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