Friday, June 26, 2009

A loss too great for words

No matter what they say, Michael Jackson, especially his music, was a big part of my life growing up. I am humbled to have been touched by his genius. His passing is truly a loss that is too great for words. I know I am not alone in mourning his death. Billions of people around the world will miss him. Goodbye Michael. Thank you for shining your bright star on us forever and ever.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Justus Eisfeld's speech at the UN Panel on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity

On June 13, 2009, Justus Eisfeld (shown in the pic above) who sits in the advisory board of the LGBT Program of Human Rights Watch and Transgender Europe delivered a speech at the UN Panel on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Geneva, Switzerland. I am posting his speech in its entirety below. If you read it, you will realize that trans people in Europe share the same life-and-death concerns with trans people in the Philippines and elsewhere. In it, he also makes mention of intersex people, or those who are born with ambiguous genitals, chromosomes and hormones. I do not agree with the other term he uses for them: "people born with disorders of sex development." Intersex rights advocates have maintained that this newer term being used to describe them did not come from them but from sexologists. They reject in on that account and for the further stigma it inadvertently brings to their condition. See the Intersex International website for more information on intersex rights. Eisfeld's speech is a positive development, nonetheless, in advocating for transgender human rights in an international forum. Just delivering the speech itself is historic in its own right. I applaud Justus and all the work that he does for the global trans community.

Dear Chairwoman, distinguished participants,

Thank you for inviting me for this historic event, and for giving me the chance to speak about the work that the UN can to to combat the human rights abuses that transgender people face, as well as give you some positive examples of how these abuses and obstacles can be overcome.

I feel that I live in exciting times, when the UN, along with its member states, start to realize that the human rights of trans people matter, when in fact gender identity is included in panel discussions like this one, and when member states include gender identity in statements like the December one.

There is work to do for trans people in all UN member states, including those who have pledged to work for human rights of all citizens, regardless of their gender identity. This also gives trans people the encouragement to demand that the signatory countries stand by their words and carry out what they say.

When I talk about trans or transgender people I use this term in the most inclusive way: Everybody who does not fit neatly into the stereotypes that go with the gender they were assigned at birth. That could be the man with the sway in his walk, the woman who wears her hair short, but also those who cross the gender lines in more obvious ways, when their intersex body does not neatly match either man *or* woman, or by identifying as transvestite or transsexual like myself.

Whenever somebody in society crosses the line of what is considered to be ‘normal’ for a man or ‘normal’ for a woman we start treading on dangerous ground. Transgender people face obstacles mainly in different ways:
we encounter violence and discrimination,
we are denied healthcare,
we have to prove sterility to match our paperwork with our identity or cannot change our papers at all.

Firstly, Violence is the most visible. In the UK – and I mention the UK only because it is one of the few countries with any reliable data, not because the situation is any better or worse than elsewhere - 73% of trans people reported negative comments, verbal, physical or sexual abuse or threatening behavior. The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has repeatedly drawn attention to the murders of transgender people in Venezuela, El Salvador, Brazil, Colombia and Honduras. Hateful murders of transgender people have been reported from most countries of the world. Some of the murders were committed by police officers and more often than not have police officers turned the other way when friends and families demanded an investigation. On a positive note just two days ago, the Scottish parliament passed a transgender-inclusive hate-crimes bill unanimously, being the first in Europe to do so.

Secondly, access to healthcare can be a problem just as lethal as physical violence. When trans people go to a doctor for a broken bone or the flu, most of us will be treated badly, be refused for treatment altogether or simply avoid to go in the first place because of negative experiences. About 30% of trans people in the UK have that experience. Transgender-specific healthcare is often not covered by health insurance systems, even though the very same hormones are available for other patients. Way too many trans people therefore seek self-medication, and use hormones they purchase on the black market, without proper instruction on dosage, safe needle use or regular check-ups. Way too many trans people also self-medicate with amateur injections of silicone, sometimes even industrial-grade silicone. Lack of access to healthcare kills trans people every day, because we bleed to death, have silicone clotting our blood vessels or simply just kill ourselves because we can’t stand the pressure of not conforming to a gender that was assigned to us at birth. About a third of trans people in Sweden, the UK and Europe in general have attempted suicide at least once.

Intersex people or people with disorders of sex development, become the victims of surgeries which leave the person with mutilated genitalia and no sexual functioning. These surgeries are performed without the consent of the patient, who is often a small child at the time the procedures are performed. On a positive note, Brazil has just started to integrate transgender-specific healthcare into the regular public healthcare plans, and surgeries for transgender people with a special permission are free in Chile and Argentina.

Thirdly, changing one’s paperwork to match the identity of that person is a nightmare all over the world. In about 90% of the EU member states, including the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, sterilization, other surgeries or hormone treatment are a requirement just to be able to change one letter in a passport or birth certificate. In other words: these states are prescribing surgeries and hormones without a doctor’s license. Ireland and Lithuania have so far failed to react to their conviction by the European Court of Human Rights and still deny trans people the right to change their birth certificate or personal identification number several years after the verdict. A positive example in this respect is Kazakhstan which allows their transgender citizens to change their paperwork without any kind of medical treatment in a ministerial order from 2003.

I could go on much longer.
I could talk about rejection by family members, by friends and by neighbors.
I could talk about the humiliating feeling of being diagnosed with a personality disorder.

But this list is getting too depressing already.

What the UN statement does is to give trans people the hope that our governments will take up our issues, and will look at their own laws and correct problems where they exist. None of the signatory states of the UN statement are there yet. In fact all of the core group members and organizers of this panel seriously violate the human rights of trans people at this moment. But by signing this statement and by organizing this panel these countries open the door and demonstrates the willingness to look at their issues at home and treat trans people better in the future.
I would like to invite the High Commissioner to look into the human rights abuses that trans people face and to make an overview of these issues in the laws which regulate a change of paperwork.

I would like to invite Ireland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, France, and Norway to lead the way in this process by announcing that name and gender changes will be possible to all trans and intersex people who feel the need to do so – irrespective of whether or not they have had surgeries, hormone treatments or a personality disorder diagnosis.

I would like to invite all countries to follow the example of Bolivia and outlaw discrimination against trans people in their constitution or in other laws.
I would like to ask all other countries to do the same and – hopefully – follow that good example.

Thank you.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A night out with the girls

With Maegan

After my Spanish class last Saturday, I immediately went home to rest a bit. That day, I was text messaging with the girls about going out the same night. So that evening, I met up with them and we proceeded to a place called Ka Freddie's in Malate in Manila. Ka Freddie's is owned by the world-renowned folk-rock musician Freddie Aguilar whose haunting song Anak (Child) has been translated into numerous languages. On Saturday nights, his equally famous daughter Maegan Aguilar performs there (see pic below). That night, I was with Dee, Phoejay, Rica and our "baby girl" Gia (see above picture).


Every time I get together with the girls, especially with Rica (with me in the pic below) around, I'm almost always sure it will be a laugh fest. All the girls are quite witty in their own way but Rica takes the cake in being the zaniest of us all. Her funny antics include inventing words, making faces, making ridiculous gestures out of the blue and always coming up with a punch line in her every turn in the conversation. I love having Rica around because she's not only a beautiful, successful, and intelligent girl but she also does not mind when the joke is on her. Truly the best people are those who can laugh at themselves while making other laugh in the process.

With Rica

That night I told the girls that I had a feeling that the only reason why we go out is for us to have an excuse to take our pictures. Everybody laughed. Nowadays, I've noticed that the girls have become more camera-obsessed than usual (me included). Every time we get together, someone is always bound to have a camera and every second is like a photo-op. I'm quite liking this not-so-camera-shy culture though as it ensures some good memories are captured in pictures that everyone can see and one can look at every now and then if one were feeling nostalgic. The best part is uploading them on our social utility sites where others who were not there could make comments (funny or not) and see what we've been up to as well.

I really had a blast hanging out with the girls over the weekend. It's a shame we do not get to do it often. But it's all good I guess. It makes us miss each other more and really want to spend time when we do go out together. That night, we all went home at past 3 in the morning the next day after having such a lovely time indeed (see pic below).


Friday, June 19, 2009

Supporting Leona

Leona Lo, one of Singapore's high-profile out transwomen, is set to star in the stage adaptation of her autobiography From Leonard to Leona: A Singapore Transsexual's Journey to Womanhood. The play entitled Ah Kua (a pejorative Hookien term originally ascribed to cross dressers but now also increasingly being used to refer to transgender/transsexual women in Singapore), which runs from August 6, 7 and 8, 2009 at 8 pm at the Substation Theatre, has just encountered its first transphobic opposition from the National Library Board of Singapore no less.

According to Leona in her blog, the National Library Board has not allowed displaying the show's poster on its notice boards. When Leona inquired, the Board gave her a standard line: "Displays at our libraries should be relevant to a broad audience of all ages." Of course, we can spend the entire day debating what that really means. Actually we can spend all day debating what libraries are for. Or we can argue back and forth on what constitutes relevance to a broad audience. Failing that we can choose to nitpick instead on the phrase "broad audience of all ages". We can do all these and go nowhere but that will not hide the true nature of what this dismissive answer to Leona's query really is: transphobia disguised as a bureaucratic one-liner.

The poster (shown above) is hardly offensive so the National Board cannot cite that reason for not allowing its display. It's also not controversial in anyway. You can say that the word tranny (short for transgender/transsexual and considered by the trans community as highly offensive particularly if used by non-trans people in referring to them) is controversial but when you read what it's made to stand for, it does lose its regular derogatory flavor. Which leaves us with the show's title itself, Ah Kua. But as it turns out, even if it is indeed a disparaging term, ah kua is part of Singapore's daily lexicon. It's just a phrase that people use everyday. There are no two ways about it. Leona's point in using it as the title of her show, as she explains in her blog, is to call attention to the dangers of labeling people, of name-calling, of boxing people in and associating them with all the negative stereotypes such pejorative terms bring.

But I guess the National Library Board will not know that now or will even care to know that at all. They never even bothered to ask what Leona's show is all about. So we know what they are doing: they are denying Leona's very existence. Perhaps in their twisted logic, the members of the National Library Board are thinking that there are no such things as ah kuas in Singapore! And if they do not allow Leona's show's poster to be displayed, this will prove their belief that in Singapore, transsexuals do not exist.

Well bad news for them, Leona is not the kind of woman who will take that sitting down. She has started an online petition that I actually just signed. We need a lot of people to sign the petition. If you are a true trans ally, please head on there and sign it yourself. Kindly spread the word as well. And if you are in Singapore, try to catch Leona's show. Thank you!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Call for writer & translator

Below is the call for writer and translator of the Yogyakarta Principles (YyP) Project of Ang Ladlad, the national organization of LGBT Filipinos. One of Ang Ladlad's campaigns for the year is to popularize the Yogyakarta Principles, an international document that applies human rights standards to issues pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. After launching the YyP in the 2008 Manila Pride March and releasing a primer which I wrote and my friend Sass laid-out, now Ang Ladlad plans to translate the YyP into Filipino to make it more accessible to more people who want to know about LGBT human rights. The YyP translation is envisioned to contain cases of LGBT discrimination to demonstrate the 28 principles of the YyP. This is going to be an important document in LGBT civil rights advocacy in the Philippines and if you are or anyone you know is interested to be a part of it, please read the call below and submit the requirements to the email address specified. Thank you.

Job Title: Writer/ Translator

Project: Yogyakarta Principles

Duration: July 1-31, 2009

Job Description:
1. To summarize the key points of the Yogyakarta Principles in Filipino in a concise and readable manner;
2. To write the summary with the common, general reader in mind;
3. To provide examples of discrimination of LGBT Filipinos in the summary (can be sourced in the Ang Ladlad website);
4. To revise the summary and incorporate editorial suggestions of Ang Ladlad; and
5. To help in proofreading the text in layout form.

1. Submission of CV and Project Proposal;
2. The writer should have experience writing reports and summaries in Filipino;
3. The writer should be able to incorporate human-interest examples in the report;
4. The writer should be conversant with the issues and concerns of LGBT Filipinos; and
5. The writer should be able to meet deadlines and incorporate editorial suggestions.

Time Frame: Deadline for submission of CV and Project Proposal = June 24
Awarding of contract = June 29
Deadline for submission of first draft = July 21
Deadline for submission of second draft = July 31.

Supervisor: The Core Group of Ang Ladlad

Writer’s/Translator’s Fee: P25,000 net of taxes. Fifty percent down payment upon signing of the contract. Fifty percent final payment upon delivery of the report/summary in both hard and soft copies.

Please submit CV and Project Proposal to Ms. Bemz Benedito, Secretary of Ang Ladlad at her e-mail address:

Saturday, June 13, 2009


One of the biggest misconceptions about the word transgender is that it only refers to girls or women who were assigned male at birth. Because trans women somehow end up inadvertently becoming more visible than their male counterparts, they are more often than not perceived as the only ones who make up the T part of the LGBT community. Many forget that being transgender is experienced and expressed in so many ways by a wide range of people and that in fact, the "transgender experience" is lived through as well by those who were assigned female at birth and now have a male gender identity and masculine gender expression or those who we call transboys/transmen/transmales.

Here in the Philippines, there is no organization for transmen as yet similar to the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP). Those of us from STRAP who get invited to speak in schools, work places and other venues, however, inadvertently meet many transmen in the process. So we know that they exist but a lot of them choose to live quiet lives as ordinary men. Sometimes I wish though that they had their own organization like STRAP where those who need help, support and advice can go to as being trans can be a very difficult, painful and lonely ordeal.


Recently, I have had the pleasure of making the acquaintance (on Facebook of all places!) of a very handsome, passionate and cool young transguy from Paris, France by the name of Floryan Saez (see pic above). Floryan started an organization in Paris called OUTrans and he is one of the many faces featured on a web site that serves as a resource and networking site for trans men around the world. Called XXboys, the site celebrates the beauty and lives of men of transgender experience. I love the site as it gives me a glimpse of how the other side lives, so to speak, in a young, hip, edgy and sexy way. I also like its international feel, featuring men across the globe of different races, nationalities, body types and looks. It is very diverse and I cannot seem to get enough of these hot XXboys!

Take a look at it and read the profiles. Almost all of them are heartfelt and touching. Floryan's profile, for example, mentions his very tough childhood. I know many of you can relate to it. I know I did. We, transladies who live our lives openly, are often applauded for our courage and tenacity in striving to be the women we have always been and are meant to be. This time around I want to turn the tables and salute all the transmen in the world especially those on XXboys who mustered the courage to come out and declared themselves proudly as such. They are my brothers and they make me extremely proud to be trans.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Happy Independence Day to my beloved country

Today is the 111th anniversary of the Philippine Declaration of Independence. On June 12, 1898, in Kawit, Cavite, General Emilio Aguinaldo, a key figure in the revolutionary struggle, declared the sovereignty of the Philippine Islands and its independence from imperial Spain. The declaration occurred in Aguinaldo's ancestral home where for the first time the Philippine flag (shown above) was unfurled and the national anthem then called Marcha Filipina Magdalo (later renamed Marcha Filipina Nacional and now more popularly known as Lupang Hinirang) was played.

Today's commemoration of the nation's freedom from oppressive rule seems fitting in the heels of the massive rally held two days ago at the heart of the Makati Central Business District. On Wednesday, thousands of Filipinos trooped to Ayalay Avenue to protest the passage in Congress of House Resolution 1109 (HR 1109) which permits the lower chamber to convene itself as a Constituent Assembly (ConAss) that can make amendments to the Constitution. ConAss is just one of the many ways the present administration is using to extend the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo which has been wracked by massive corruption.

I along with two other girls from STRAP, Sass and Phoejay Amparo, went to the rally (see pic below). Some of the girls were indisposed due to work while others were not in the country at that time, so only the three of us could go. There will be other massive protest actions against ConAss and the ills of the Arroyo administration though and the other STRAP girls have already expressed their desire to join those.

At the anti-ConAss rally

I hope more people will also show up in the upcoming rallies as the one held two days ago was just the beginning of a series of rallies until Arroyo delivers her State of the Nation Address in July. Moreover, I hope this day reminds all Filipinos of the need to fight against power that is abusive and corrupted which was also what our founding fathers fought against 111 years ago.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

No to Con Ass! Oust GMA!

On June 2, Tuesday, the House of Representatives here approved House Resolution (HR) 1109 which allows Congress to convene itself as a Constituent Assembly aka ConAss, thereby giving them the authority to propose amendments to the Philippine Constitution. Critics of HR 1109 are pointing their fingers at President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) as the one responsible behind the move to change the Charter in order to prolong her stay in power. As GMA’s term as President nears its end, observers have been second-guessing the different routes she might take in order to lengthen her stay in the political limelight and expand her political might. Changing the Constitution chiefly for this purpose is one. Another way, which many are anticipating, is for her to run for a Congressional seat in the upcoming election in 2010 when her term as President expires. After securing a seat in the Lower House, analysts suggest that her allies in Congress will propose amending the Charter to abolish Congress and the Senate and collapse the bicameral House of Representatives into a single parliament where Gloria will be elected as Prime Minister.

I know that this theory sounds a little far-fetched but I am willing to believe this for now as under the scandal-ridden rule of GMA, truth has proven to be much stranger than fiction. How incredulous indeed it is that in the many corruption scandals that she has been mired in, neither she nor her family and those close to her has ever been held accountable? There was the “Hello Garci” scandal which clearly caught her red-handed making calls to then Commission on Election (COMELEC) Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano aka Garci on how she could fraudulently get a million more votes in the 2004 Presidential elections. Then there was the building of the Diosdado Macapagal Highway, which was named after her father and turned out to be an over-priced contract costing the Filipino people Php 1 Billion per kilometer. This was followed by the USD 329 Million National Broadband Network controversy which awarded that ludicrous amount of money to a Chinese company also known as ZTE to manage the government’s broadband needs and supposedly improve its communications capabilities. Let us also not forget the Php 5 Billion overpriced North Rail project and the Php 728 Million fertilizer fund scam, where millions of the people’s money was used to fund GMA’s presidential campaign in 2004.

GMA’s list of crimes against the Filipino people goes on and on in fact and her political maneuverings to amend the Constitution to keep her in power, as the cliché goes, are just the tip of the iceberg. Well sorry for her, the people are not having it. Tomorrow, June 10, Wednesday, they will stand up and show their disgust. Tomorrow they will hold her responsible. Tomorrow they will try not only to tip that iceberg but make it crumble and make her pay for all the sins that she has committed against the nation. Tomorrow will be a national day of protest against this corrupt and venal government. Tomorrow there will be rallies against ConAss in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Tomorrow we will troop to the streets and say to Gloria once more, “ENOUGH!”