Friday, January 29, 2010

Hong Kong Day 2: I, Transpinay

On January the 27th, Wednesday, I went to the University of Hong Kong around lunch time to get a feel of the campus. My talk was scheduled around 4 pm so I wanted to walk around, watch students and be in the middle of the hustle and bustle of campus life first. As I did, I saw different student organizations in booths advertising themselves or an issue. I think I passed by an environmental organization with their booth decked out in all green with posters on climate change. It made me reminisce briefly on my old college life. Dr. Sam Winter took me to lunch at the Faculty Lounge and left for several meetings after. I was pretty much on my own before I decided to go back to the auditorium that the good professor pointed out to me was the venue of his Sexual and Gender Diversity (SGD) class.

With Dr. Sun Yat Sen

The auditorium was housed in the Knowles Building beside which was a lily pond with a full figure statue of Dr. Sun Yat Sen. Around 3:30 pm, Dr. Winter's class began. The SGD, as I mentioned in an earlier post, is one of the broadening courses in the University of Hong Kong for undergrad students. It aims to broaden students' understanding of the nature and development of sexuality and gender by focusing on areas of knowledge that are not traditionally available to them such as: homosexuality, transgenderism, cross-dressing, and power-exchange relationships and expressions such as bondage, domination & sado-masochism.

Dr. Sam Winter talking about GRS

The course will run this semester from January to April and the last two sessions in January are devoted to trans issues. A Hong Kong transgender advocate named MoMo was the class's guest speaker for the January 20th session while I was the guest for the January 27th class. The afternoon's session on Growing up transgender in Asia was divided between Dr. Sam Winter and I. For the first hour, he was going to give a sort of a Transgender 101 lecture talking about the issues facings Asian transmen and women (see pic above). Apart from the lecture, Dr. Winter also showed the class several videos of transpeople in transition so the students could understand the process. Videos of both transmen and transwomen were shown.

I, Transpinay

At around 4:30, my turn came. I was introduced and I started by thanking the class and the University for giving me the honor to speak before 160 undergrad students. I remarked that the University was truly doing its job by not only opening students' minds but their hearts as well. My presentation was divided into two parts. The first part, tells about my growing up years, from childhood to working as a professional post-college, while the second one, chronicles how I ended up advocating for transgender human rights. The class was generally attentive and laughed on cue at my jokes and asides (see pic below). I talked to them about transgender advocacy in the Philippines.

During talk

After my talk, we opened the floor to questions (see pic below). Many students stayed for the Q&A and Dr. Winter told me later that it was unusual for that many students to be seen in the auditorium at that time. Many of them had other classes to attend at around 5:25 and the fact that we had a lot of them in the room till 6 was indicative of their interest and genuine investment in the issue being discussed at hand.

End of talk

The questions were really intelligent. One student observed that my working in the University of the Philippines shields me from the harsher world outside academe. Did I have any plans of working outside the University? Another student asked about my religious beliefs, while another asked about my relationship status. One student asked me, If you had not been born transsexual, do you think you'd have still achieved everything that you have in life? These youngsters do speak their mind and the quality of their questions was quite a revelation for me. I immensely enjoyed answering all of their questions.

With an HKU official

At exactly 6 pm, we had to call it a day. A senior academic in the University of Hong Kong joined us because he invited a journalist to attend the afternoon's session. He is a Welsh guy who has been in Hong Kong the last decade and he said that the journalist who sat in the class had very positive things to say about the discussion that afternoon. We had our pic taken with him (see pic above) and after proceeded to the faculty lounge where he, Dr. Winter and other professors of the University had drinks. I had coffee and after decided to go out to Wan Chai for dinner. I left Dr. Winter and company and went out in the cold Hong Kong night.

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