Monday, May 31, 2010

In Barcelona

I am here in Barcelona, Spain to represent STRAP and attend a historic week-long gathering of transactivists from around the world, the International Congress on Gender Identity and Human Rights. At the moment, it is still unclear to me what is the desired end-result of this conference. When it was being planned, I was told that it would be like a Yogyakarta Principles (YyP) meeting but with more focus on gender identity and gender expression issues. This is a great initiative as the YyP proves to be too general sometimes. But whatever comes out of this Barcelona meeting cannot be too specific either. For me, it will be very helpful to have a single document outlining the specific human rights claims of transpeople but it has to be flexible enough so it can be applicable to diverse localities. We are here to make that happen.

In the first class cabin

I flew to Barcelona with one of STRAP's founding members, Sass Sasot (see pic above). We were both surprised that our Cathay Pacific flight from Manila to Hong Kong was first-class but enjoyed it immensely as we were the only one in the cabin section. We thought it was a good sign. The flight was delayed, however, and when we got to Hong Kong our flight to Europe had already gone. We were supposed to take Air France that would take us from Hong Kong to Paris then Paris to Barcelona. In the end, Cathay Pacific put us on two flights, one of their own from Hong Kong to Frankfurt, then a Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Barcelona. We flew 11 hours or so from Asia to Europe. Then from Germany to Spain, we flew another 2 hours.

Bus to city center

When we arrived at our hotel, immediately we registered and settled down. On our way out to lunch at the hallway we met an activist from South Africa, Liesl Theron of Gender DynamiX. She was going to town and we decided to join her (see above). We took our first bus ride in Barcelona together.

In Barcelona

We got to Plaza España, the city center, and took pictures. The above pic was taken at the steps of the Fira de Barcelona building.

Plaza España

Me posing in front of the giant fountain at Plaza España.

Arroz Negro

All three of us were feeling famished and ordered a humongous plate for three of arroz negro(see pic above). We downed it with sangria de cava, a drink made of sparkling wine and orange juice.

Walking Barcelona

After lunch, we walked around the Avenguda Parallel (see pic above). After half an hour or so, I was already feeling tired. We waited for our bus, went back to the hotel, bought some water and cookies at the supermarket nearby and I went to bed. I missed dinner and now I am awake in the room at an awkward hour. I hope my body clock stabilizes today as we will be doing a lot in the next 5 days.

Having sangria

In the meantime, cheers to Barcelona and the upcoming conference! I am very happy to be in the company of my trans brothers and sisters from around the world. May we be able to achieve what we all came here to do.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sybil Awards night

I am happy to report that the first ever Sybil Awards was very successful and well-attended. The girls were there as well as representatives of our ally organizations including Rainbow Rights Project, Inc., Metropolitan Community Church Quezon City (MCCQC), Ang Ladlad Partylist, OneBacardi, UP Diliman Gender Office, UP Psychology Department, Ketchup Magazine and many others. Members of the media were also present and representatives of our major sponsors were also there. We gave out two Sybils this year: one for the movie The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela and another for the TV show Pinoy Big Brother Double Up. Both showcase transwomen with moving and inspiring stories. Here are some pictures from that evening that I will never forget.

Naomi Fontanos, STRAP Chair

Me (above) in the royal blue gown I had made especially for that event.

Sass Rogando Sasot, Program Host

The host of the evening's program.

Santy, Rio & Jill

The first set of presenters.

Raquela Rios & Naomi Fontanos

Raquela Rios receiving the first Sybil Award of the evening.

Maffie, Seanel & Phoejay

The second set of presenters.

Naomi & PBB Double Up representatives

Me with Pinoy Big Brother Double Up Housemates & Creative Manager

The STRAP GA 2010

The ladies.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jailed and gay-ed

On May 18, a Malawi court convicted couple, Steven Monjeza, 26, and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, 20 of gross indecency and unnatural acts (see pic above). The court found that the two engaged in homosexual sex which is against the law in Malawi. The couple are now in jail and most media accounts refer to them as the Malawi gay couple and their trial the Malawian gay trial. It turns out, according to Gender DynamiX, a South African gender human rights advocacy group, that Tiwonge Chimbalanga identifies as female. This is a clear example of the hegemonic power of the "gay" discourse or the discourse on sexual orientation. It tends to displace and invisibilize the discourse on gender identity. Below is the media statement released by Gender DynamiX in relation to the case of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga.

Media Statement Gender DynamiX 20 May 2010

Malawian couple sentenced to 14 years hard labour – Transgender activists speak out.

Today activists the world over protested the conviction of two gay men in Malawi. Even though activists from many different political persuasions joined hands in a protest in Cape Town today, local transgender activists are highlighting the fact that Tiwonge Chimbalanga clearly expresses a female identity.

According to Ian Swartz from OSISA (Open Society Institute of Southern Africa) Tiwonge Chimbalanga sees herself as a woman. “Tiwonge so clearly identifies as a woman and she has expressed her identity as such more often than not. I think if she knew the word Transgender she would come home to a world of understanding of herself” he said recently after visiting the couple in prison.

A local activist who calls her “Aunty Tiwo” visited her too and to him she said: “I am just a woman who loves my man. I’d rather remain in prison than to be released into a world where I am kept away from Steven”

“Advocating for Transgender people’s rights in most African countries is problematic for us” says Robert Hamblin advocacy manager for SA Transgender organisation Gender DynamiX. “Gender variant identities are not acknowledged and just about any sexual minority is called gay or homosexual. This is because a person is assigned a gender based on their genitals, despite how they self identify.”

Gender DynamiX stood together with other activists today in a protest called by Social Justice Coalition (SJC). SJC was joined by LGBTI organisations protesting the conviction of these two people. The group of activists urged the SA government to negotiate the release of the couple and to offer them asylum in South Africa. The group also demanded that the SA government end the continued silence about human rights abuses against sexual minorities on the rest of the continent.

Gender DynamiX condemns the conviction of Steven Mongeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga. We call on the South African government, as the only state in Africa to recognise equality for sexual minorities, to uphold the South African constitution by offering asylum to the couple.

“Even though the identities of Tiwonge and Steven are misunderstood by the world we stand together with gay and lesbian activists in their work to try and get justice for our trans sister and her partner.” Says Tebogo Nkoana outreach officer at Gender DynamiX.

Robert Hamblin:

+27 21 633 5287 ext

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Sybil Awards logo

May 20 marks the official foundation date of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP). On our 8th year, we proudly present the
Sybil Awards 2010

The Sybil Awards honor those who have promoted transgender visibility, equality, acceptance and dignity. The Sybil logo has three elements: a silhouette of a woman in a dance pose with raised arms, an oversized S that covers parts of her body and the name of the award and the year that it is being given.

The woman with outstretched hands represents the gallae, a cult of priestesses who dedicated their life to the worship of the goddess Sybil in ancient Greece and Rome. The gallae were assigned male at birth but transformed themselves by means of castration. During the festival honoring Sybil, the gallae danced wildly in veneration of the Great Mother. They are recognized as precursors of modern transgender identity.

The oversized S, aside from standing for the S in Sybil, represents the female garb that gallae wore. Its shape embodies flexibility and fluidity and encapsulates the idea of gender variability. The Sybil Awards is a celebration of the right to self-determination--the right to define one’s gender identity and expression--and is a way to honor those who respect this right fully.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Anti-trans violence in Turkey

Turkey is notorious for the presence of polar opposites: men who admire transwomen and those who have very low regard for them. Because of the latter, many transwomen have been found dead in different parts of Turkey. At the same time, Turkey has a very famous transcelebrity, Bulent Ersoy. I met a Turkish gay activist visiting Manila once and he said that Bulent Ersoy has done nothing for the TLBG movement in his country. I hope he is wrong. Below is another proof of the culture of contradiction that exists in that country. I am posting it in solidarity with the transactivists there who suffer real violence but are standing up against it. I hope there can be real change for them soon.

Trans Individuals in Turkey- Ankara were severely beaten by the police force in Ankara tonight at around 23.00 p.m.. Five Transexual women who are all Pink Life activists were stopped in their car and asked to show their identity cars by the police. They all showed their IDs but the police wanted to get them out and they resisted since this was one of the extreme implementations of the fascist Ankara police against trans individuals.

We as human righst activists came along the car they were stopped and asked the police about what they were doing and they did not provide us with any lawful reason about their violence. After a while, the police force started to beat the human rights defenders (namely us who were out of the car - including me and the trans individuals) and they severely beated us!!

We resisted and some of our friends were severely injured. The trans individuals within the car- including two founders of Pink Life were forcibly taken out of the car and were kicked from their stomach and legs, arms and they were severely bloody !!! The silicons of the trans persons were forced and they are severely injured.

The 5 trans people were taken to the police station forcibly- and the police continued to beat them and us - and they are now under custody without any reason!! We human rights activists are waiting in one of the houses of the beaten trans individuals. Tomorrow we will have a press release, most probably..

I will give the required information soon ! Pls try to spread this information since we as trans activists need your solidarity and overt support!!!


Kemal Ordek
Pink Life LGBTT Solidarity Association
Ankara - Turkey

Pink Life staged a protest action in line with this incidence of violence. You can see the pictures here.

Sybil Awards 2010

Sybil Awards 2010

On Saturday, the ladies will come together once again for the final big event celebrating 8 years. To honor all our allies, we have decided to give out an award called the Sybil as a way of giving thanks to those who have helped promote transgender equality and acceptance (see poster above).

I am so proud that soon our hard work will come into fruition. We conceptualized the Sybil Awards right around the New Year and have been working slowly to see it come true. On Saturday, our dream will finally turn into reality and I am just overjoyed. I just wish that I could spend the night of the 22nd with all my friends, family and loved ones. It feels like graduating on top my class all over again if not like Christmas morning.

I cannot wait for Saturday. I know in my heart that it will be one of the most memorable days of my life.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Last Sunday, Mother's Day, my Mama was over in Manila to check on a cousin of mine who's under her ward. The kid is currently preparing for a professional examination and my mother came over from our hometown to bring documents that he needs to take the regulatory test. She went to him and was out of the house the entire day. Before the day ended, she gave me a call asking me what I wanted to have for dinner. For someone who has struggled to have a stable relationship with my mother, I thought that that moment with her was deeply poignant.

I have rarely spoken about my family here because I want to keep that part of me private. I want people to know though that I have always had a good family life. I am very lucky to have been born to kind parents and understanding siblings. Early on of course, as I was struggling with myself, my family struggled along with me. My mother in particular had a difficult time accepting me for who I was.

I do not know what exactly gave her a change of heart but I guess at some point she just gave up on telling me to change and be the son she wanted me to be. When that moment happened, our relationship dramatically changed for the better. Gone were the melodramatic fights. All the painful and hurtful words also went away. Now, we are okay. We're not friends as my mom is not that kind of person but I know that we are okay.

I want to take this moment to thank my mother. She is an indelible part of who I am. This is not a big way of honoring her but I know it is enough for now. I would like to thank her for her love and acceptance. Most of all, I want to thank her for devoting her life to her family. She has truly made great sacrifices for the good of my father, me and my siblings. Without her constant guidance and care, my siblings and I will not be where we are right now. My two older siblings are both working abroad and they too have a great relationship with my mother. Every time they come home, they always have a special gift for her. I hope I can repay her for all the kindness she has done to me as well in the future.

I love you Mama. I am so proud that I am able to say that to you now. Truly, a mother's love is the greatest gift of all.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Exciting times

At 10:30 am today, I exited the Barangay Village Park in UP Village which houses three clustered precincts of the Fourth District of Quezon City after casting my vote for the 2010 National Elections here. Yesterday was our workshop on transgender human rights advocacy and after the workshop, the girls talked excitedly about the elections happening today. The last thing we spoke about was waking up early to go to our respective polling places and making history by electing Ang Ladlad Partylist to Congress. Ang Ladlad is the only TLBG political party of its kind in the world and everyone is hopeful that it will get at least one seat in the partylist system. These are exciting times indeed!

I wanted to show pictures of the long queue in my polling precinct as I brought my camera to vote today. Just in case an emergency arose, I wanted to be armed with something to document it. The voting process was uneventful all in all save for the long lines that everyone should have expected. After being in line for 2 and half hours, I finally entered the station where the voting machine was. It took me under 15 minutes (the maximum time allowed per person to vote) to finally feed my ballot to the machine. I left the precinct right after and walked home. When I got home I took a picture of my right pointer finger still covered in indelible ink to show that I voted for evidence. Unfortunately, my laptop conked out on me. This new laptop I am using cannot seem to read my digital camera or its memory card. I have to figure that out in the coming days so I can show some pictures here.

In the meantime, I just want to let the whole world know that today history is being made in my country and I am honored to be part of it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


STRAP Floreses

Finally, the GLBT FlorEZ de Mayo came & went. I was very happy last Sunday, 2 May 2010 because the girls came out in full force to join our first ever Flores de Mayo santacruzan or sagala (parade) as a group (see pic above).

FlorEZ Program Hostess Naomi Fontanos

I emceed the program after the parade last Sunday and I was more than happy to join the festivities by donning a royal blue Filipiniana gown (see pic above). People said I was looking positively Imeldific, an effect that I was not going for. When I look at some of my pictures from that night's affair, however, I do have angles that match those of the notorious former First Lady and I cringe a little at the thought.

Sagala Queen Princess & Duchess

After the parade, there was an awarding ceremony for the Queen, Princess and Duchess of the santacruzan.

The winners with their STRAP family

The night was sweltering and the participants could have fainted in the heat or drowned in their own sweat. But happily, everyone survived.

The winners with Rica Paras & Barbie Arcache

I am glad that the first GLBT FlorEZ de Mayo was a great success.