Seeing his photo in drag even while he was a very, very young boy served two purposes for Dennis Corteza.
One the one hand, it told him that his family was able to accept his uniqueness even at a very early stage. And secondly – and related to the first point – it served as an inspiration for him to accept his uniqueness at an early stage.
It was this that inspired him to helm Baby to Lady Gallery (BTLG), a “baby is now a lady campaign” so named because it aims to “recreate draghood photos/childhood drag.”
“My draghood photo was an inspiration for me. It tells me that your family was able to accept your uniqueness in an early stage. So it’s easier for me to accept who I am. By sharing to other families our draghood pics and stories, we hope they get the message that it is okay to be gay,” Dennis said. “There are families out there who love their gay kids no matter what. If you accept them in an early stage, the kids will also learn how to accept and love themselves because of your love and support you’ve given.”
SEED OF FUN
BTLG started as a “just for fun” project, with Dennis wanting to recreate his own/personal draghood photograph.
“The thought of recreating your draghood photo taken in the 1970s really excited me. I was so ahead of Tyra Banks based on my pose and pout in my draghood pic,” Dennis laughed. “It became more of a challenge for me, as I asked myself: ‘Can you still do it, Dennis?’”
In recreating his draghood photo, the late fashion designer Kenneth Chua was supposed to make Dennis’ red dress.
“During a fundraising event I hosted, I was selling (Chua’s) designs. There was a little black dress I was telling people to buy. ‘Buy this one,’ I said. ‘It’s a good investment. Toni Gonzaga once wore this in a pictorial.’ But no one was interested because it was a very sexy outfit. And then a friend shouted: ‘It suits you, Dennis!’ Then I thought, yes, the dress had the same cut as my draghood picture. So even then, I considered wearing the same dress – just in a different shade/color.”
Unfortunately, Chua was violently killed earlier this year.
Doing this, for Dennis, also serves to honor the memory of “my dear friend Kenneth Chua.”
Dennis shared the idea with Outrage Magazine, which suggested the broadening of the campaign to include other people to participate. And so BTLG came to be.
“Friends who are out and proud were the first ones to send pictures,” Dennis beamed.
Dennis’ friends helped to start the ball rolling. “Out and proud Noel (Contreras) and Assunta volunteered and shared their pictures and stories. Soon they will also participate in events that will feature the gallery through stand-up comedy, forum, Q&A, and a lot more chuvaness. My straight friends and ex-officemates Annie Monteverde and Anthony Villanueva helped with my make-up and photography,” Dennis said.
Outrage Magazine serves as the official online gallery.
For Dennis, “the experience behind the scenes of the recreation is also very important. You get to know more about your friends’ stories. The first three out and proud gays (who got involved) became really involved in LGBTQIA advocacies. Noel is known as the ‘Tutu Runner’ in marathons. Assunta works for the National Youth Commission and is a SOGIE advocate. Yours truly was recently the chairman of TSG2013MANILA, a gay Asian games.”
Dennis added: “In recreation, we will fight discrimination. By sharing our pics and stories, we hope to inspire other gays (out or not) to recreate their draghood photos. It’s nice to know that ‘Marami pala tayo, libo-libo (There are many of us; in the thousands)’. Let’s all join forces and express ourselves freely in this gallery. We are not alone and should be proud of our uniqueness. Also, in the process of recreating your draghood photos with the help of your family and friends (gay or straight) you are also recreating the love and support, on and off camera.”
Aside from the campaign another fundraising campaign was born. A series of FUNdraising events for an anti-LGBT discrimination animation for kids.
Everyone is now being enjoined to share their fiercest and “dragest” childhood photos.
- Year of draghood, and recent lady photo.
- Name of participant (with or without last name)
- If you can talk to your young self, what will you say or advice?
Alternatively, upload your photographs using the hashtags #BTLG, #babytolady, and/or #babyisnowalady in Facebook and Twitter.
“So, come, join na!” Dennis ended.