change the way (people) look at HIV/AIDS" and would be carried by different publications including the Manila Times, Spot, Herword, WMN, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA)and Cosmo magazine online near or around 1 December 2009.

Anna asked the TFP ExeCom to pose as a group for the shoot (see pic below). In the end (from L to R) only me, a lesbian rights advocate under the name Queer Silver and another trasnwoman made it. The write-up on TFP for this WAD campaign, is also published in the new issue of Outrage, the only online zine for TLBG Filipinos. You can see the article here.


My personal interest in joining this campaign has to do with my growing frustration with how transgender (TG) and HIV/AIDS is framed in the Philippines. For the most part, transgender people which includes men and women have been lumped with the Males who have Sex with other Males (MSM) category in HIV/AIDS work. I have always maintained that using this framework is problematic because:
1. it disrespects trans people's identity particularly transwomen's identity because they do not see themselves as men who have sex with other men;
2. it reduces people to their sexual behavior conflating it with sexual orientation and gender identity. These concepts are not equivalent with each other.
3. it invisibilizes the particular health care needs of transgender people like access to hormones, surgeries, medical professionals who are well-versed in trans issues, etc.

Although I personally welcome the new three-year UNDP program that will provide intervention packages to vulnerable and at-risk groups including MSM and TG, I feel that the intervention packages to these two highly different groups should be separate. I hope that the NGOs working with UNDP, UNAIDS, UNFPA and other agencies working towards the Millennium Development Goal 6 of combating malaria, HIV/AIDS and other diseases will do their best to consult existing trans organizations because we can provide insight on how HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care intersect with and impact on our being transgender. For me, a comprehensive HIV/AIDS intervention program for the trans community is one that is cognizant of the health care needs of all transpeople not only of those who are doing sex work. Therefore, such a program should be created in collaboration with the people it aims to serve, transpeople themselves. Above all such a program should put a premium on respecting gender identity, something that is sorely missing in programs that are currently in place.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pride March gets mentioned on

Below is a news article that appeared on on the day before the March. Enjoy!

Task Force Pride Philippines

Gays, lesbians to hold ‘Pride March’ in Manila
Friday, 04 December 2009 11:59 Abigail Kwok/

MANILA - Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community are set to hold a colorful parade Saturday to promote equal rights for all genders in the Philippines.

The march is also meant to protest the Commission on Election’s decision rejecting the party-list bid of gay and lesbian group “Ang Ladlad”.

This year’s theme, “We Dare. We Care,” signifies the LGBT community’s proactive stance in addressing the human rights issues confronting the sector, according to Great Ancheta, head coordinator of Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines 2009.

“We shall no longer be complacent. We dare to remind the Philippine government and the rest of society that we have an obligation under international human rights law to promote and protect the rights and well-being of all people, including LGBT Filipinos, who are being threatened by the looming economic crisis, natural disasters, armed conflict, religious intolerance and lack of political will of some government officials,” Ancheta said.

The group will hold the parade in Manila’s Malate district and assembly begins 3 p.m. at Remedios Circle. The program will start with a grand parade, which will be followed by pageants and partying, the group said.

The TFP said the march was set in time for international observance of the Human Rights week.

“The LGBT community will march to show their indignation and concern over the lack of human rights protections for LGBT Filipinos as shown in the recent decision of the Comelec not to accredit Ang Ladlad, a party-list group for LGBT Filipinos, the non-passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill and the increasing incidence of violence and discrimination committed against them in large-scale because of their sexual orientation and gender identity,” Ancheta said.

The “Pride March” was the Filipino’s expression of solidarity with other members of the LGBT communities in Taipei, Hong Kong, Tokyo, London and other parts of the world to “fight discrimination, homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia and transphobia at the national and international levels,” said Naomi Fontanos also of TFP.

The march has gained support from various human rights groups.

Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree, the Thai representative to the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights, said in her solidarity message, “the rights of everyone [have] to be guaranteed and the space has to be equally created without which the building of ASEAN Community could not be fully realized.”

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of the Philippines also endorsed the 2009 Manila Pride March.

CHR Chair Leila De Lima in her message of solidarity said, “We laud TFP Philippines for organizing this annual Pride March, and we recognize the courage of those who choose to participate in it. The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines stands ready to offer whatever support it can, not only in relation to this event, but also in order to generally advance respect for, and the protection of, the human rights of the LGBT community.”

The 2009 Manila Pride March is organized by Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines, a network of LGBT and LGBT-supportive groups and individuals who seek to promote positive visibility for the LGBT community.

2009 Manila Pride March

Transpinays bring message of gender diversity to Pride

Last December 5 was the 2009 Manila Pride March: Parade, Program, Pageant and Party and of course we were not going to miss it for the world (see our pic above). Good thing that our 2009 Manila Pride March Project Leader organized our participation with the skill and quick-thinking of a seasoned marketing person and events organizer. Our main tarp said: Celebrate gender diversity with the transpinays!

Baptist protesters at the 2009 Manila Pride March

There were grim and determined Baptist protesters (see pic above) again this year like last year's Pride March. The protesters were sternly warned to keep a safe distance from the Pride March participants so it was all good. I welcome protesters to the annual Pride outing of the TLBG community because I think they add another layer to the struggle for human rights. They remind everyone of the need to keep doing advocacy work because bigotry exists up to now.

Naomi Fontanos, STRAP Chair

I was not going to be fazed though in my Indian-inspired outift (see pic above). I chose to ignore them although did not stop the girls who had a verbal tussle with them while we were on board our float. The Baptist bigots kept yelling hateful chants and hurtful, insulting words. There was just no point in answering them back. Their minds have already been set. It was going to be an exercise in futility.

Naomi Fontanos, Program Host

After the Parade, I had to immediately change clothes because I was going to host the post-parade program (see pic above). It was another enjoyable part of Pride celebrations that day. I was particularly wowed by the presentation of a young group of guys called One Bacardi. One Bacardi is an organization of young gay and bisexual men who initiate socio-civic projects for TLBG and non-TLBG people. They are simply adorable. Their group gave a dance and song number for the Program and their energy and enthusiasm were truly infectious.


I was hungry after the Program and asked Phoejay to join me for dinner (see our pic above). We had a drink after and rushed back to the stage area for the Pageant, the 2009 Miss Queen Philippines. I was asked to give out special awards that night so we had to stay.

With Christina Cassandra, 2008 Miss Queen Philippines

The organizers also asked me to do the voice-over for the latter half of the pageant so I hung out backstage where the contestants were. I saw the 2008 Miss Queen Philippines, Kristina Cassandra and immediately went to her side for a pic (see above).

With EZ Boyz

At around 2 a.m., the new Miss Queen Philippines, Lesly Ann Francisco was crowned. Lesly was the first runner-up last year and I was glad that she took home the crown this time. Phoejay and I had a chance to walk around Orosa, the Malate street we closed for the Pride festivities. Our major sponsors EZ Lubricating Jelly and Frenzy Condoms had two big booths in the middle of Orosa. I dropped by there to get my picture taken with the EZ Boyz (see pic above).

Over all, I was quite happy with the organizing of the 2009 Pride activities. There were bumps and missteps along the way, but because of the overwhelming participation this year of nearly 50 TLBG and non-TLBG organizations, everyone in Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines, the official network that organizes the annual TLBG Pride March in Manila, is looking forward to the success of the 2010 Manila Pride March. I cannot wait. I hope to see you next year!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

5 days to go...

...before Pride (see poster below)! See you there!

2009 Manila Pride March Poster

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stop Transphobia sa Bahay ni Kuya!!! (Stop Transphobia in the Pinoy Big Brother House!!!)

Official Statement of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) on the recent happenings inside the Pinoy Big Brother (PBB) House involving Rica Paras
by Naomi Fontanos

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

She-man. Mumu (Ghost). Half-half. Samson and Delilah. These are just a few of the derogatory comments heard recently from PBB Double Up Housemates Rob Stumvol, Patrick Villanueva, Hermes Bautista, Mariel Sorino, Yuri Okawa and most especially Rocky Salumbides in referring to Rica Paras. We, her sisters in STRAP, join the rest of the world’s loyal audiences who watch PBB Double Up diligently in expressing our dismay, disappointment and disbelief in this blatant show of anti-transgender prejudice or transphobia. STRAP condemns to the highest degree this senseless bigotry and calls on Big Brother to intervene and put a stop to the hate happening right under his watchful eye.

Ever since Rica entered the PBB House, she has always carried herself well. She has never been a burden to her housemates but instead has proven to be an asset to them with her leadership skills, quick thinking and positive attitude. She has helped in household chores, shared her talents selflessly, related wholeheartedly with her housemates, and always contributed to the completion of tasks in the best way she could. The whole world knows that Rica has been nothing but a consistent team player, a shoulder to cry on, a loyal friend and a loving and reliable sister to all of her housemates.

We are therefore calling on all the housemates to STOP BASHING RICA for she has done nobody any harm. STOP DISRESPECTING RICA for she has only treated all of them with grace and care. STOP DISPARAGING RICA for she is simply being herself. The asinine machismo being directed at her is the same kind of misogyny that leads to violence against women. The narrow-mindedness being displayed by some of the PBB Double Up housemates is the same kind of bias that leads to abuse, insensitivity and cruelty towards others. This is totally unacceptable behavior and must be stopped at all costs.

This has to stop if we believe in the equality of all persons. This has to stop if we want to create a world where the uniqueness of all is valued. This has to stop if we want to create a better world where kindness, compassion and respect reign, a world that upholds the inherent dignity of all. STOP TRANSPHOBIA SA BAHAY NI KUYA!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm moral

Yesterday, about a hundred people trooped to Plaza Roma in front of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to show their indignation over the COMELEC decision not to accredit Ang Ladlad into the partylist system. TLBG individuals and their friends and families attended the protest action yesterday to tell the COMELEC that "IM MORAL." The rally was of course called immoRALLY. Below are pictures taken from yesterday.

Start of the rally

Protesters assembled in front of the nearby Manila Cathedral (see above pic). After the mass-up, the contingent made its way in front of the COMELEC a few yards away.

T Statement

I co-hosted the short program of the rally which saw different representatives give messages in support of and solidarity with Ang Ladlad (see above).

Post rally

After the rally, we took pictures.

In front of COMELEC

We also had a Kodak moment with Danton Remoto (in the middle in black), Chair of Ang Ladlad (see pic above).

STRAP Girls after the Rally

Of course the day would not have been complete without a picture of just the girls (above).

It was quite a successful protest action. I was there not only to protest the unconstitutional and persecutive decision of the COMELEC but because I care about my future and that of my children. This oppressive decision, at a micro level may be used later to bar TLBG people from joining politics and at a macro level to police and punish people's behavior. I will not stand for it. COMELEC needs to take back what it said and apologize to the whole nation for this travesty. If not, the protest actions will just continue and I hope in the future will become more and more massive. Hope to see you in the next one!

I am reposting below STRAP's statement on the whole COMELEC brouhaha.

The Official Statement of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) on Comelec’s non-accreditation of Ang Ladlad LGBT Party List

“The greatness of every mighty organization
embodying an idea in this world
lies in the religious fanaticism and intolerance
with which, fanatically convinced of its own right,
it intolerantly imposes its will against all others."
- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf Vol. 1 Chapter 12

The Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) stands with courage and in solidarity with all those organizations and individuals who have been disheartened, disappointed, and dismayed by the unfavorable decision Ang Ladlad received from the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

STRAP is among those who say: Yes! It’s a violation of the separation of Church and State; Yes! It breaches the ‘no religion test’ clause of our Constitution; Yes! It lays the case for our legal persecution; Yes! It’s a retrogressive way of thinking; Yes! It’s a violation of human rights. But above all this, STRAP says Yes! The bigotry of Comelec is a threat to the well-being of every human being.

In its 8-page decision, Comelec argued that should they allow Ang Ladlad to participate in the elections, “[the] youth would be exposed to an environment that does not conform to the teachings of [Christianity and Islam]”, implying that such exposure would cause the moral and spiritual degradation of the youth. "[They] are not condemning the LGBT," Comelec said, they just “cannot compromise the well-being of the greater number of our people, especially the youth.“ Protecting the well-being of everyone is a good intention. However, as history has shown us, the road to hell can be paved with bigotry masked as good intentions.

How many wars have been waged, people burned at stake, genocide committed, and bodies turned into bombs just to create an environment that blindly conforms to the teachings of a particular religion? How many such atrocities have happened just because of the refusal to acknowledge the humanity of those people who are simply different?

If we’re going to be honest in answering these questions, we’ll find out that our natural diversity in sexual orientation, gender identity and expression is not the threat to the well-being of humanity. The threat is bigotry.

So we further ask, Who is the real threat to the youth? An organization that seeks to promote respect for and deeper understanding of human diversity? Or those who wear bigotry as a badge of honor?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Immorally yours

Dear all,

Tomorrow is a chance for all of us to come together in a show of force and unity. Tomorrow is the planned protest against the COMELEC decision on TLBG people, that the COMELEC accuses of deceit, immorality and corrupting minors. It is time to stand up and reclaim our dignity. Let us not permit the COMELEC to spread lies, trample on our rights and persecute us. If you believe in TLBG equality and empowerment (protected no less by the Philippine Constitution), join the rally (see the poster below).

Immorally yours

Immorally yours,

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bringing the rainbow on air


Last Friday, 20 November was the launch of Rainbow Radio Pilipinas (RRP), the first-ever TLBG-themed community-based radio show in the Philippines (see the launch poster above). RRP, which is funded by the Global Fund for Women (GFW), is one of the pet projects of Rainbow Rights (R-Rights) Project, Inc., a group of lesbian and gay lawyers and activists who are working to promote a rational discourse on TLBG issues. RRP was envisioned by R-Rights to be a weekly radio program that will bring together TLBG Filipinos, their families, and supporters to discuss the latest events, news and issues that are traditionally not discussed by the media. RRP, which is truly a historic initiative, airs every Saturday, 2:30-3:30 pm, on DWBL 1242.

I was not going to miss history in the making so I volunteered to host the program of the launch that night along with Cenon Palomares from the University of the Philippines (UP).

Me with the girls

That night we were teasing a girl about the look she was sporting. Her short do, a fantastic wig that did not look like one, made her look very young. The girls decided that when we got older, we would all sport short locks. At some point in our lives as women of a certain age, our aim should be uncomplicated, wash-and-wear hair as opposed to the long tresses we have now.

Curly tops

I had the ends of mine curled at the salon that night (see my pic above). I left work at 5 and made it to the hairdressers at 6. I only had 2 hours to get ready for the launch at 8 and so the hairstylist decided to just use a curling iron and hairspray to style my hair. Because the curls were not industrial strength, I noticed that they progressively straightened as the evening wore on (see pic below).

No more curls

Hair and make-up issues aside, the RRP launch was a truly wonderful evening spent with friends, old and new. The launch was attended by several organizations including Ang Ladlad, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Lesbian Advocates Philippines (LeAP), Lunduyan ng Sining (LNS) Metropolitan Community Church Quezon City (MCCQC), Rainbow Rights (R-Rights) Project, Inc., Single Guys Online-PH, Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP), Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines, UP Babaylan and Women Bi Net and the program featured performances by Kooky Tuazon, Alden Capuyoc, Flush and the Toilets and Pow Chavez. I was very happy to have finally seen Kooky do performance poetry. It was really inspired. Flush and the Toilets also did not disappoint. Their set was spectacular. Pow Chavez also proved her star power by bringing the house down with several covers of The Black Eyed Peas songs, which made everyone get up and dance. It was a pleasure meeting Pow, who I think is very hot. I wish her well. I do hope that in the future she will sell millions of albums and make people happy with her music. Congratulations again to R-Rights for a successful launch and for such a groundbreaking undertaking! I just know that Rainbow Radio Pilipinas will touch, inspire and change so many lives.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

LGBT Filipinos, Unite! Attend the Ang Ladlad General Assembly on Saturday, 14 November 2009

Ang Ladlad Logo

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has just denied the petition for accreditation of Ang Ladlad Partylist to be able to take part in the 2010 elections and represent Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Filipinos in Congress. The COMELEC, in its 7-page decision, claims that Ang Ladlad advocates sexual immorality and thus the COMELEC is protecting the youth from “moral and spiritual degradation” by denying Ang Ladlad’s petition.

In light of this COMELEC decision, Ang Ladlad is calling all its members, allies, friends and supporters to a general assembly on 14 November 2009, Saturday, 9am-12nn at the Seminar Room 108 of the University Hotel, UP Diliman. For directions, call the University Hotel at landline 926.1975/926.1953 or mobile 0920.471.0111.

It’s time to get up and stand up for our rights!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

11th Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR)


This year, we will partner with the first-ever TLBG student group in the University of the Philippines (UP) system, UP Babaylan to commemorate the International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) TDOR is meant to honor people who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. It began a decade ago after the death of Rita Hester who was brutally murdered in November 1998. Hester’s death resulted in the creation of the Remembering Our Dead website and a candlelight vigil in 1999. Henceforth, transgender people killed due to hatred are honored in annual TDOR activities worldwide.

We are holding TDOR week in UP and our activities are as follows:
November 24 - 27, 2009, UP Diliman Campus, Quezon City

Nov. 24 (Tue.)
10:00 AM, TDOR Exhibit Opening | Palma Hall Lobby (Exhibit runs until the 27th)

Nov. 27 (Fri.)
2:30 - 5:00 PM, TRANSCEND: Stories and Struggles of Transpeople in the Philippines (Forum) | UP Diliman Gender Office, Benton Hall

6:00 PM, Candle-lighting Ceremony | Palma Hall Lobby

We hope that you can join us in all these activities. We will really appreciate it. To participate or for inquiries, contact the following: mobile (0905.352.0943) and email ( Thank you. See you there!

Monday, November 9, 2009

25 days to go

Before the 2009 Manila Pride March that is. The countdown has already started. Would you dare March? Do you even care?


I hope so. Thousands others like you will be there. Show your pride. Come to Malate on December 5. To join/volunteer and for updates click here.

See you there!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Girl with iPhone

One lazy Sunday afternoon, I decided to have coffee together and walk aimlessly around the mall with a girl called Phoejay. Phoejay does fashion, interior and graphic design. I always have a nice time with Phoejay. Ever since I met her in the summer of last year, after she just came back to Manila from the States, we just really seemed to hit it off well. We have been hanging out in various coffee shops lately but we always seem to end up meeting up at Seattles' Best in a mall in Makati. That Sunday, Phoejay surprised me with her new iPhone. Of course we had to take the customary shot. Below is what she took.

Phoejay and Naomi

I love it!

Don't you? Phoejay sent this to me via email. It's really sweet because I always tease her about taking the worst pictures of me, which we jokingly call "sabotage" pictures. A sabotage picture is when another  girl takes your picture and she takes it at your worst angle, in bad lighting or without telling you--a stolen or candid shot! What's worse is when she decides to post it online somewhere like in her blog or social networking sites deliberately or without asking your permission. So we have a tradition of asking each other to take down unflattering pictures of us innocently or intentionally posted somewhere. Talk about vanity! But it's all done in good cheer. I know that I have my bad angles and even if through the years I have become more comfortable in my own skin, even going out without wearing any make up at all lately, I still draw the line at pics of me where I think I am or that I deem "fugly".

I didn't mind seeing this one of me (see pic below) during last month's Support Group Meeting (SGM). I went to the SGM just wearing some powder and told the girls that I was starting a fad called Stars Without Makeup! Let's see now if I can keep that up. *GRIN*


I love this pic because it shows so many of us. We are incomplete in this pic though. Some girls who were in that meeting were no longer around when this pic was taken. Some girls who were in Manila also did not make it to this SGM. Some others were abroad when this SGM happened. I dream in 6 months or a year though, when we hold one or 2 General Assemblies, that all of us will be there. It is really something to look forward to.

I still really love Phoejay's pic of us and I look forward to taking more pics with her through her iPhone.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Manila Pride season has begun!

Here is the first press release from Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines, the official network that organizes the yearly TLBG Pride March in Manila. I volunteered to handle some PR work for this year's TFP after coordinating last year's march. Our new membership coordinator in STRAP, Gia Alessandra Nolasco is our official rep to the network while last year's Marketing and Finance Head, Dee Mendoza, our outgoing STRAP chair, is doing marketing work for the 2009 Manila Pride March. She designed the teasers and posters of this year's Pride Parade, one of which you can see below.

Dare to March

Like previous Pride Parades, the 2009 Manila PrideMarch, scheduled to take place on Saturday, 5 December 2009 in Malate, promises to gather thousands of Transgender Lesbian Bisexual and Gay (TLBG) Filipinosand foreigners alike, including their friends, families, loved ones and supporters in one massive and colorful parade that will rival the biggest Pride Marches around the world, from London to Paris; San Francisco to New York; from Tokyo to Taipei.

Organized by Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines, the 2009 Manila Pride March carries the theme We Dare We Care (WDWC), the slogan of a solidarity and consciousness-raising campaign launched by, for and of TLBG organizations seeking to unify the local TLBG community and working to raise the awareness of Philippine society about the needs, issues and concerns facing them through different activities including the Pride March.

Show that you care for our community by daring to march with Pride! It is the only day out of the year that our community can shine together as one. Everybody is encouraged to march in shimmering splendid silver on December 5! To join/volunteer and for updates, visit

Also, attend the Pride March Kick-Off party on Thursday, 5 November 2009 at the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) Chapel, 3rdFloor, 56 Mindanao Avenue, QC . For more details text/call Rev. CeejayAgbayani at 09195009098 or email him via rev.ceejay@yahoo. com.

See you there!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Another day, another case of trans discrimination

I don't know what's with establishments that keep enforcing asinine dress codes but in the Philippines there are a lot of them. The dress code is almost always lopsided, meaning it is not enforced equally on all and always singles out a certain group of people. That is obviously discrimination but because there is no law that prohibits such prejudicial business practices in this country, many establishments get away with it by invoking the standard excuse that the business has the right to refuse entry to those it deems unfit to enter its premises.

Now I can understand that from a security point of view. But in reality these dress code policies are usually based on preconceived notions about what it means to be a man or woman and so tend to be oppressive to those whose gender identity or expression does not conform with norms. Should businesses be allowed to police people's expression of their sexual and gender identities? I do not think so. Another establishment in Manila seems hell bent to do so: Manor Superclub (see logo above). Manor is located in the Eastwood City complex in Libis, Quezon City and is supposed to be the next happening place in the Metro for those who love going clubbing.

Around a week or so ago, a transwoman, Rio, went there with her boyfriend and almost did not get in. She was only able to after summoning the manager who, upon seeing her and her bf, then apologized and allowed them to go in. Rio immediately informed us of what happened and so we sent the establishment a letter asking for a dialogue. Below is the letter and the documentation of the humiliating experience that Rio had to suffer through.

3 November 2009


Manor Superclub

Eastwood, Libis

Quezon City

Dear Sir/Madam

RE: Discriminatory dress code policy

It has recently come to our attention that one of our members in the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP), Ms Rio Moreno, was almost barred from entering Manor Superclub on the morning of 24 October 2009, Saturday. Based on her account of what happened (see attachment), it was because the bouncer/guard on duty at the gate was enforcing on her your establishment’s dress code for MEN.

Firstly, Ms Moreno is a person of transsexual experience. That means her gender identity is opposite to the one designated to her at birth. Even if she was assigned male, she developed a female gender identity growing up. The dress code that should have been applied to her then should have been the WOMEN’S. In that case, we are confident that Ms Moreno was not violating your policy. We understand that the bouncer/guard on duty was imposing the dress code based on HIS understanding of Ms Moreno’s gender.

Let us clarify this for you. According to the Yogyakarta Principles, the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, gender identity is “understood to refer to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.” That means Ms Moreno’s gender is what she feels and thinks it is and not what your bouncer/guard thinks or feels it is. Moreover, Ms Moreno’s gender identity has NOTHING to do with her sex assignment at birth or the sex in her birth certificate, her genitals, or her legal name. They DO NOT determine her gender identity. The Yogyakarta Principles are recognized by the UN and human rights commissions around the world including that of the Philippines .

Additionally, we know for a fact that many transsexual women, including some of our own STRAP members, have been able to enter Manor Superclub and enjoy what it has to offer without hassle in the past. This means that your dress code is not being enforced consistently. Ms Moreno was also surprised when she finally entered Manor and she saw many women dressed in men’s clothing inside your club. If you allow women in male apparel to enter Manor, then you should do the same for men in female attire. Obviously no harm is done when women cross dress and exercise their freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and is protected by the 1987 Philippine Constitution. It applies to all people regardless of sex or gender. Because your dress code is not equally applied to both genders, it is clearly discriminatory.

We are surprised that an establishment like yours is enforcing such a policy especially since you are located in Eastwood City , the first ever accredited Tourism Entertainment Complex of the Department of Tourism (DOT). Moreover, you are located in Quezon City , which prides itself on being the only city in the Philippines with a local anti-discrimination ordinance. We do not think that the DOT or the city government particularly its Gender and Development (GAD) Council will tolerate any form of discrimination in establishments under their jurisdiction.

Eastwood is a cosmopolitan place. As your advertisement points out, being in Eastwood is all about living the good life. If that were the case, then this should be reflected in the business practices of all Eastwood establishments, vendors and tenants. Discriminating against a certain population and being discriminated upon has no place in a life well-lived. What is more, such gender-biased dress code restrictions will never be found in the best dance clubs of the world from North America to Europe to Asia . We believe that Manor will be better off if it adopts instead a policy that celebrates diversity and individuality, a major characteristic of your target market.

Do dialogue with us. We believe that we will be able to learn from each other given the chance.


Naomi Fontanos




October 24, 1:00AM. I arrived at Manor Superclub Eastwood, with Philip. The bouncer/guard asked for our IDs. Philip showed his and I showed my work ID. It has my preferred name Rio Moreno and my legal name. The guard then pointed his hand and showed me a poster of their dress code, which lists the prohibited clothing for men and women. Under MEN, the list includes women's clothing.

I asked the guard, “What do you mean?” He just did not know what to answer and pointed to the poster again. Philip asked the guard, "Why aren’t you letting her in?" The guard said "Sir, dress code sir."

We asked for the manager. The manager named Will came down. As soon as he saw us, he apologized and told us that we could come in. His exact words were "Sorry po, you can come in." He was talking to me and Philip.

Philip asked, “Why aren't they letting her in?” He just said sorry and said we could come in. He also said that the bouncer was just doing his job.

I asked for their names again. The manager’s name is Will while the bouncer’s name is Mar. We went in and paid the entrance fee.

October 24, 4PM. I called their office number and Jack's Loft employees answer the phone saying that Manor's phone is being used by Jack's loft during the day.

I called again around 9PM. Jack’s Loft picked up again and asked me to call again so the Manor people will pick up. I called again and again till 12 in the morning. I kept getting the fax tone.

I was trying to call them to get their complete names so I could document everything completely.


Rio Moreno



Monday, November 2, 2009

Ai Haruna is Miss International Queen 2009

The TV personality from Japan (see pic above) bested 24 other contestants from China, Brazil, Peru, Singapore, Thailand, Venezuela, USA and the Philippines. The 5th Miss International Queen was held from 26-31 October 2009 at Tiffany's Show in the resort city of Pattaya.

The pageant was canceled last year due to political instability in Thailand; so I am very happy that it is now back as it seems, at the moment, to be the only international beauty pageant for transgender and transsexual women. Ai Haruna is a comedienne, TV host and business owner in Japan who is making a name for herself in the competitive Japanese showbiz industry. She came to the Philippines awhile back to dance with Cebu's world-famous dancing inmates.

Omedetou gozaimasu utsukushii Ai-Chan!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

PBB to swap housemates with Finland

After almost a month on air, I was starting to get bored with Pinoy Big Brother (PBB), the Philippines' version of the Endemol-produced hit reality TV show. This week, I only tuned in twice. As the joke goes, according to Ate Vi (that's Vilma Santos for you, an actress turned politician who has a quirky way of speaking), so far so good so far.

This week I learned that the housemates are anticipating a swap where a housemate from the Philippines will be swapped with another from a Big Brother house abroad. This year PBB has a choice to swap with Big Brother in India, Africa, Finland, Turkey and France. A good friend of mine just told me that it's Finland. My friend is Finnish of course that's why he knows. According to him, the Big Brother Finland housemate they are sending to Manila is Katlin (see her pic below). She is 22 years old, an Aries born in Estonia. She moved to Finland when she was 16 and considers her immigration the biggest achievement in her life so far. Katlin is single and works in the grocery business. She likes dancing, drawing, going to the gym and roller skating. She smokes occasionally.

Katlin from Big Brother Finland

Anyway, welcome to Manila Katlin! I hope you enjoy your week on PBB!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I adore Adam Lambert!

I am so loving the cover of Adam Lambert's new album called For Your Entertainment (see pic below). Already it is generating some buzz, good and bad, which is great if you are in show business. Of course, it will not please everybody. But for me personally, I think it is great because it puts the idea of difference or diversity right in the middle of things, which is something transpeople do on a daily basis.

Adam Lambert

I hope Adam's new album's cover will spark discussions about gender that some people are afraid to touch. What do you feel when you see someone like Adam looking all dolled up and androgynous on his album cover? If you think it is different, does it mean it's bad? What is it about the cover that makes you feel uncomfortable? What does this discomfort say about your own understanding of gender and what it means to be a man or woman?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Queen of Cebu

Rain Villagonzalo

I just learned today that a girl by the name of Rain Villagonzalo (see pic above) has won the first edition of Queen of Cebu, a new and prestigious pageant for Cebuana transpinays. Rain, who is Cebu-based, was Miss Philippines and she bested 20 other beautiful Cebuanas representing different nations of the world for the title of Queen of Cebu Universe. Completing her court are Miss Lebanon, Queen of Cebu World and Miss Spain, Queen of Cebu International (See pic below).

The Queen of Cebu Court

Cebu, which is also known as the Queen City of the South, is home to some of the Philippines' most beautiful transsexual women. This Saturday night, 24 October 2009, the coronation night of Queen of Cebu proved this all the more. Queen of Cebu (see poster below) was organized by a group of fashion designers called Clothes For Life and it promises to rival the biggest and most prestigious pageants for trans women in the Philippines like the Miss Amazing Beauties. Incidentally, the coronation of the Amazing Philippines pageant happened on Friday evening, 23 October 2009. Because I was busy, I missed it. But I was told that Bem Bem May Razada, Candidate No. 13 holds the crown this year. Congratulations Bem Bem!

Queen Poster

Saturday, October 24, 2009

We Dare We Care campaign launch

With the STRAP girls

Last night, 24 October 2009, Saturday, I attended the launch of We Dare, We Care (WDWC), a campaign that seeks to mobilize and unite the local TLBG community and raise Philippine society's awareness of the issues facing TLBG Filipinos.

The dress code was black and white which explains why I was dressed like I was last night (see pic below).

Black and white

It was a well-attended affair and many people showed up (see pic below). WDWC was originally conceived by various organizations including Single Guys Online, Metropolitan Community Church Quezon City, Iftas (which means light and is a TLBG coven), Rainbow Bloggers Philippines, Gay, Transgender and Bisexual Advocates for Youth (GABAY),and OutPhilippines.

Guests of WDWC

The organizers created a video of selected people who embodied the spirit of daring and caring for the TLBG community and they showed it during the program. I was one of those selected. After the video presentation, we were called in front to give a solidarity message (see pic below). My message centered on transgender people who exercise their right to define their gender identity because they CARE about a person's right to self-determination.


I have high hopes for this campaign because the launch is just the start. The TLBG groups involved in the campaign have an exciting goal they want to reach next year. I want to surprise you all with that if it does push through. In the mean time, congratulations to all the groups that have come together for the good of all TLBG Filipinos. After the ceremonies, the girls decided to cap the night off with coffee and pastries at a nearby Starbucks where we discussed what happened during the launch and what more needs to be done in terms of pushing for greater trans involvement and visibility in the campaign. It was agreed that it will be a good idea to hold Trans 101 workshops for free with all the organizations involved in the campaign. I hope we will be able to find the time and resources do this soon.

Coffee with the girls after