Friday, July 30, 2010

Bodies electric

The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward
toward the knees,
The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the
marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of
the soul,
O I say now these are the soul!

--I Sing the Body Electric, Walt Whitman

Lea T Face

Last May, stories started circulating about Givenchy employing a transsexual model for its fall campaign. The said model was revealed to be Lea T (in the pic above) who is currently generating a lot of internet buzz for her appearance in the August 2010 edition of French Vogue.

Lea is Brazilian and is managed by WomenManagement. She used to work for Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci as his personal assistant and fitting model and is now being touted as Tisci's muse for embodying the androgyny that Givenchy is supposedly known for.
Lea T censored

I do not know about you, but Lea T does not look androgynous to me. She looks all woman. This PR spin is just part of the media blitz for Givenchy. It along with her French Vogue profile (see above) which shows her naked has managed to catapult her to the world's attention. I love the bold approach--no pun intended--that Lea T is taking to steer her new-found career as a fashion model. I hope that her story will be used to show the world the beauty and diversity of transsexual bodies, human bodies. I am sure that it will inspire a lot of transphobia as well. Already, news stories are coming out that Lea T is getting ready for genital reconstruction surgery (GRS) as if to assure the public that her body in French Vogue is just temporary, an invalid body to be in.

Thomas Beatie 2

This reminds me of the backlash that Thomas Beatie, the pregnant transman, (see pic above) received when he started using the media for his "bodily" outing as well.
But there are millions of transpeople like Thomas Beatie and Lea T and it is time for the world to get used to human bodies like theirs.

Thomas Beatie 1

One of the reasons why I cheered Thomas Beatie was because of the powerful images he showed the world that have never been seen before. I especially find unforgettable the pic of him above. As sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) advocates, sensitizing society to the idea of sexual and gender diversity means sensitizing them to the idea of bodily integrity as well--the idea that our bodies belong to us and that only we have the right to make choices for and about our bodies including choices on who to have sexual relations with and reshaping our bodies in accordance with the gender we see ourselves as. I hope that Lea T's French Vogue story will be used to drive home the very idea behind this fundamental human right.

Thursday, July 29, 2010



Yesterday I was walking around the mall when I saw a carousel. I have never ridden one in my life although I have always been fascinated by the merry-go-rounds I saw in the pages of the old Childcraft encyclopedia (see pic above) my family had when I was growing up. Needless to say, I felt like an over-eager kid!

On horse

I bought a ticket and immediately mounted a pony. It was so much! I do not think that that would be my last carousel ride. Here's looking forward to more fun and games soon!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Widow of Wharton

Nikki Araguz

Nikki Araguz is the 35 year old widow of fallen Wharton, Texas firefighter, Captain Thomas Araguz III (see pic above). On July 3, Capt. Araguz died in the line of duty. Capt. Araguz was buried on July 11 and the next day, his mother Simona Longoria filed documents in court aimed at dissolving Nikki & Thomas's marriage claiming that Nikki was born male and therefore could not be Capt. Araguz' lawful spouse under Texas law.

Capt. Araguz' ex-wife, Heather Delgado, with whom he has two children, filed a similar suit two days later. Capt. Araguz's death benefits amount to more than $600,000 and by law should be shared by his wife, Nikki and his two children. Both Longoria and Delgado claim that their move to question Nikki's gender in court and have her marriage to Capt. Araguz' dissolved is for the benefit of the children.

In an early news report about the case, Nikki's parents are quoted as saying that Nikki has complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS) an intersex condition of girls and women with normal female bodies but with no ovaries or uterus. Nikki's initial gender assignment at birth, as recorded in her birth certificate, was male and her original birth name was Justin Graham Purdue, which she had changed in the mid-90s.

Lawyers of Longoria & Delgado, in different news stories, refer incessantly to an infamous 1999 case involving a transwoman, Littleton v. Prange. Christie Littleton was a transsexual woman who filed a wrongful death lawsuit against her dead husband's doctor, Mark Prange. Prange's attorney argued that Christie's marriage to Johnathan Mark Littleton was invalid because she was originally assigned male at birth. Chief Justice Phil Hardberger ruled that Christie's gender was not the gender she said she was but her birth assigned sex, thereby declaring her male and invalidating her marriage to her husband. As such, she could not file a wrongful death case which can only be lodged by a legal spouse. Because there was no precedent case in the US, Littleton v. Prange followed the wisdom of an English decision that came out in 1970, Corbett v. Corbett which held that a marriage involving a transsexual spouse was invalid.

Transgender Americans are closely watching how Mrs. Araguz' case will turn out as it has the potential to challenge Littleton v. Prange. Ever since Littleton, marriages involving a trans spouse have been upheld in Californa & New Jersey. There is also case law outside US borders. In 2000, a UK high court in W v. W, held that a marriage involving an intersex spouse was valid. In Australia, the 2001 decision Re Kevin recognized the marriage of a transman who had not undergone any form of genital surgery.

I am going to keep my fingers crossed for Mrs. Araguz & hope that things turn out well for her. According to her, she has lost not only her husband but her best friend as well. I hope that she will be given time to grieve her husband properly. I pray too that the Texas judicial system, in the end, will recognize her gender identity. In the mean time, I hope that those who will come to know this case will realize that a person's gender is a matter that only that person can resolve. For doctors, lawyers, commentators and judges to usurp that right is a crime against that very person's humanity.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Toward gender and age-responsive HIV and AIDS programmes in the Philippines

National HIV & AIDS Consultation

Last Friday, 16 July 2010, I attended a whole-day, national consultation meeting upon the invitation of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in line with their project on Developing a Gender- and Age-Sensitive AIDS Response in the Philippines (see pic above). The project is jointly supported by UNDP, UNAIDS & UNICEF. The meeting, which was attended by representatives of NGOs, government agencies, and advocates from around the country aimed to 1) validate the preliminary country assessment report of the gender- and age-responsiveness of national AIDS policies and programmes, including indicators and 2) get feedback and recommendations from the national consultation participants on strengthening the gender- and age-responsiveness of the national AIDS response.

I was happy that finally this conversation has been started in HIV & AIDS circles. The preliminary assessment report for the meeting was prepared by the Health & Development Initiatives Institute in collaboration with EnGendeRights. The preliminary assessment was conducted using secondary data analysis of regional focus groups discussions (FGDs) in the National Capital Region (NCR), Cebu & Davao and interviews with key informants from different target groups including People Living with HIV (PLHIVs) and affected women, women in prostitution (WIPs), NGOs, Males who have Sex with other Males (MSMs), injecting drug users (IDUs) and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). The feedback from the national consultation meeting would be included in the assessment report that would be given to NEDA.

Preliminary Recommendations

The results of the assessment, which were presented to the plenary were not surprising (see pic above). HDII & EnGendeRights found that the level of gender- and age-responsiveness of HIV and AIDS programmes in the country was low. Further, they also found that mainstreaming gender issues and including age-appropriate interventions into HIV & AIDS response programmes lagged behind bio-medical interventions.

MSM & TG Workshop Group

After an open forum that spilled into lunch, the participants were asked to break into various workshop groups that would give recommendations on how to include gender- and age-responsiveness into the various HIV and AIDS interventions, services and policies that are in place. I decided to join the group for MSM & TGs (see above). As expected, I was the only transperson present in the meeting, the only transperson in the workshop group and the only female.

Our workshop group was tasked to make recommendations for gender- and age-mainstreaming in various areas of interventions including: information & education campaign (IEC) materials including behavior change communication (BCC); training which covers HIV 101, peer education, life skills building & others; voluntary counseling & testing; gender-based violence & child abuse and STI services.

At the onset our group decided to make general recommendations that could not be accommodated into the matrix we needed to follow. I made it very clear to the group that for gender-mainstreaming to be fully accomplished for the transcommunity the first thing that needed to be done was to separate MSM & TG populations in HIV & AIDS response programmes in all aspects. Although STRAP does not have a programme on HIV yet, we have been having informal discussions on what a desirable programme for us would look like. We are in agreement that it should be included under a comprehensive transgender health framework that addresses access to hormones, surgeries and general well-being that does not adhere to a pathological model and has a clear component on transphobia-reduction.

I am glad that I was able to have a conversation with representatives of some of the MSM groups who joined our workshop group. I told them that our needs as transpeople especially those who are afflicted with HIV & AIDS have been invisibilized by the domination of MSMs in the discourse on HIV & AIDS in the Philippines. I have heard from positive communities that they have been accepting more and more transwomen in their support groups which clearly indicate increase in infections among tranpinays. Any intervention geared towards them should first & foremost respect their gender identity. Unfortunately, because they are subsumed under the MSM label, they are treated as men by NGO workers, health care professionals & government agencies. And because there is, as yet, no established support group for infected transpinays most of them have joined MSM support groups.

We have a long way to go before developing an intervention programme for transpinays with HIV & AIDS. In the meantime, I am starting to feel frustrated about having to attend all these HIV & AIDS meetings where I keep repeating myself. At some point, we in STRAP need to start walking the walk and doing something concrete in line with HIV & AIDS advocacy. But because we are already over-burdened by our main advocacy concerns, including HIV in our work will be spreading thinly our already limited resources & manpower. I hope our members who are studying to be or are already in the medical field will step up & decide to take on HIV & AIDS advocacy. Their biomedical knowledge will be a good foundation for social justice work in this area. This is something that we need to do and quickly at that.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Those who love me can take the train

Metro Rail Transit

As I write this, oh how the world has turned indeed! The Philippines has a new President. Rafael Nadal & Serena Williams are the latest Wimbledon champions. The World Cup has been won by Spain.

In the mean time, I have been living life as I know it: making heroic attempts to write a long-delayed Master's thesis, meeting friends & loved ones when I can, taking care of things for STRAP, studying Spanish in the weekends, running, working out & day dreaming of a future with Carl. The last one always gives me a warm & fuzzy feeling and leaves me endlessly inspired. Ahhh, the future!

Anyway, this will be a catch up post just to let everyone know that I'm doing well & to justify my blogging absence in the last two weeks or so. The title of this entry is actually taken from an unforgettable French movie that I saw in one of the film festivals here in Manila. Those Who Love Me Can Take The Train is about the death of a painter which results in those who love him having to take the train from Paris to provincial Limoges where he asks to be buried.

Because I have been waxing nostalgic lately, this movie has come back to me. I have been taking the train, the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) (see pic above), a lot to see people I love and now I have come to think of taking trains as a gesture of love. If I am on the train then that means I am on my way to see people who are dear to me. I'm sure Carl will say that I am being overly dramatic & ask if it's just the hormones. Perhaps! *sticks tongue out* One of these days I will take train rides for you baby love. *wink*

Inside the ladies' train

Anyway, as an interesting side note: here in the Philippines people are really hung up on gender. We divide lines into male & female & the trains are no exception. We actually have an all-women's train at the MRT. Of course I take that all the time. One day I was on my way to see Rica, our transpinay celebrity, and the train was a bit full (see pic above). I ended up standing in the middle aisle holding on to one of the support straps. The very sweet girl in front of me said, "Miss are you pregnant? Would you like to take my seat?" I almost laughed out loud! I didn't know if it was my dress or the food baby I had from breakfast. It was weird & flattering at the same time.

Here are some pics showing me with friends after taking train rides to see them.

Farewell get-together for Nadine

A farewell get-together with the girls.

Dinner with Sass & Aernout

Dinner the girls.

Dinner with Adri

Another dinner on a rainy night.

Dinner with Rica

Dinner after watching Toy Story 3.

Dinner with Greta

Dinner with the beloved Greta, who is hugging me.