Gaining Confidence in Wearing A Bikini

I will admit that I have struggled with confidence in wearing a bikini through the years. Thing is, I don’t do much of tucking, wearing bra or those freebra, and working out in a gym. I still want to find comfort and consume less time with regards to these things.

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Aside from showing off like a perfect beach body, I didn’t really think that my bony cartileage around my neck, small zero boobs, broad shoulders and large veins/muscles would nicely fit in a suit. It was just hard and for us kinds of women. It is indeed a personal, beyond-beauty-kind-of struggle that one has to overcome only with confidence and the art of kebs.

So I practised. I have been posting some pictures of me wearing maillots or onesies in the bed or the comfort room, and some during photoshoots for the IG (meaning, I just wore it for the picture). See that above and below. My first ever bikini photo I posted was in 2013. But it was really a long time ago.

Acting like summer. 🌞 Day 2 of #soulsurf 🌊 📷: @hanejoys #mikkigalangootd

A post shared by M I K K I G A L A N G (@mikkigalangdotcom) on

But it was just only until maybe last year that I let go of the cover up, took photos of myself enthusiastically AND THEN REALLY wore them throughout the day without any hesitation or anxiety. And I’m very happy that I was able to do that.

Because really, I can wear anything I want for my pleasure. I can wear a basic one piece or a pretty designed one that I liked (see Freeway’s designs below*). I can wear a one piece soon and I am not afraid to share the struggles that come with it as well (definitely saying hello to my stretch marks which you can already see because duh, body foundation and beach really isn’t functional). I think I gained some confidence and that feels good.

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*bikini’s were gifts. but not required/sponsored post.

 

 

 

 

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TRANScending: Film Review of “Die Beautiful”

TRANS (“beyond”, “changing thoroughly”). But here in this country, it is a word so often associated with dishonesty, mistaken identity, and lots of stereotypes.

In the past 3 years, there were several developments in the LGBT community that raised the level of understanding about who transgender women really are beyond stigma and cliche’s of being “bakla”. We saw car enthusiast Angelina King reveal to her male-dominated followers her truth about being a transwoman with a non-traditional sexual orientation. We cheered for Geraldine Roman as the first transwoman in Congress, and Trixie Maristela and Kevin Balot as they won the crown  in the most prestigious trans beauty pageant in the world, Miss International Queen, where judging is based on criteria set specifically for transgender beauty queens, beyond comedy or impersonations. There’s so much stories also about transgenders (men and women alike) and their lives, being featured in shows like Maalaala Mo Kaya, Pinoy Big Brother, etc.

Identity & Beyond

But the LGBT community here is still far from full acceptance and tolerance with rights and all, despite these stories in media. Several trans hate crimes were reported in the past months, with the continuing issues of discrimination at work and other public spaces. Of course, we cannot forget Jennifer Laude, a transpinay, killed by an American marine officer due to a “mistaken identity”.

The Metro Manila Film Festival 2016 features Die Beautiful, a film that’s said to be inspired by the struggles of trans women in the Philippines. According to director Jun Robles Lana, the story is inspired by Laude at the beginning: “Remember the murder of Jennifer Laude? That’s how this project started. When Jennifer Laude was murdered, what was really shocking na aside from the fact up to now di pa talaga nakukuha yung hustisya na buo para sa kanya, ay yung reaction ng mga tao nung nangyari iyon. Parang they were saying she deserved to die, buti na lang na pinatay iyan kasi transgender, kasi monster, yung mga ganun eh. Shocking na bakit ganito? “Yes, I agree na marami ng pelikula sa atin na tungkol sa gay experience. Pero yung transgender, yung context life, struggles ng transgender [people], I don’t think ganun karami. And iyon yung particular topic subject matter na I wanted to explore.” (Source: Rappler)

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Trisha and Barbs supporting a guy in a  basketball game. Source: Regal Entertainment Inc, Youtube trailer.

There are already lots of films, mostly comedy, that tackled gays and drag queens like Markova: The Comfort Gay, Ang Tatay Kong Nanay, etc. But did Die Beautiful really illustrate the life, identity and struggles of the Filipina transwoman today? Did it really transcend the stereotypes of a gender identity causing so much pain, inhumanity and even hate crimes in the trans community?

Transgender, Not Gay

Tricia Echevarria (Paolo Ballesteros), the protagonist, is clearly a transgender woman in the film. She is not “bakla” in a Pinoy sense despite all the cliche gay struggles the film illustrated while she was at her early age – cross-dressing and role-playing, wanting to be a beauty queen early on, being assaulted by a conservative father. While most of these are shared experiences in the LGBT community, the moment or jump towards Tricia’s life as a mother in the beginning, wherein she told her best friend (Barbs) and daughter (Shirley Mae) that she wants to be a mother, and that she is a mother regardless of her assigned sex at birth, it was clear that she identifies herself as a woman, with her gender roles established, regardless of all the gay cliches that come with it. She was aware of that.

Tricia explaining herself to her daughter. Source: Regal Entertainment Inc, Youtube trailer.

Of Transitions & Transformations

The story-telling of Tricia’s different aspects of life as a transgender women was organised in non-chronological way. The transitions were as swift as her makeup transformations in the funeral: starting as a cross-dressing boy then the film shows her as a mother. She comes out then she becomes a beauty queen.

Makeup obviously served as a tool for a pre-op transwoman’s self-expression but it was more of a handy element in her career as an aspiring beauty queen. One can say that it’s also as if the movie itself is in “drag” because beneath the show, glitters and thick makeup, lies the different struggles, sadness and frustrations of being a transwoman.

But did the film really show these beyond glitter and glamour?

 

Transgender or Drag Queen (Transvestite)?

In the movie, Tricia is played by Paolo Ballesteros, a famous online makeup sensation and celebrity impersonator/drag queen. Truly, there was so much honesty, sophistication and sincerity despite the hit jokes, on-point looks and punchlines when it comes to characterising Tricia as a transgender beauty queen. It was also his transformative makeup skills that gave so much marketing and cinematic appeal to the film, but one can’t also deny the dangers that come in hand as Tricia in the film was not just imitating identities through makeup, she was trying to assert one.

While transgenders/transvestives fall under the same umbrella in Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE), which helps explain gender and where a person is in that spectrum , there was no direct mention of the word “transgender” in the movie or a clear dialogue about it.

Sa ating kasi pag bakla, bakla para isang umbrella. So hindi naintindihan yung concept na gender identity, yung sexual orientation. Of course hindi naman lecture yung buong pelikula para malaman yung gender identity, sexual orientation but we made sure na maayos na tinalakay namin yung pinagdadaanan nung character niya [Paolo] si Tricia para maintindihan namin siya.” – Jun Robles Lana, director (source: Rappler)

The film may have differentiated transgenders versus “bakla” (effeminate male homosexual) in some ways like the former entering the female bathroom and identifying as woman, it failed in differentiating transgenders versus drag queens. For example, for most transgenders, breast augmentation or even transplants (Sex Reassignment Surgery) are not beauty surgeries. They match what’s inside a person’s feeling, which Tricia also believed when she told Barbs that she wouldn’t de-transition (remove her breasts and makeup) when she faces God if she dies because she believes she is a woman, but she also said something about it being a career upgrade in beauty pageants in the middle of the film.

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Trisha and Barbs off-stage, in the streets, dressed as women. Source: Regal Entertainment Inc, Youtube trailer.

 

The Beauty Queen / Beauconera

Even up to now, I still see some online reviews and Instagram posts referring to Tricia as gay. I think that the confusion also comes from the kind of transgender character that was presented in the film and the fact that culturally there is just one kind of beauty pageant here (notice how the name of the contests that Tricia participate in have the word “gay” in them even though sometimes she’s competing in all trans pageant where impersonations and talent portions aren’t already parts/segments – see the scene with Kevin Balot in the trailer). In the Philippines, majority of both transgender and drag queens rely on these (and some drag performances in bars) and the beauty / parlor industry in general, as main sources of income, because it is where creativity, fun, and “being yourself” are celebrated, valued, and not looked down upon. The only difference is that transgender women live their everyday lives as a woman and would want to die as one, and not just when the stage lights are on.  

But in the movie, the plot is driven by the Tricia’s ultimate goal: winning a beauty pageant. She already knows who she is and how and when she will be ready to leave the house and pursue her transition and dreams. The film started with initially, cross-dressing as a little boy, and ending it by earning the title as who she really is – by slaying a common pageant Q&A “If you were given the chance to live again, what would it be?” based on her experiences and self-assertion as a transwoman even until death. She then blacks out and dies while being announced winner leading to her burial where she’s transformed into 7 different female celebrity looks with the help of her friends, and sister, as she wished. 

Beneath these fleeting moments, stories of her personal struggles were introduced in the film such as asserting herself in the family even until death, being a mother to her daughter, fighting life as a rape victim, being a true sister, lover and friend. While these were not deeply developed in the film and that more focus was given to Tricia being a contesera, we can see how the film beautifully illustrated some of these seemingly familiar gay cliche’s into unique humane trans ones – asserting true love, being honest and sincere about life, fighting for identity even until the end (though I would still prefer to see Tricia as Tricia even on her death bed)

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Trisha as Beyonce at the last day of burial. Source: Regal Entertainment Inc, Youtube trailer.

Transcending Beauty & Gender?

When it comes to studying and understanding LGBT identities, one is trained to look at the labels – to identify who’s transgender, lesbian, gay, even up to being pansexual – but one is also encouraged to see beyond the LGBT (thus the Q+ sign after it). The film may have failed in defining who a transgender is and how she lives her life beyond the spectacle and makeup – which is crucial with today’s representation of the trans woman hopefully leading to non-violence, and respect even on one’s death bed.

But it was very close in a way that it beautifully challenged and changed some of the typical gay cliche’s about love, family, beauty pageants, and identity which leads to the understanding of trans as woman, a different type of woman, as a different kind of beauty, but just like everybody else: a human living life and all its difficulties.

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Trans Awareness Month w/ Cosmopolitan

It’s trans awareness month! The truth is, a lot of us transgender women are misgendered in media or boxed into stereotypes of being just about bodies or surgeries or comedy. I hope that this Cosmopolitan interview (that’s now featured in series!) about discrimination, bullying, identity, etc will enlighten that we’re just normal humans living our lives and creating our own stories.

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As my friend said, speak your truth even if you’re voice shakes. It was nerve-wracking speaking about this in front of the #funfearlessfemales, but I know that cisgender women could understand us easier than others. Thank you Ysa of Cosmopolitan for allowing us to articulate who we are! Personally, I appreciate how they have helping us spread gender sensitivity in this country.

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Watch the series of videos they’ve released, featuring 4 other transissies, Janlee and Lui (my talented Dollhouse sisters and former office mates), and 2 others that I’ve just met but used to idolize because of their smarts and bravery in spaces like the corporate and computing world where we wouldn’t usually see trans people, Heart Dino and Em Millan.  =)

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Love is Macklemore

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are visions. They started out with the ideas and toured different places, wrote songs about them and produced videos by themselves. For me, these are the kinds of artists that I really wanna idolize and when these rappers are coming to Manila, I didn’t let this just pass.

And goosebumbs were just all over my body. From Thrift Shop. From Can’t Hold Us. Especially From Same Love, which condemns homophobia in mainstream media and hip-hop. From his confessions about his personal life (being addicted to drugs) and being able to recognize the need for respect. That night, I felt so moved. I got really tired dancing to his songs and even if my Pattaya trip was just a few hours after, I had inspiring fun. Thank you Macklemore & Ryan Lewis for these social messages that we can really think about. Thank you SM Accessories and Paul Chuapoco for this experience!

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