Yes, as a person who is genderqueer, it has been very difficult for Floyd Scott Tiogangco, also because his gender expression is – well – “queer”/atypical. “Particularly when I transitioned to wearing skirts and dresses,” Floyd recalled, “it came to a point that several bus companies refused to give me a ride because of how I present myself to the public… May mall pa sa Manila na tinanggihan din akong papasukin. Tinanong ako nung guard kung anong gagawin ko sa loob ng mall (There are even malls in Manila that refused me entry. The guard asked me what I’d be doing inside the mall).”
The reactions he’s been getting – while they shouldn’t be tolerated – are perhaps to be expected in countries like the Philippines, where norms continue to be defined by (false) belief on gender binary – i.e. that the world only has men and women, and the way they should present themselves should comply to socially constructed/defined “assignments”/expectations .
But Floyd is first to acknowledge the relevance of the struggle to be recognized to, simply, exist. “(It is a struggle living as I am,) but it’s fulfilling. I acknowledge the struggle because it’s what keeps me going. (But I am also) fulfilled because nagagawa ko kahit papaano ‘yung mga bagay na gusto kong gawin (I am able to still do whatever I want to do).”
YOUNG AND DIFFERENT
“Sabi nila Mama, at the age of 5 or 6, they knew I was different kasi hindi raw panglalaki ‘yung kilos ko noon. Pero I as far as I can remember, nung time na ‘yun ang iniisip ko lang nun ‘yun ang gusto ko eh (Mom said that as early as 5 or 6, they knew I was different because I didn’t ask masculine. But as far as I can remember, at that time, I was just thinking of doing what I wanted),” Floyd said.
And then came elementary days, “I remember nung grade 5 ako, I tried to court a girl. Tapos parang hindi ko na tinuloy. Hindi ko na matandaan kung bakit pero pwede kong isipin na because I realized I am special (when I was in grade 5, I tried to court a girl. But I seemed to just stop. I can’t remember why, but I can also surmise that it was because I realized I am special).”
And so when he was in high school, “I came out as gay. Nung sinabi kong (When I told them) I’m gay, tanggap nila agad (they immediately accepted me). They told me it was evident and obvious. Alam na raw nila (They already knew).”
But Floyd said he came out a second time; “when I came out as genderqueer and told them I wanted to wear skirts and dresses. This time medyo nahirapan sila kasi bakit ko pa raw kailangang mag-dress at skirt eh may gay people naman daw na they dress manly (This time they had a hard time and they asked why I wanted to wear dress and skirt, since there are gay people who dress manly),” he said. “I told them, ‘They are them and I am me.’ Hindi naman ako sila so bakit ko sila gagayahin (I am not them, so why mimic them)? Eventually naging okay naman (It became okay).”
For Floyd, getting the support of people close to a person, “even reactions of my friends or my family for that matter, are important because immediate relationship ko sila. It matters, but not to the point na kung against sila ay susundin ko sila (if they’re against my decision, I’d follow them).”
STARTING FROM THE VERY BASIC
It is common knowledge not only locally, but even globally, that among the biggest problems within the LGBTQI movement are internal (e.g. horizontal discrimination/internal phobias). Asked how the local LGBTQI community has responded to his being “different”, Floyd said that “the reactions vary. Some are supportive lalo na those who know me, like friends and acquaintances. However, kapag nasa kalsada ako (if I’m in public spaces), for example sa Cubao, may ilang LGBTQ people na tumitingin, minsan titig tapos nagbubulungan sila at nagtatawanan (there are LGBTQ people who stare, then whisper to each other, and laugh at me). I remember when I was in Cebu last year for the holidays, nagsimba ako (I went to church) with family tapos may mga bagets na beks na nakakita sa akin (young gay guys saw me). I heard them say ‘Wow!’.”
Floyd admits that there remain many issues that the local LGBTQI community should focus on; but “let’s start from the very basic,” he said.
Here, “discrimination pa rin kasi until now I still hear catcalls; not the catcalls that women get pero ‘yung ‘Ay bakla!’ lalo na sa katulad ko (but the derogatory calls LGBTQI people get, particularly for those like me).”
There were times, in fact when Floyd was refused entry into a mall.
“Kung ma-settle na natin ang issue ng discrimination, pwede na nating pag-usapan ang (If we already settled the issue of discrimination, we can already start discussing) marriage equality,” he said. “Pwede rin nating i-discuss (We can also discuss) ang internalized homophobia at transphobia sa community.”
Asked what steps he thinks need to be done to better promote respect of LGBTQI human rights, Floyd is pushing for further education. “Simulat sapul naniniwala akong education pa rin talaga ang susi para sa mas accepting na lipunan. Kung magsisimula pa lang ang idea ng respeto sa isang bata, lalaki siyang may respeto sa kapwa niya (From the very start I always believed that education is still the key to create a more accepting society. If the idea of respecting is taught to kids while they’re young, they’d grow respecting other people),” he said.
ARTS FOR ADVOCACY
Floyd is the star/subject of a film, called “Slay”, by filmmaker Cha Roque (with DOP Monique Laurel, and camera operator Ymi Castel). The film eyes to show that “there is a Filipino performance artist and writer existing who happens to be part of the LGBTQI community, and who is also genderqueer and whose gender expression is androgynous,” Floyd said. “Our director thought that it’s about time to shed light on gender expression as a topic as we already had many documentary films on coming out, or relationships involving LGBTQI people.”
Floyd believes that the arts – including films (such as this) – can help promote LGBTQI human rights. “Kasi ang isang bagay kapag laging pinapakita sa mundo ay lalong tinatanggap ng mga tao (Because if a thing is shown often, people become more accepting of it),” Floyd said. “Lalo na kung totoong experiences ang ipapakita (Particularly if what’s shown are real experiences). We become visible and that’s really important: na makitang (for us to be seen that) we are real, our struggles are real and it should be addressed.”
In the end, for those watching the film starring him, Floyd said he wants for them to learn “respect and acceptance. I would want them to learn that respect and acceptance are values that we should uphold for these are the very same elements that give dignity to a person regardless of gender, race and class.”
Eloquent words from someone who is living his life as uniquely as he can…