Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A call for change

Below is the statement of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) on what happened recently to BB Gandanghari and her friends at a bar in Pasig City. It seems both ironic and fitting in the face of the global LGBT community preparing to commemorate this year (May 17, 2009) the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) with a spotlight on transphobia. What happened to BB and her friends stands proof that transphobia exists and is alive everywhere in the world.

Statement of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) on the Aruba incident involving Binibini Gandanghari and her friends

We, the members of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) are deeply saddened by the incident that occurred on the night of April 23, 2009, Thursday, to Binibini (BB for short) Gandanghari and her friends at Aruba Bar and Restaurant in Metrowalk, Pasig City. On that said night, Aruba, with no compunction and invoking its NO CROSSDRESSING policy, refused them entrance.

What happened to BB and her friends that night serves as proof of the rampant discrimination directed against many of us in the Filipino Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. With no national law that protects us and our welfare as citizens of the Philippines, we continue to experience unequal treatment in education, housing, health care, the legal system, employment and other public accommodations. What happened is also particularly telling of the specific kind of marginalization that Filipinos of transgender experience--or those whose gender identity and expression are not conventionally associated with their gender assignment at birth--face. We remain the most oppressed members of Philippine society and our rights as persons are continuously violated due to anti-transgender prejudice.

We in STRAP along with our allies, friends and supporters, therefore, see the need for change and:

• call for a dialogue with the Aruba management so that we may help its owners and staff, understand better the life of someone transgender.
• We are also calling the attention of the Philippine government especially the House of Representatives including the Commission on Human Rights to the need to grant civil rights protections to Filipino LGBT people based on the Yogyakarta Principles (, which apply international human rights standards to issues concerning sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
• Lastly, we ask the Filipino public including the entertainers and artists who regularly perform in Aruba to boycott this establishment until it stops its discriminatory practice of refusing entry and service to people it perceives as “cross-dressers”. Continuing to enforce such a policy based on outdated and ignorant notions of gender denies the dignity inherent in every human person and perpetuates unnecessary inequity that does no one any good.

Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP)

Supported by:
Ang Ladlad Partylist
Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Advocates for Youth (GABAY)
Gay and Lesbian Activist Network for Gender Equality (GALANG)
Lesbian Advocates Philippines (LeAP)
Philippine Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC)
Rainbow Rights (R-Rights) Project, Inc.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thank you Civil Service Commission

I would like to thank the Civil Service Commission (CSC) especially its staff who make up the team in-charge of the CSC's weekly TV show called Republic Service (RS). They took very good care of me when I guested in today's RS episode on behalf of Danton Remoto, our Chair in Ang Ladlad Partylist. Danton went to the Bicol region yesterday so he could not make it to the taping of RS this morning. I took his place instead.

RS guesting stint

RS is a weekly talk show discussing civil service matters and other pressing public affairs or issues of the day. Today's episode was supposed to tackle the role of the LGBT community in national development. For some reason, the show host, Princess Abante (in the middle in the pic above) who also sits as Commissioner of the National Youth Commission (NYC), veered off topic and focused on what Ang Ladlad does as a partylist. Of course, I gamely answered all of her questions. She even asked my opinion on Miss California's answer in the recently concluded Miss USA. It was a little chaotic and strange to say the least but okay overall.

The other guest on today's show is newly appointed Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Atty. Jose Manuel Mamauag (the guy in the Barong Tagalog in the pic above). Atty. Mamauag used to be the Regional Director of the CHR for Region 9. Before the show, he told me that there was a sizable number of LGBTs in the Mindanao area, many of them Moslem. I told him we already knew that and that Ang Ladlad was in touch with organized groups there willing to become our regional chapters.

After the taping, one of the show managers approached me for another possible guesting in another show on the government-owned and managed station, the National Broadcasting Network (NBN). I gave her my contact information, thanked the staff of RS, said goodbye to everybody and went to work.

Friday, April 24, 2009

"BB Gandanghari refused entry by Aruba Bar and Restaurant"

This morning when I opened my mail, I saw this message from Sass on the Task Force Pride (TFP) e-group. She now works for BB Gandanghari and apparently they went to an event last night the venue of which, Aruba Bar and Restaurant, refused BB entry invoking its NO CROSSDRESSING policy. This is not the first time this happened. Two years ago, Aruba also refused entry to another high-profile person, the comedian and entertainer, Inday Garutay. In the mad dash to get Inday's message out there, her handlers from the Lesbian and Gay Legislative Advocacy Network (LAGABLAB) immediately branded it a gay issue, called the establishment anti-gay, and in the process invisibilized the reality of transgender oppression.

In justifying their actions, Inday's handlers said Inday herself identified as a gay man so it was not a case of trans discrimination. As I pointed out in an earlier entry, this was a clear reflection of sexual orientation being conflated with gender identity, an unfortunate reality in this country which many lesbian and gay advocates have refused to acknowledge. And now, we have the case of BB being refused entry by the same establishment. That only means nothing has changed. This time though I hope the wrongs of the past can be righted by properly arguing this case along gender identity and expression lines.

I am not saying that gender is solely the concern of trans people. We all have gender and we are all affected by the oppression it brings. In the same way, we all have sexualities for which we are punished as well especially if it is non-heterosexual. But legally speaking there is a need to clarify what a sexual orientation issue is from a gender identity and expression one because it is the only way protections to trans people will be granted. In fact, more often than not, discriminatory acts toward LGBT people happen not because of what they are perceived to do in the privacy of their bedroom but because of how they look and present themselves in public.

Anyway, below is BB's recounting of her experience of discrimination as a woman of transgender experience. Another day, another case of trans oppression.

Time for change

by BB Gandanghari

“Rules,” Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “are not necessarily sacred, principles are.” The incident that happened to me and my friends on the night of April 24 is an example of rules violating the principles which motivate humanity to live in equality, to treat each other with respect, and to uphold each other’s dignity.

I was all set to watch Rannie Raymundo’s show in Metrowalk. Dee and my assistant Sass were with me. I didn’t know where exactly in Metrowalk the show would be. So while I was on my way, I texted Maegan, who would also be watching with us. She told me that it was going to be in Aruba Bar & Restaurant. Upon hearing that it was going to be there, Sass brought up the unfortunate incident Inday Garutay experienced there. I heard it before but I didn’t know that it happened there. Feeling worried, I requested Sass to ask Aruba Bar & Restaurant whether they have any problem with me watching the show.

Sass talked to the bouncer of Aruba Bar & Restaurant but she was then referred to the manager. She asked Sass: “What is she wearing?” Sass told her that I was wearing what every woman wears. The manager then iterated the blatant “No Crossdressing” policy hanging on their door. Sass refused to accept her reasoning. The manager then offered to consult the owner of the bar. The manager returned and gave a compromise: We can stay outside of Aruba Bar & Restaurant. Sass left and narrated what she was told. We left Metrowalk and transferred into a bar that understands that bigotry is not a sound business strategy.

I have felt perhaps the same feeling Rosa Parks felt when she was asked to give up her seat so a white passenger could sit. We, and countless human beings like me, suffered and are continue suffering the same indignity of discrimination: Rosa Park was discriminated because of her skin color; human beings of transgender experience are being discriminated because of their gender identity, the deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which of course does not always match the sex assigned by the doctors upon our birth.

I wasn’t demanding any special treatment from them. I was just there looking forward to enjoy the music and performance of Rannie, just like any other human being inside their bar. Certainly, I dressed up as a woman because I am a woman. If I dressed up in a masculine way, that would be the time that I would be crossdressing. But let’s discard all the labels, it’s not the issue. I am a human being just like yourself, just like the owners of Aruba Bar & Restaurant. I’m a human being denied of her right to express her unique existence.

What special right does Aruba Bar & Restaurant have that they can just force human beings to conform their gender expression to the gender expression traditionally associated with their assigned sex at birth? What special right does Aruba Bar & Restaurant have that they can just inflict indignity on their fellow human beings? What special right does Aruba Bar & Restaurant have that they can just enforce such transphobic policies with impunity?

I don’t understand where they are getting these special rights. My Christian upbringing has instilled in me one of the two greatest principles Jesus Christ deemed to be the commandments at which all commandments bow. This principle is also common in all spiritual teachings: “Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself”.

We can also find this same principle in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood (Article 1). And “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms…, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status (Article 2).” This is also echoed in the Yogyakarta Principles: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Human beings of all sexual orientations and gender identities are entitled to the full enjoyment of all human rights (Article 1).”

Even the Philippine Constitution upholds this: “The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights. (Article II, Section 11).” Jesus Christ was all about love, compassion, and inclusion and never about discrimination. The Philippine Constitution and international law are all about upholding the dignity of each human being regardless of who and what they are.

Without a need for complicated mental calisthenics, discriminatory rules, practices, and policies are very incompatible with these principles. And history has shown that rules, practices and policies constantly change so society can fulfill the highest principles of humanity: women getting the vote, end of apartheid, outlawing child abuse, to name a few.

So what special right does Aruba Bar & Restaurant have that they can just enforce rules that violate these principles of humanity? What special right does Aruba Bar & Restaurant have that they can continue doing business like this for years? Since when did a business license become a license to violate human rights? Does my gender identity & expression violate their right to conduct their business in a socially responsible way? Why are we turning a blind eye to this inhumanity?

Enforcing gender conformity is not, and will never be, a corporate social responsibility; ending discrimination is. Philippines, it’s NOW time for change.

Love & Peace,
Ms. BB Gandanghari

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Justice for Angie Zapata

I just saw on the Questioning Transphobia website that the Angie Zapata murder trial has already produced a verdict. For details on Angie's case, visit the LGBT Hate Crimes clearinghouse here. Angie Zapata (shown in the picture above) was an 18 year old trans woman who was found brutally murdered in her own apartment in Greeley, Colorado sometime in July last year. The suspect in her killing, Allen Ray Andrade, 31, was put on trial recently and his jury found him guilty on four counts: first degree murder, bias motivated crime, aggravated motor vehicle theft, and ID theft. Andrade gets mandatory life without parole for the first count. Sentencing on the other counts will happen on May 8.

Angie was one of the people honored in last year's Transgender Day of Remembrance. LGBT activists in the US have been anticipating the outcome of her murderer's trial because a hate-crime law was being used to prosecute him. The verdict above makes it clear that the jury accepts Angie's murder as a hate crime.

Angie's death is a great loss. It is said that she dreamed of becoming a professional entertainer and a cosmetologist. I cringe every time I read the gruesome details of her death. They are just too violent, too painful. I condole with the family she leaves behind and pray that they will be able to surmount this terrible blow that life has dealt them. I will also say a prayer for Angie, for the eternal repose of her soul.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Welcome lovely ladies to my Copenhagen."

Below is a press release written by Nanna Moe, one of the organizers of the Copenhagen 2009 World Outgames. With only 100 days to go before the opening ceremonies, LGBT participants to this international event are starting to get excited. The press release below, which you can also access here, certainly adds to that!

On July 24th Copenhagen will explode with pride and joy. Thousands of lesbian and bisexual women - young, old, tall, small, thick, thin, slim - from all over the world will join transgenders, gay and bisexual men in a celebration of love and the right to love.

I can hardly wait to welcome the beautiful ladies of the world to my city, Copenhagen. And I know you will enjoy the Women’s Space, especially made for us, our friends and supporters. Drinking drinks, dancing, seeing female acts on the stage – I hope for the sun to be shinning all days, as I cannot imagine anything better than mingling with fabulous women from all over the planet.

Besides having a good time at the Women’s Space, I am also looking forward to the huge LGBT human rights conference. It will be held at one of the most beautiful venues in Copenhagen. I cannot wait to listen to the keynote speakers, and among them the most cool women LGBT activists – such a great and inspirational line-up!

Just for fun, I am looking forward to the dance tournament. Last year, I was lucky to watch my first same-sex couple ballroom dance here in Copenhagen. I was thrilled, and I practised in front of the mirror the weeks afterwards. Imagine me with the big dresses with a chic latina dancer on my hand. Wow! That experience last year was incredible, and the dance competition at the World Outgames will only be a more exciting.

Copenhagen is indeed going to be filled with lovely ladies, so if you have you not registered - do it now – and we will see each other in Copenhagen in a couple of months.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"The essence of a person"

Below is an interview of the current Chair of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) Dee Mendoza and her partner Lawrence, published in the Philippine Online Chronicles (POC), a weekly online publication founded by Gaspar Vibal of Vibal Foundation, which advocates freedom of knowledge and information. Dee and Lawrence (shown in the pic below) are quite the charming couple. We joke that they are the mother and father of STRAP and that may very well be so. Dee has been nothing but the perfect Chairwoman of STRAP, taking care of organizational affairs while also making sure that everyone is happy with and in the org. She and Lawrence have been very generous to all of us and have welcomed us to their home countless times for the monthly STRAP support group meeting (SGM). We thank them for their friendship, their support and the love, that they show us, is possible for all.

Dee and Lawrence

by Tinette Panogot

What defines you?

This is a question that has haunted humankind through our long history. Who am I? What makes me who I am? It is a question, however, that many do not ask, content with the definitions that society has already given them. They are males and females, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, belonging to a certain family, a certain clan, a certain community.

But what if a person perceives a clash between what society tells him he should be and what he feels to be his own self-truth? Which one should he follow? What should he believe?

These are the questions faced by the people who to call themselves transgenders. Often confused or identified with homosexuals, transgender people say that in fact, sexuality is irrelevant to what they are. What makes a person a transgender is his/ her own self-perception.

"Transgender" is an umbrella term for those with different gender identities, says Dee of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines. The term encompasses what she calls the "intersex" or those with undefined genitalia, the asexual, the cross-dressers and the transsexuals. "It defines the experience outside heterosexuals, around homosexuals and bisexuals. If you are not... any of those... you are a transgender. It's all encompassing."

The norms of society mandate that there have to be only two genders: male and female. But, Dee's partner Lawrence comments, "[I]t turns out that in reality as people are beginning to accept, there really is more than just two genders. There's more than just male and female, there's a spectrum. Every frequency between. That's what the human mind is like, that's what the human soul is like."

Dee illustrates the difference between transgenders and homosexuals through a simple four-part test. What did the doctor say when you were born? What gender do you feel you belong to? What gender do you present yourself as? What gender are you attracted to? The answer to the first question, she says, determines your gender assigned at birth, the second your gender identity, the third your gender expression, and the fourth your sexual preference or orientation. Being a transgender is gender identity. Being a homosexual is a sexual preference. A person's answers to all four questions may coincide, thus: A person may be born a male, feel like a male, dress as a male, and be attracted to females. Confusion begins when the answers diverge.

A search for self

Adolescence is already a difficult stage; the adolescence of a transgender is even more difficult because socially established answers cannot be made to apply to the situation.

"Before I came across the word transgender-- and mind you I was already in my twenties when I heard of the word transgender--before that growing up there was no other identity I can put myself into but bading, bakla, bayot," Dee says. "And this is reinforced by the media, this is reinforced by the movies that we see and by the jokes that we hear as children. Kapag pinanganak ka na lalaki (If you are born male) and you present yourself as a woman, bakla ka (you are gay)." Although there is no clear etymology of the word "bakla," Dee theorizes that it might come from the words "babae"(female) and "akala" (I thought), literally meaning "I thought (he was) a girl."

Yet the word "bakla" doesn't exactly fit them. It has come to be associated too much with homosexuality, Dee explains. "You could argue that the word 'bakla' could mean the local term for transgender. Babae akala. But it's so tainted right now. It is so owned by the words gay and homosexual that we don't want to use that word for us because right now bakla is a derogatory word." If a man fills a role that is considered female by tradition, such as doing the laundry, or refuses to do acts that are considered badges of manhood, such as fighting, they are derisively dubbed "bakla." Dee herself is not comfortable with the word. "Number one, it's owned by the gay culture; number two, it denotes cowardice; and number three, it means that you're a man," she states.

Hence, the coining of the term "transPinay" from "transgender Pinay." "Our tagline goes like: the other Filipina," says Dee. "We're Filipinas. We're not saying we are the Filipina, we're not taking the crown off the mainstream Filipina. We're just saying we're just behind you, we're just beside you, we're also Filipinas."

Changing mindsets, shifting paradigms

Humanity being what it is, however, it is not that easy to make other people understand the transgender experience. When people have been taught for centuries what things are right and what are wrong, it is not easy to change their minds, Lawrence says. In addition, people also fear being accused of transgenderism or homosexuality when they try to explain or enlighten others.

"What are they afraid of?" he questions. They are not being forced to become transgenders, they are only asked to accept transgenders as fellow human beings. Transgenders are not trying to take away anyone's rights; they only want their own rights to be recognized, he adds. "People will have to accept that there will be some erosion in their rights. They don't have the right to be bigoted and prejudiced... they've lost the right to be racist, to be religious persecutionist. But that's a reasonable right to give up."

The word "transgender" may be new, coined as it was in the mid-1970s, but transgender people have been around for as long as humankind. In India, the hijra have existed for centuries. In the Philippines, the babaylanes, many of them transgender, were serving as the religious and spiritual leaders of their people before the arrival of the Western colonizers. In Native American culture, "two-spirited" people were highly respected and even held to be sacred.

Judeo-Muslim-Christian teachings, however, have led many to believe that deviation from the heterosexual norm is immoral and an abomination. Doctors and scientists classify transsexualism as a medical condition and attempt to "cure" it. Transgenders became stigmatized not only as immoral and unnatural persons, but also as mentally ill persons, a situation that they are endeavoring to correct today. There is nothing to cure, nothing to change about them, they say; although they do not conform to some of society's norms on gender, they are normal human beings and should be accepted as such.

It's like learning a new language, Laurence opines. People have been equating gender with genitalia for a long time, and it is not easy to change mindsets that have already been ingrained by centuries.

"If you spent all that time knowing, absolutely knowing, that someone who was born with a penis is a he, and someone comes along and says 'Actually, no, could you call that person she?' And you think, logically, 'No, how can I? He's got a penis. So it's, she got a penis, but that doesn't make sense! Because only he's got a penis'. So it's all new. You can't learn it just like that," he comments. "If a person has breast cancer and it spreads to her womb so she has a double mastectomy and hysterectomy, does she stop being a woman when she's lost all the major components that make her a woman apparently? So why is a (biological) male also not a woman just because he has genitals of a different variety? It's the difference between what's in your brain and this machine we walk around in."

In the end, it all comes down to freedom of self-expression. Transgenders simply want their feelings and personal wishes to be taken into account. They want to be accepted as fellow human beings, not on the basis of their conformity or non-conformity to the results of the biological accident of conception, but on the basis of the self they have determined.

"Is our genitalia all that we are?" Dee asks. "Is it really what defines our person, is it really what drives us to love? .... The genitalia is just a part of a person. It does not define a person. Gender identity is more important than that, because gender identity is your being. It's who you are."

Monday, April 13, 2009

"Let's talk about sex baby, let's talk about you and me."

It's official. I'm off to India around the second week of May to attend the Regional Institute on Sexuality, Society and Culture sponsored by New Delhi-based NGO Talking About Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues (TARSHI). You can view their website here.

The Regional Institute is one of TARSHI's programmes and is on its fifth year. Each year beginning 2004, TARSHI has put out a call for participants from South and Southeast Asia, 20 of whom, after a nomination, application and selection process, are brought together to go through eight days of learning and discussion with a focus on sexuality, gender and reproductive health. The topics that participants tackle include the relationship between sexuality and gender, sexuality and sexual and reproductive health, sexuality and pleasure, sexuality and rights, issues in sex work, sexuality and popular culture/representation.

It should go without saying that I am ecstatic over the prospect of taking part in this year's Regional Institute. Sometimes I feel that talking about sex is the missing link in LGBT advocacy in this country. After the first Pride March held in Manila (the first ever in Asia, mind you) in 1994, the LGBT rights movement in the country seemingly embraced wholesale the American model of identity politics. And somehow, it has been stuck there in the last 15 years.

Identity politics purports that the marginalization of a certain group of people is based largely on their shared identity, for example the LGBT community. Members of the LGBT community are oppressed for the ways they express their sexual and gender identities. Thus armed with identity politics, LGBT advocates aim to empower their community and fight their shared oppression through political action.

The biggest criticism leveled against identity politics is that it tends to essentialize identity, making the same seem fixed and immutable. This means that there is a clear and distinct L G B and T identity based on some set of criteria. But we all know that LGBT most of the time, just really serves as a convenient initialism for our community. It really does not capture the diversity in our community and the reality of the messiness of our sexual and gendered lives.

This was affirmed by a book that I was reading over the Holy Week entitled PoMoSexuals:Challenging Assumptions About Gender and Sexuality edited by Carol Queen and Lawrence Schimel. PoMo here stands for postmodern and is a linguistic way of resisting being labeled for one's sexuality when in reality that sexuality cannot be pinned down by and reduced into a single word such as homosexual, asexual, heterosexual, bisexual, etc. Within the book, one will find writings of gay-identified men grappling with their sexual attraction to women, female-bodied people who sleep with women and gender-ambiguous men, transgender people playing with leather and finding pleasure in BDSM (bondage, domination and sado-masochism) sex, etc. I am sure I am describing the content of the book inadequately. Suffice it to say, this book (and others of its kind) should be a must-read for everyone as it turns sex and gender on their head and make one question if there really are distinct boundaries when it comes to defining who is a straight, gay, bi, trans, or not.

Certainly LGBT politics in the Philippines and all over the world for that matter has tended to invisibilize and disenfranchize people who do not neatly fit the LGB and T categories. It does not help either when you have conservative people who lead the community and purposely hide LGBT sexuality away from the larger society, the politicians who make laws, thinking that it is the least of anyone's concern unwittingly reflecting largely internalized sex-negativity.

So it is time to talk about sex (as the line above from that Salt and Peppa song goes) once again and bring it back into the discussion of LGBT human rights. And I am so happy that organizations such as TARSHI exist to provide us that platform. More importantly, it is time, as well, for us to be honest with each other and acknowledge our complex genders and sexualities. I know gay men out there who have been in committed relationships with both men and women. Why does it matter for them to identify as gay? I also know others who prove to me everyday that sexuality is something that cannot be captured by one-word descriptions: women who are attracted to transwomen, transmen who have gay sexualities, gay men who are attracted to transwomen, self-identified lesbians who sleep with gay men, transwomen who sleep with men with vaginas and penises, etc. The list goes on and on. They certainly make me think about what makes a man a man and a woman a woman. And, of course, they make me think about the efficacy and inadequacy of identity politics and confirm my personal suspicion that in the Philippines, it is time not only for a sexual but as well as a gender revolution.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Adam Lambert is my American Idol

This Maundy Thursday, I am making it official: Adam Lambert (who is shown kissing another guy in the delicious pic above) should now be declared as the new American Idol. The producers of the show should issue an advisory that after Adam's unparalleled rendition of the Tears for Fears classic Mad World on Tuesday night, they have no choice but to discontinue the show and just hand over the prize to Adam. Continuing the show will be a mere farce anyway. We all know that Adam will just kill it every week until he wins the title of 2009's American Idol. There is no reason to prolong what is inevitable.

The first time I saw Adam, I was intrigued by his musical theater background, eye liner, tight leather pants and black nail polish. I knew when I saw his audition that he would bring something special to the show. So far he has not disappointed me yet. Week after week, with his unique voice, matching good looks and his own interpretation of songs such as Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, Believe by Cher, Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones, Black and White by Michael Jackson, Play That Funky Music by Wild Cherry, The Tracks of my Tears by The Miracles and, in my opinion, the most spectacular, the wildest interpretation so far, Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash, Adam has only shown that there is no competition. He puts all the other remaining contestants to shame.

So there really is no point in making them sing any more or longer. The show has to stop right here and Adam should be declared the new American Idol. Everybody else thinks so anyway. But because this is manufactured reality TV, we all know that that will not happen anytime soon. The producers of the show will have to milk this for every second that it is worth so there is still a big chance that Adam may fall from grace and be a victim of the fickle-mindedness of the American viewing public. He will just have to do well and consistently at that. On the viewers' end, everyone in America who is reading this should make sure that our boy Adam, who in the last show revealed his propensity for dress-up, will emerge victorious up until the final episode. I swear if the next American Idol is any one of the other bubble-gum contestants, this will definitely be the last season I'm ever watching the show. Of course, I can always change my mind.

As I mentioned above, today is Maundy Thursday in the Philippines and will be so as well for the rest of the Christian world that observes Lent. Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter and falls in the supposedly holiest week of the Christian calendar which chronicles the time of Christ's return to Jerusalem, his betrayal by Judas, his subsequent captivity by and suffering from the Romans, his death on Good Friday and his resurrection on Sunday. Holy Week in predominantly Catholic Philippines is an interesting mix of religion, superstition and merriment.

Back home in Bicol, the devout observe the Holy Week in the most solemn way possible: in silence. When I was growing up, I did not understand why it was not all right to run around the house especially when Maundy Thursday hits. (I looked up the meaning of Maundy, by the way, and apparently it comes from the Latin Mandatum or command, which is a reference to Christ's command to his disciples when he washed their feet, on Maundy Thursday, to love each other as he loved them.) Apparently, it is on this day of the Holy Week that Christ's suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane begins. It is also the day when he has the Last Supper with his disciples and the day that Judas betrays him. My very strict grandparents used to tell us to keep still during the Holy Days of this week.

Growing up, we were taught that on Maundy Thursday, you cannot watch TV, listen to music or play or horse around the house. As Catholics, we were supposed to commiserate with Christ. We had to be one with him in his agony. This fun black-out continues until Black Saturday. On Easter Sunday, everything changes. With Christ resurrected, you can move normally again. Easter Sunday is a big thing for many Catholic families. Because the Holy Week happens during Summer, it has become practice for many to make merry and go on excursion during the day that Jesus is supposedly raised back from the dead. It's like a double-celebration for families. After doing their Catholic duty of observing Lent solemnly, great preparations are taken to end it with a bang. On Easter Sunday, many Catholics troop to the nearest body of water. It can be a public pool, lake, river, falls or the beach. The idea is the same: with food and family, everyone celebrates Christ's resurrection by going swimming.

I love Holy Week. I still do. To me it is reruns of big Hollywood movies of old like Ten Commandments (which many forget has nothing to do with Christ's Passion). It is also quiet time spent reading in bed at home as a way of keeping still. It is also going to Church and patiently listening to Jesus's Seven Last Words, visiting Churches, and doing the annual procession of Saints. It is the recital of the Passion of Christ by old ladies along makeshift street altars and the re-enactment of Christ's suffering by street performers. But ultimately, it is bright and hot Easter Sundays spent with family and friends.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela opens April 11 at Robinson's Galleria

The movie that all of you have been waiting for, The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela, opens on April 11, 2009 exclusively at Robinson's Galleria, in Pasig City. I hope you will go out of your way to support this Cinderalla-story about a transpinay (transgender Filipina) from Cebu.

The movie has won the following awards:
Best Feature Film, Teddy Awards, Berlin Film Festival, Germany
Grand Jury Prize, Cinemanila Film Festival, Philippines
Best Feature Fiction, Zinegoak Film Festival, Spain
Best International Feature, New York LGBT Film Festival, USA
Showtime Vanguard Award, New York LGBT Film Festival, USA
Jury Award, Cinema City, Serbia

The synposis follows below:
Raquela is a transsexual from the Philippines who dreams of escaping the streets of Cebu City for a fairy tale life in Paris. In order to make her dreams come true, she turns from prostitution toward the more lucrative business of Internet porn. Her success as a porn star brings new friends, including Valerie, another transsexual in Iceland, and Michael, the owner of the website Raquela works for. Valerie helps Raquela get as far as Iceland. From there, Michael offers her a rendezvous in Paris. Will Paris be everything she dreamed of? And will Michael turn out to be her Prince Charming?

For more information on the movie, visit the website here. Happy watching!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Final countdown for World Outgames 2009 and the screening of Queen Raquela in Manila

I purposely waited for April Fool's Day to pass and did not make any attempt at making an April Fool's post because I was sure I'd fail miserably at it. Belated Happy April Fool's Day to all though. Monica Roberts, long-time activist for transgender civil rights in the US, over at her blog Transgriot made a jaw-dropping April Fool's blog entry that you can read here. She also cross-posted it on Bilerico for the same occasion. It put all the other posts to shame. Her April Fool's Day entry absolutely made the others pale in comparison. I can't wait for what she will cook up next year.

World Outgames 2009

This morning when I opened my email, I saw that the organizers of the World Outgames 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark already sent me my official invitation letter. The World Outgames is an international event organized by the LGBT community for the LGBT community. The first Outgames was held in Montreal in 2006. The second one is happening this summer from July 25 to August 2 in Copenhagen and features three main tracks: sports, culture and conference.

I applied for Outreach support last year to be able to attend the Human Rights Conference and this early I am already excited about the keynote speakers they lined up. One of them is the world-famous Georgina Beyer who is the first openly transwoman elected as Mayor and Member of the New Zealand Parliament. You can find her official website here.

I hope I can make it to Denmark in July. It will cost an arm and a leg but I really want to go. The final countdown for the Outgames has already started and according to the Outgames website, less than 30 days is left before official registration closes. I actually caught Raquela Rios online today and told her about it. Now she, too, wants to attend the Outgames Conference. If you remember, Raquela is the Cebuana star of the movie The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela, dubbed by its makers as a Cinderella-story about a Filipina transsexual.

The Amazing Truth Abouth Queen Raquela

Raquela had good news for me. She told me that her movie, which has won a lot of awards (Best International Feature at the New York LGBT Film Festival, Teddy Award at the Berlin Film Festival, Jury Prize at Cinema City, Best Feature Fiction at the Zinegoak Film Festival in Spain and Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Cinemanila Film Festival here in the Philippines) and yet failed to get a local distributor, will be shown in Manila starting April 11 at Robinson's Galleria, a mall in Pasig City. Queen Raquela is a well-made movie. I hope that you will go out of your way to support this important film. For more information, you can visit the movie's official web site here.

Anyway, those are my two announcements for the day. I wish you all a good weekend spent hopefully in love and light. Be well!