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.”
Klein Jude Evardo Cortez – 25 years old from Macasandig, Cagayan de Oro City – said that for as long as she can remember, she always felt she’s a woman.
But as the second eldest among five kids, “at first my family was so shocked,” she recalled. “But as time passed, they accepted me wholeheartedly as part of the family. I just do things that ‘normal’ people do. So there’s not a lot of difference in me living as a trans woman.”
But Klein was not spared from discrimination.
LOOKING FOR SAFE SPACES
“When I went to elementary school, high school, college, and even now I experience being bullied. At times people call you: ‘Faggot!’. Or they say: ‘What, you’re trans?!’. I was also discriminated when using the public toilet of a mall. This is a sad reality for us; that people are still not accepting, or should I say still not open to LGBTQIA people,” Klein said.
She added: “People are still close-minded about the realities of the trans community. When people see us, transgender women, they still think: ‘That is a gay guy.’ They assume we still have the male genitalia. So dealing with this in the community is so challenging. This may not seem like a big deal that hinders our lives, but it’s a challenge for us to educate people what, really, is a trans woman.”
TRANS IN LOVE
Though Klein is in a relationship now, she knows it’s hard for transgender women to find relationships.
“To be honest, finding love as a trans woman is so hard. This is because people… guys are hesitant to commit with members of the transgender community. They are afraid of the judgment, of the criticisms of people. I think this hinders them from loving, or expressing their feelings to members of the trans community,” she said.
CREATING A COMMUNITY
A graduate of Bachelor of Secondary Education from Ateneo de Cagayan, Klein work as a mental health support officer of community-based organization Oro Pia Community Center. She believes that “an issue faced by the trans community in Cagayan de Oro City is stigma and discrimination. There’s the challenge in the use of public toilets by transgender people. On this issue, people tend to be afraid or have a hard time dealing with us when we use toilets for women,” she said. “People don’t see that trans women are also part of the community of women. We may not have the genitalia that they have, but we already live as women. This makes us women, as well, no matter our genitalia.”
Klein noted that there are organizations existing to support trans people. “But they don’t do much to protect our rights. There are still barriers facing members of the trans community. There’s stigma and discrimination when we access facilities/services, or even when we talk about politics. Often, trans people are segregated from the straight community, and even from the LGBTQIA community.”
All the same, Klein thinks LGBTQIA organizations are relevant since “lelonging to an organization lifts people’s self-esteem and strengthens people’s humanity. We have to build humanity in society; and organizations help do that.”
Klein admitted that “at times it’s the LGBTQIA community that makes problems or barriers for us, trans people. At times members of the LGBTQIA community fight each other. They discriminate each other because of the way they look, because of their status, or whatever. It’s very disappointing seeing those within our LGBTQIA community. But I’m really hoping that the LGBTQIA community will unite to attain its main goal. Which is to strengthen the camaraderie among the members. Because no one will help LGBTQIA people but LGBTQIA people.”
WORDS OF WISDOM
The Ms. Kagay-an Plus 2019 said: “Respect yourself because everything begins within ourselves. If you do not respect yourself, if you do not act with integrity and dignity, then definitely, people will not see the merit in valuing you as well. So to address the issue of acceptance of the trans community, it must begin within ourselves.”
Particularly to younger trans people, “just be yourself,” Klein said. “Don’t be afraid to show who you really are, and what you really are. You have to remember that you don’t have to be at the same level as others. Be true to who and what you are. This is what makes you different; or should I say, unique.”
Klein knows others continue not to fully accept LGBTQIA people, even those in their families. She wants people to remember, therefore, that “LGBTQIAs are also human beings. We deserve to love and be loved as well, most particularly in our families. Our families should be the first to accept us. We’re no different from other family members; we’re also humans. We’re not nothing, as well. LGBTQIA people can still contribute to make changes in this world. So I hope non-accepting family members open their minds and see the reality that LGBTQIA people are not just good for nothing.”
And to her fellow Cagayanons, in particular, Klein said: “I know there’s no rush for you to accept us. But let me say one thing to enlighten and encourage you. To recognize that we’re also human beings. As I keep mentioning, it sounds cliché, but it’s one thing that you need to realize, that we have to preserve life, we have to be united in society, and to live in a humane world, we have to have humanity as well.”