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.”
Sophia Montecarlo, 21, from Imus City in Cavite, knew of her sexual orientation since she was a child. “I always knew I’m not male,” she said. “There’s something inside me telling me that I’m really a woman.”
Perhaps to be expected (and even if this is saddening), “my family was initially shocked. And at first, they couldn’t support me for being who and what I am.”
What made it difficult for her family to accept Sophia was their religious affiliation.
“I am not part of the Roman Catholic Church; I am from Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ),” she said. And “in our religion, we do not support… we do not believe in people being LGBTQIA.”
Because Sophia couldn’t deny who she is, this created a fracture in her relationship with other family members. “All family members are part of the Church of Christ. And for me not to harm them because I also love them, I chose to separate myself from them,” Sophia said. And so while she still lives with her family, “but I am no longer an active member of the Church of Christ.”
It was this move – her “courageous step” – that allowed Sophia to start to openly express herself especially to her parents. And “that’s the time they also opened up to me and started accepting me.”
Sophia sadly thinks that it is “normal” for LGBTQIA people to experience discrimination and/or bullying.
There will always be people, she said, who will say that God only created man and woman. “These same people (will) say that LGBTQIA people were not really created by God. But one thing is for sure, I believe that the discrimination we experience can uplift us and make us stronger persons.”
When Sophia was in her third year in college, she started joining beauty pageants. “I was 18 then, and this became my passion,” she said. “I and my friends decided to just join a pageant; and I had fun experiencing what was happening backstage and onstage, so I continued joining pageants.”
Since 2017, she must have joined over 20 beauty pageants already. “But I only join pageants when I have free time, or when I am readily available.”
Sophia already placed in pageants in Cavite, and even won titles already. The biggest prize money she said she got was from P7,000 to P10,000.
“It hurts when you don’t win. I particularly feel sad because of the effort given by my handler and my friends,” she said. “But I also take these failures to become better, and use them to win in the next pageants.”
Having finished college at Cavite State University-Main Campus (with a degree of Bachelor of Science-Business Management, majoring in marketing management), Sophia is currently working as a call center agent.
But “I am looking forward to having a stable job that will help me provide for the needs of my family.”
To younger LGBTQIA people, “be true to yourself,” Sophia said. “Being true to yourself will lead you to become a better person, to become a stronger individual who can influence other people as well.”
And to people who continue to discriminate or bully members of the LGBTQIA community, “you’re not doing anything (substantial) to us. All you do is say that we’re failures; that we’re not really members of this society. But I can say that there’s nothing you can really do; we’re already here. And we’ll prove to you that we’re living (our lives) and we’re (going for it).”