This is part of #KaraniwangLGBT, which Outrage Magazine officially launched on July 26, 2015 to offer vignettes of LGBT people/living, particularly in the Philippines, to give so-called “everyday people” – in this case, the common LGBT people – that chance to share their stories.
As Outrage Magazine editor Michael David C. Tan says: “All our stories are valid – not just the stories of the ‘big shots’. And it’s high time we start telling all our stories.”
Mara, who’s in her 40s, proudly claims she already lived a “colorful – if not yet full – life”. And this is because “sinunod ko kung ano ang gusto ko (I did what I wanted to do); I lived the life I want to live,” she said.
When she was younger, living as a “binabaye (effeminate gay man)”, Mara had a stint as an entertainer in Japan. But there, she said, “di ako belong (I didn’t belong).” Supposedly, while others like her were “masaya makipag-table sa customers, nagkukulong lang ako. Di ko nakita ang sarili ko sa ganung buhay (happy being tabled by customers, I kept to myself. I couldn’t see myself living that kind of life).”
She eventually ended up in Hong Kong, running a salon; and there, “naging masaya ako (I was happy).” This, then, became somewhat of a call for her – “maging manggugupit (to cut hair).”
And so when she finally returned to the Philippines, moving from Baguio City to Metro Manila, she opened her own salon.
For Mara, this drive to find herself may be more defined in “deciding for my body,” she said. She was young when she decided to have breast augmentation; “umabot din P125,000 ang nagastos ko (my expenses also reached P125,000).” It took approximately 10 years after this before she had gender confirmation surgery (formerly, sexual reassignment surgery). And this time, P800,000 ginastos ko (I spent P800,000).” In between, she had expenses for other body modifications – e.g. butt augmentation.
“Di ko sinabihan pamilya ko; umuwi na lang ako, ganito na ako (I didn’t tell my family; I just went home already like this),” she said. For her, “katawan ko ito; at ito nagpapaligaya sa akin (this is my body; and this is what makes me happy).”
Fortunately for Mara, her parents accepted her.
Mara is aware that not everyone may accept transgender people like her; and there may even be some who would “attack” them for this notion that they changed what God has given them. But Mara said that “hindi naman namin binago ang katawan namin para sirain ito; pinaganda pa nga (we did not change our bodies to destroy these; we beautified our bodies). In this sense, I’m sure God will be happy.”
Perhaps, Mara admitted, “hindi ko talaga naranasan ang hirap ng maging LGBT (I didn’t really experience the difficulties linked with being LGBT).” She even had a partner for 16 years, and “tinanggap niya ano ako (he accepted me for me).” In fact, when her partner died in a vehicular accident, “inampon ako ng pamilya niya. Tinanggap nila ako ng buong-buo (his family adopted me. They accepted me completely).”
Her first partner – the one before the “love of my life” wasn’t all perfect; but Mara prefers “not dwelling on negatives”.
Nowadays, Mara said she keeps to herself. At times, “umaakyat sa Baguio para makita ang family and friends (I go to Baguio to see family and friends),” she said. But “madalas andito lang sa parlor (I’m often just here in my salon/beauty parlor).” This is because “kuntento naman ako (I’m contented).”
And this is something she said others – particularly LGBT people – ought to recognize, i.e. to “hanapin ang talagang gusto mo (find what you really desire) and go for it. Maikli ang buhay, so enjoy (Life is short, so enjoy).”