Judai Mendoza never thought she’d be working for the Philippine National Police (PNP). But NOT because Mendoza had doubts with whether she could hack it in the force or not; instead, it’s because she’s a transwoman.
A medical technologist, Judai applied for a position in the PNP – initially, the position she thought available was in diagnostics, but it turned to be a slot in forensics, which was new to her.
“I trained with the medicolegal division in Camp Crame and did serology (examination of body fluids) and histopathologic techniques (which deals with tissues/flesh for microscopic preparation), among other things. Later on, I would be deployed for a training on drug identification through laboratory examination at the different forensics laboratories (PNP, National Bureau of Investigation or NBI, and Dangerous Drugs Board or DDB) and got an accreditation with the DDB as a Drug Identification Accredited Professional (DIAP),” Judai said.
After her training, Judai was sent back to Cebu, where she continues to be based.
Judai admitted that “at first I was kind of awkward” working for the PNP, though not only because the field was new to her, but because “the environment (at work is) so macho. It was like I was misplaced,” she said.
But in hindsight, having worked for the PNP for over three decades already, “I don’t really recall having had a hard time (at work). Everybody treated me with respect and dignity,” Judai said.
In the Philippines, being an LGBT person and in uniform continues to be challenging, particularly with their policing. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), for instance, came out with a statement in 2009 that it has zero tolerance for discrimination within the military ranks. But the AFP Code of Ethics has provisions that can be used to discriminate against members of the military who also happen to be LGBT. An example is Article 5 (Military Professionalism) Section 4.3 (Unethical Acts) of the AFP Code of Ethics, which states: “Military personnel shall likewise be recommended for discharge/separation for reason of unsuitability due to all acts or omissions which deviate from established and accepted ethical and moral standards of behavior and performance as set forth in the AFP Code of Ethics. The following are examples: Fornication, Adultery, Concubinage, Homosexuality, Lesbianism, and Pedophilia.”
The PNP is also a staunch advocate on adherence to the so-called “established and accepted ethical and moral standards of behavior and performance.” But perhaps Judai’s situation was different – even fortunate – since “I am not a uniformed personnel with a rank; I am a non-uniformed personnel of the PNP,” she explained. “This means that I am a civilian employee.” All the same, Judai stressed that “my position… comes with the mark of distinction and respect from peers and superiors, uniformed and non-uniformed alike.”
This respect is of importance to Judai particularly since “I was already in the PNP when I started my male-to-female (MTF) transition,” she said. “I took estrogen around 1989, the year I got my permanent appointment. Slowly and ever so discreetly, I transitioned into what I am now. Surprisingly, I don’t think they (the people in the office) were surprised with it at all.”
Even when she was still growing up, Judai, of course, always knew “I was different. I was more attracted to dolls and (playing) jackstones. In school, I gravitated towards the girls for playmates. I had crushes too, and they were all boys. I also loved to perform – like I loved to dance ‘singkil’ but I held the two golden fans (used by the female dancers) and not the sword and shield (used by male dancers), swirling them as I danced to the beat of the gongs. And like others my age, I loved superheroes – I even had a collection of Marvel and DC comic books; but I loved Batgirl, Supergirl, Storm, Black Canary and, of course, the quintessential Wonder Woman.”
Suffice it to say that she may have been young then, but Judai said she already knew her identity.
Judai used to examine confiscated drugs and serology – cases she said that launched her career as a forensics examiner. She also testified in courts for criminal cases, did crime scene investigations, and even assisted with autopsies. Judai is now the drug test supervisor in PNP’s Region VII crime laboratory office. In that capacity, she does drug testing of all applicants to the PNP, and tests PNP personnel in the region randomly, as well as for their promotion or schooling.
“I know that what I do for a profession is not stereotypical for LGBT people, much more for a transwoman like me,” Judai said. “It may have been awkward at first, but then I got to show the world that we can also excel in a not-so-ordinary field of work. I’d like to think I’ve proven my point.”
In 2007, Judai was given a national award for good performance.
Nonetheless, Judai recognizes that this may not be for everyone. “I don’t necessarily highly recommend for others to do what I did (by considering a career in PNP) because things might come out differently for them,” she said. “I just think that what I achieved was just exactly meant to be. I just got lucky…”
All the same, she said that “it feels good to inspire fellow members of the LGBT community, particularly other transwomen.”