In The Philippines, transgender women are not that celebrated. Or if they are, they are simply boxed.
The local media only celebrates either straight gays (and the No. 1 mainstream television still hides them – unless they’re in stand up comedy) or transgender women or even men who have come out/undergone surgery and they would highlight the process or physical transition, like a before/after feature, as if it’s just all about the outside beauty, as would all of us think of “transformation” as a just a superficial beauty process, just like above.
In Thailand, the movement is led by transgenders who are rich, famous or beautiful which has become the basis of the success of a transgender woman in their society as one Nok Suanyot, a Thai activist, would say. For one, they have a really beautiful actress/celebrity/
personality/beauty queen named Poy Treechada, who has around 1.2M followers on Instagram worldwide. She was followed by Filipina transgender woman Kevin Balot who won the Miss International Queen in 2012.
For me, what’s lacking really is the outright telling of a story – the struggles, issues that the community is facing and really fighting for this. As you can see in the AVP above showcasing the OPM song “Hayop sa Ganda” and beauty queen Kevin Balot, this is just one aspect that transgenderism is about and it is overly objectified with the Filipino word “Hayop” which in English means animal.
Everyday I’m sure there are issues – lack of awareness, discrimination, health, hate crimes – and only if the media can see this and how painful it is for their transgender readers. Or even how colorful it is really beyond/alongside pain.
In America, it is said that the next human rights frontier is the transgender movement. Laverne Cox, a transgender actress, was featured in the cover of Time Magazine, advocating for the rights that she has been fighting for years with her trans story. She said in the above interview that there should be multi-dimensional telling of the trans story that people can relate to as a human being – which can be seen through a trans character in her new series called Orange is The New Black.
Nok Yollada is also doing the same thing in Thailand. She is a former super model/singer turned business owner / Trans activist and now a politician. She didn’t like how she’s being objectified in media who sells her as a trans pop star when really she thinks of herself as a woman. And I really like how despite the lack of media support there, she has produced her own documentary and a TV show I think to educate more trans women about the trans issues.
And we need to have more of this in The Philippines. We have seen Rica Paras, a trans woman excelling in the corporate world, who is also a STRAP Kababaihan Philippines, Inc. or Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines officer, in the Pinoy Big Brother few years back, telling her beautiful trans story. And of course, Geena Rocero, a super model in the US who came out in a TED talk, who has also come back to fight for the rights of all transpinays through Gender Proud.
And while we need more of them, we can be those icons for other people in our own ways. We have the social media and the internet where we can speak out hearts out. Let people know how we live, and how we do it normally and colorfully, just like any other human being. Awareness is one step. Because really, we need each other to support and speak louder. We need more words, as much as we need action, especially in a society who watches TV and thinks of us as clowns.