Thursday, March 18, 2010

Philippine government must apologize and start giving back to the Filipino transsexual community

Today, I came across news related to a story that came out in early January about Filipino transsexual women entering Japan with fake passports bearing the identity of non-trans women from the Philippines to marry Japanese men with whom they have had long-term relationships. You can read the news item here or below:

Philippine transsexuals nabbed for illegally entering Japan

Three Philippine nationals have been arrested in western Japan for entering the country on forged women's passports after undergoing sex change operations, local media reported on Tuesday.

The three had the illegal passports made by forgers in the Philippines using women's identification so that they could live in Japan as the "wives" of Japanese men they had met, Kyodo News said.

While working at nightclubs in Fukuoka, they secured spouse visas from local authorities, said Kyodo and other news reports, quoting local immigration authorities.

They were quoted as telling investigators they wanted to live as women and lead their lives with their loved ones, Kyodo said.

"They looked female. We could not tell they are men," an immigration official said, according to the Nishinihon Shimbun.

News like this makes me feel helpless, tired and angry at the same time. I feel helpless, because even if I want to be of help to these women there is really nothing I can do about it with those involved very far away. I feel tired because of the repeated assault by the media on the dignity of these women by continuously referring to them as men or women in quotes. I feel angry because it is a public secret in this country that Filipino transsexual women formed a major part of the Filipino diaspora that began in the late 70s. With no job prospects here and the economy in bad shape, millions of Filipinos started going abroad risking life and limb in many a foreign land to earn their keep and have a dignified life.

Transpinays were part of the early migration of Filipinos to other lands to seek greener pastures. Japan opened its doors to many of them, granting them visas as entertainers so that waves of these transwomen could work as singers and dancers in bars, pubs and night clubs in Japan. The last batches of these transwomen who entered Japan stopped around the turn of the millennium when the US and UN started pressuring Japan regarding trafficking activities within its borders. The response of the Japanese government was to close down all the bars which left many transpinays with no work and no prospects.

Even when the transpinay migration to Japan started in the early 80s, the Philippines government did nothing to ensure that their working conditions were safe and that they were being treated properly as productive employees of Japanese establishments. No reference even has ever been made to them when the Philippine government started a myth-making campaign hailing the Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) as a new hero of the country whose foreign remittances keeps this country afloat.

Yet if you speak with these faceless transwomen, they have toiled with their hands, and suffered hard and back breaking work just so they could send those precious yens to help their families in the Philippines survive for years and years. But instead of showing gratitude to these thousands of women, the Philippine government has chosen to continue oppressing and marginalizing them by allowing a cruel Supreme Court (SC) decision in 2007 to stand which denied a transpinay's petition to change her name and sex in her birth certificate--in effect not granting transwomen status as people recognized in their gender in the eyes of the law.

This news item is clear evidence of what a discriminated minority will do when their chance at a dignified life is at stake: they will do something illegal. In Filipino, we have a phrase for situations like this: kapit sa patalim. Literally it means, clutching a knife's blade. With nothing else to hang on to and nowhere to go, generations of transpinays have clutched the sharp blade of a knife by going to Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Europe and many other countries and continents to survive. They do no one any harm. All they want is an equal chance at life and yet it seems the world will not stop until these transsexual Filipinas themselves give up clutching the knife and instead use it on themselves. Dignity only at the price of death.

I say enough! And I am demanding this country, this government to apologize to my community and start giving back to us! NOW!!!

1 comment:

Dawn Selya said...

Very well written article Pau! I can feel your rage and frustration in every word and I must admit I feel helpless too in situations like this when the victims are too far away to support them.

But thank you for continuously shedding light on the plight of transgendered people everywhere, especially us transpinays!