Saturday, November 27, 2010

Portugal passes new trans law

Below is a press release from Transgender Europe.

Since November 25th Portugal has a law regulating the legal gender recognition. It is filling a legal gap human rights activists have been pointing out for a long time. With the new law, the preferred gender can be obtained using a standardized administrative procedure within 8 days. Besides the application a certificate from a medical multi-disciplinary team is necessary to fulfill the pre-conditions.

Read the rest of this release here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Miss International Queen 2010

Mini Han of South Korea

Congratulations to the newly crowned Miss International Queen, Mini Han of South Korea (see pic above). The Korean stunner was crowned on 19 November 2010, Saturday in Pattaya, Thailand where Miss International Queen, the world's most prestigious pageant for transwomen, is beamed live from Tiffany's, the world's biggest transgender cabaret.

Mini with Ms USA & Ms Japan

Completing Mini's court are First Runner Up Ami Takeuchi of Japan (right in the pic above) and Second Runner Up Stasha Sanchez of the USA (left in the pic above).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Queen, COLORS and the Cebuana transwoman

Queen 2010

Over the weekend from November 5-7, I went to Cebu for the second offering of Queen, a spectacular pageant for transwomen (see pic above). Queen this year, like the last one, was held at the Pacific Ballroom of the Waterfront Hotel Cebu, where I was billeted thanks to the generosity of the Queen organizers.

Naomi & Rica with Cary Santiago

Queen is the brainchild of the Clothes for Life Foundation, an organization mostly composed of fashion designers who are Cebu-based. Its current chair is Cary Santiago, one of Cebu's most prominent people. Cary is a world-known couturier whose clientele includes the creme de la creme of the Philippines. I chatted with him post-pageant and had our pic taken as well (see above). Cary told us of his plans for Queen to be a platform to help needy communities in Cebu. I was quite impressed with his vision for Queen to be a pageant that will showcase the best of Cebu and benefit the poorest of the poor. After having met Cary, I have now become a firm believer in the aspirations of Clothes for Life and Queen. If I am ever in a position to help, I would easily choose Clothes for Life foundation as my charitable institution of choice.

Rain Villagonzalo

My presence in Cebu was made even more special by Rain, who was crowned the first Queen in 2009 (see above).

Rain's farewell walk

Rain was stunning on pageant night as she made her farewell walk in a breath-taking Cary Santiago cream gown (see above). We realized while there that Queen was not only a pageant for Cebuanas. It is actually open to all transgender women of Filipino descent even those who live abroad. The real name of the pageant is just Queen and not Queen of Cebu. They just had to name their Facebook page Queen of Cebu as the name Queen was already taken. I think that having an international pageant like Queen in Cebu is a fantastic idea. It is a challenge to Manila-centrism and also a way to up the ante in pageantry in the country. Queen, I personally believe, has raised the bar very high for trans pageantry in the world. From concept to execution, Queen is truly one pageant for the books. It has the potential to change the face of beauty pageants for transwomen in the world.

With STRAP Cebu ladies

I was very happy to get the chance to come back to Cebu. I was there in 2007 and met a group of Cebuano transwomen, one of whom turned out to be the star of The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela, Minerva Buzon. Rain opened their home to us for a delicious feast for lunch on our last day in the city. She also invited her friends over. The ladies on the left are Rain's friends (Meg in black beside me and Paula, in a denim tube dress) Syndy (in the red dress), Weng (in white shirt, seated), Minerva (in yellow), Judy (beside Minerva) and Etep (in a striped shirt, standing).I am proud to have met these amazing Cebuanas indeed.

With COLORS members

Community organizing is strong in Cebu now and I am very happy to tell all of you that a new trans organization has just been established there called COLORS (Coalition for the Liberation of the Reassigned Sex). On the first night, I went out with the members of COLORS and had a smashing time (see pic above). From left to right in the pic above are Honey and her boyfriend, me, Rica, Eda, Minerva and Bonita (seated) while the girls at the back standing are Syndy, Brax and Magda.

With Queen 2010

The new Queen herself (in the middle in the pic above), Maki Mercedes, is a member of COLORS. I wish her well and hope this new chapter in her life as reigning Queen will open doors for her and opportunities to do good for the transgender community in Cebu. Congratulations again to the new Queen Universe, Queen World and Queen International 2010! Mabuhay ang Cebuana transpinay!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wan Chai bars shock transgender experts, barring them as 'lady boys'

Naomi arguing with Amazonia doorman

Below is a news article that came out in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), Hong Kong's most widely read English broadsheet. I decided to go back to the bar in Wan Chai, Amazonia, which refused me entry in the past and luckily an SCMP journalist was there to see it all happen again. I politely introduced myself to the manager named Dave (see pic above) and he said that he'd let me in if Dr. Sam Winter and Atty. Michael Vidler, a human rights lawyer, who were with me that night would escort me the entire time. We said no. The Hong Kong trans community is in a very vulnerable position right now after the W decision barring a transsexual woman's petition to marry in the gender she identifies as. I hope that by exposing more of the bigotry that seems to pervade Hong Kong society nowadays, we have been able to call people's attention in Hong Kong enough for them to start agitating for badly needed change.

Wan Chai bars shock transgender experts, barring them as 'lady boys'

John Carney and Lana Lam Oct 31, 2010

Two transgender professionals from the Philippines attending a conference in Hong Kong fell victim to the very discrimination they'd come to talk about - they were denied entry to bars in the city "because they were not women".

Last week, Naomi Fontanos and Santy Layno attended a lecture for an undergraduate course at Hong Kong University entitled Sexuality and Gender: Diversity and Society. That evening they went to Wan Chai for a drink with Dr Sam Winter, the course organiser and an associate professor in the faculty of education at the University of Hong Kong, and human rights lawyer Michael Vidler, who had attended the lectur

On arriving in Wan Chai, they were told they were not welcome in certain bars. Initially, the group went to Amazonia, known for its live music.

Winter and Vidler were allowed to enter but the others were not.

The men remonstrated with door staff about this, only to be told that they were allowed to come in, but their friends weren't.

The doorman was insistent. They couldn't go in because "they are not women, they are men".

"They are lady boys" and "there are other places for people like that," he said - meaning gay clubs.

Later that night the pair were also refused entry to other Wan Chai bars - Escape and Dusk til Dawn.

Amazonia in Wan Chai

A spokesman for Amazonia said: "It's up to our security's discretion who gets in on any given night. There is no discrimination here. We often let transvestites in and we have no problem with that. They are all paying customers."

A spokesman for Escape said this was also their policy. Dusk til Dawn said it reserved the right to refuse admission to customers.

Fontanos, 32, has a degree in secondary education from the University of the Philippines in Manila and prepares teaching materials for an English language teaching company. "I felt very offended and hurt. We were doing nothing wrong or illegal," Fontanos said. "I was surprised that this thinking exists in Hong Kong as it is a global city. It markets itself as a cosmopolitan place where all cultures converge, but there's an underlying bigotry and ignorance here."

Layno 27, has a degree in mass communications from the University of St Louis in Baguio City, and works in communications. She was equally shocked. "Hong Kong should be more advanced than this but the fact is it isn't. These people associate us with working girls, which is why they didn't let us in, but we are not. The thing is, working girls can still go into these bars but we can't."

The pair also work for the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines. Winter had brought them to speak at the University of Hong Kong, where he runs the course Sexuality and Gender: Diversity and Society.

"Naomi did a presentation about being transgender in the Philippines, while Santy took part in the question and answer session afterwards," Winter said. "They are educated, eloquent and teach on transgender issues around various campuses in the Philippines ... It's a quite depressing reminder of the ignorance, bigotry and prejudice that still exists on the streets of this city. There's a real issue here as to why ordinary, decent and law-abiding people can't get through the door at Amazonia or places like it in Hong Kong."

Human rights solicitor Vidler was appalled that the transgender pair came to Hong Kong to address transgender issues here, only to fall prey to the very discrimination that they had come to talk about.

He said he knew at least two women officers in the disciplined services - he would not say which one lest doing so revealed their identities - who are transgender.

"If they were working undercover, they wouldn't be allowed into these bars either, as they'd be assumed to be lady boys.

"They also would have no recourse against an establishment like this. But they would have recourse if the discrimination was to do with a government establishment.

"This is why there's got to be legislation introduced to protect against this kind of thing happening."

The Equal Opportunities Commission has received fewer than 10 complaints from transgender people since it was formed in 1996, a spokeswoman said.

Such complaints must be made under the disability discrimination ordinance since there is no law specifically on transgender discrimination, she said.

Sam Winter looking on

Monday, November 1, 2010

Proud woman

Speaking at HKU

When the chance to return to Hong Kong arose, I did not have second thoughts and immediately said yes to the invitation from Dr. Sam Winter to speak once again in his Sexual and Gender Diversity course at the University of Hong Kong. (see pic above) The first time I did so was in 2009. But already it feels like a long time.

It is my hope that more of the world will see the many other Filipina transactivists who are here in the Philippines, working hard to make real change.Many of them have overcome the stage of "victimhood." Of course we always acknowledge the travails and hardships that come with being trans but more and more of us seem to be rejecting the victim mentality and really taking charge of our lives. They are not just complaining about how hard life is they are actually doing something about it, dreaming big, breaking barriers and going after jobs that transwomen of the past generation would have never dared go into: human resources, management, entrepreneurship, health care, information and communications technology, journalism, foreign language teaching, research, etc. I am truly in awe of this great community of sisters, proud transwomen, working to make Philippine society a better place.