ROXAS CITY – Every Saturday, from 9.30PM to 11.00PM, Capiznons who turn on their radios to listen to local radio station Radyo Todo will come across “Ugayong sa Kinabuhi (Ungol ng Buhay, or Moans of Life)”, perhaps the province’s first and only radio program that tackles LGBT-related issues. Started in January 2017, this is the program of local trans leader Charmel Catalan, who eyes to help “increase awareness about our issues,” she said, “particularly since so much about us remain misunderstood or is even known.”
Charmel also co-founded the pioneering trans organization in the Province of Capiz, Queen of All Queens. And in many ways, her LGBT advocacy stems from noticing that “mahirap din maging trans sa Capiz kasi talagang may discrimination pa rin (it can also be difficult to be a transgender person in Capiz because you can still be discriminated against),” she said. For instance, “maraming naninigaw sa kalye (there are people who taunt us in the streets).”
In a way, Charmel is somewhat luckier.
“I was 10 years old when I recognized I’m trans,” she said. “Babae talaga pakiramdam ko (I really identified as a woman).”
Fortunately for her, “supportive ang parents ko (my parents were supportive)” even if “I had relatives who were not.” Charmel is the fifth of seven kids.
The “general acceptance” came for Charmel when she became her family’s sole breadwinner. “Now, ako lahat; meron pa ba (Now, I pay for everything; who else will do it)!?” she said wryly.
Though working for Capiz City’s local government, she earns additional income from “joining pageants, organizing shows, giving make-up… at kung ano-ano pa. Lahat pinapasok para kumita (and just about everything… I enter everything just to earn).”
Exactly because she said she works her ass off to make a living, Charmel said she can be impatient with those who discriminate against LGBT people. When taunted, for instance, she said that “most times, I just ignore them.” But there are times when “I choose to answer back. I yell: ‘Mamuhay ka, inutil (Go make a living, useless person)!’.”
Now, as a trans community leader, Charmel said she hopes for younger trans people to first focus on bettering oneself to have a better life. “Unahin ang pag-aayos ng buhay (Prioritize fixing your lives),” she said. “Huwag balahura. Saka na ang landian (Don’t act in ways that encourage people to discriminate against you. Don’t be a coquette for now).”