This is part of #KaraniwangLGBTQIA, 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 LGBTQIA 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.”
Even when Ziekent Luchana Dela Peña – now 40 years old and based in Davao City – was young, “I knew I was assigned female, but I identified as male,” he said, recalling that “I didn’t like it when they bought me skirts, or women’s clothes. I also didn’t play games associated with girls.”
At that time, he didn’t know about SOGIESC, so “at that time, I thought I was a lesbian. I discovered I’m trans following SOGIESC lessons in the LGBTQIA community.”
“There were three of us in my father’s first family, but two siblings died, so I was
left alone. My dad has four kids in his second family, so there are five of us now,” Ziekent said. “I didn’t experience not being accepted in my family. I am open to my father; he accepts me.”
It helps, perhaps, that he has LGBTQIA relatives. “Being LGBTQIA runs in our blood, so he is accepting of it; it’s normal for him,” Ziekent said.
Ziekent completed high school, and then studied at the University of Mindanao, but stopped after my first year in college. Now, “ I am not employed now, but I have a small business.”
Looking back, too, “In the community, I experienced being mocked, like when playmates called me: ‘Tomboy! Tomboy!’ But that was nothing to me; it was normal. After all, I am a tomboy,” Ziekent said. “You just don’t react; there’s nothing you can really do.”
CREATING A FAMILY
With his partner, Ziekent established the United Lesbians of Davao.
“In the past, I was part of a different group. But I didn’t learn anything from them because the members just wanted to party,” he recalled. “I suggested to them for us to do outreach activities, do community service. People already don’t think highly of us, and we just show them our vices, and this worsens their views of us. Some leaders of that group didn’t care. So I left that group; and with my partner, we established the United Lesbians of Davao.”
For Ziekent, “having this LGBTQIA organization helped us a lot. This is where you learn about being LGBTQIA. Where we know why LGBTQIA people exist.”
An issue affecting the LGBTQIA community in Davao is the toilet access of transgender women. “Many think that when you’re assigned male, you use male toilet; assigned female, then use female toilet,” Ziekent said. “This is one issue of discrimination I noted in my community.”
He added: “Personally, I use male toilets, particularly when female toilets in malls are busy. Sometimes I get offended when people address me with ‘Ma’am’. I say, ‘Sir’. I just tell them, ‘I’m a Sir’. But when others don’t want to learn, you just try to understand them.”
Generally, though, “for me, it’s not hard to be LGBTQIA in Davao City,” Ziekent said. “It helps that we now have LGBTQIA coalition here; we’re united. Maybe it’s different in provinces, like Samal. But here in Davao City, we’re okay; our mayor loves LGBTQIA people.”
Now partnered, Ziekent thinks that finding love in Davao “isn’t hard as long as you’re serious with finding a partner.”
And “to people who think LGBTQIA relationships don’t last, let me say that even those in legal relationships separate. It’s the same with us. But this always depends on people. If you and your partner have an understanding, you will stay together.”
WORDS OF WISDOM
“To younger LGBTQIA people in Davao City, continue doing what you’re doing. If that’s what you really want, don’t stop. Just do good things to others. Because no matter how gay you may be, if you do good, the time will come when others will accept you,” Ziekent said.
To those who can’t accept LGBTQIA family members? “To parents, your LGBTQIA kids are your own; you can’t change that, so just accept it. It’s sad if we don’t accept them because as parents, we should be the first to give love to our kids. How can others accept them if you, as a parent, can’t? They’re also humans.”
And to those who are in Davao who can’t accept LGBTQIA people, “there’s nothing you can do; there’s many of us. LGBTQIA people exist. It’s okay not to accept us, as long as you don’t discriminate against us,” Ziekent ended.