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.”
Jeff Cagandahan – 38 years old; from Paete, Laguna – was assigned female at birth, named Jennifer Cagandahan. But even “when I was young, I knew I was different. I couldn’t exactly say when I knew; but I knew even as a kid that I’m different.”
At that time, Jeff said he didn’t know of intersex conditions, but “I knew I’m different because of my ambiguous genitalia. I was assigned female at birth, but my genitalia wasn’t what was usually found in women.”
Jeff said that it wasn’t necessarily difficult being different when he was young. But it became more difficult as he got older.
To start, “I no longer identified as a woman would. I really saw myself as a man.”
This proved to be hard because of the social expectations linked with gender. For instance, while in elementary school, “I found it difficult to wear skirts just because I was assigned female at birth. It was difficult to act as a woman just because I was given a female name at birth. Because I identified as a man, it was hard to live as a woman. I thought and felt as a man, so there was a disconnect.”
Hi parents also do not talk about his condition at home. “And as much as possible, they do not want to talk about this at home.”
And when he started looking for a job, it was also difficult because his gender marker then was female, but his gender expression was masculine. And since it was a time when “female educators were told to wear skirts”, Jeff was also expected to wear skirts for work, befitting his sex assigned at birth.
“I couldn’t live like that anymore,” Jeff recalled, “so I decided to file a petition in court to change my name and my gender marker.”
On December 11, 2003, Jeff filed a Petition for Correction of Entries in Birth Certificate before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 33 of Siniloan, Laguna. Specifically, he asked to change his name, and his sex (from female to male). His reason: He developed male characteristics while growing up because of a condition called Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH); this is one of the 40+ intersex conditions.
On January 12, 2005, the RTC granted Jeff’s petition. The RTC ordered the following changes of entries in Cagandahan’s birth certificate:
(1) The name Jennifer Cagandahan changed to Jeff Cagandahan
(2) His gender from female to male
The Office of the Solicitor General appealed the RTC’s decision. The OSG used the Silverio argument – that “Rule 108 does not allow change of sex or gender in the birth certificate”, and that “CAH does not make her a male”.
But in 2008, the Supreme Court (SC) sided with Jeff.
In its 2008 decision, the highest court stated:
“Ultimately, we are of the view that where the person is biologically or naturally intersex the determining factor in his gender classification would be what the individual… thinks of his/her sex.”
The SC added:
“(The) respondent is the one who has to live with his intersex anatomy.To him belongs the human right to the pursuit of happiness and of health. Thus, to him should belong the primordial choice of what courses of action to take along the path of his sexual development and maturation.”
The decision was written by Associate Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing; with Conchita Carpio Morales, Dante O. Tinga, Presbitero J. Velasco Jr. and Arturo D. Brion concurring.
“When the SC rendered its decision, I felt relieved knowing I can now live as I see fit. I can choose the gender I identify as; I no longer had to hide. I felt relieved after finally getting what I desired for so long. Those were very happy days for me,” Jeff said.
How did people react?
“With my family… even before the SC decision, they already knew/treated me as male.” Meanwhile, “I live in a small town, and people already know me there; but they knew more of me when the court’s decision was released. A lot of people understand my situation. But it can’t be avoided that there are still people who still don’t understand my condition.”
There have been major changes in Jeff’s life since then. He is now “happily married; I have a child. I live as a man.”
And because of the court’s decision, “I can now help others like me.”
One of the advocacies of intersex people is to stop gender mutilation. The LGBT community does not give this attention, said Jeff, because it’s particular to the intersex community.
But “this is one of our advocacies because we believe that a person, a child should be able to decide his/her gender. A person should be able to choose the gender he/she wants to live as.”
BECOMING AN INTERSEX ADVOCATE
I became an advocate because I don’t want younger intersex people to experience the struggles I experienced. I want to take steps to make things easier for them.
Jeff is actually new to advocacy… even if the SC decided on his case in 2008.
“It took me so long to be an advocate because I had to learn self-acceptance first. It’s hard to help others when you can’t even help yourself. So I taught myself first about this; and to accept it. And then I became an advocate,” he said. “I accepted my intersex condition as a mission. A mission to help others. Intersex people should not be ashamed of their condition. To intersex people, you are not alone. I am here.”
Jeff also co-founded Intersex Philippines as a support group for intersex people in the Philippines.
NO LONGER INVISIBLE
“We are not rare. We are just invisible. And through the advocacy of Intersex Philippines, we’re no longer invisible,” he said. “I believe that through proper education,. and through sharing positive awareness about us, people’s minds will change.”
Moving forward, Jeff’s message to the LGBT community is: Always include “I”.
“It makes me happy that through the rainbow community, I meet other intersex people. This is because there are intersex people who ‘hide’ in the lesbian community, in the gay community,” he said.
It’s also “heartening that allies now approach to ask how they can help us. I hope you will continue helping, and include in your advocacies the intersex community.”
To intersex Filipinos, “Don’t be ashamed. Do not be ashamed that you are intersex. Be proud. I always believed that God did not make a mistake in creating us.”
And to people whose ways of seeing intersex people still haven’t changed, “it may be better to speak directly to us. Talk directly to those who experienced discrimination and struggles so you understand what we’re going through.”
Jeff added: “We’re also people; just like you. If you have rights, so do we. We just dream of living normally… properly. There’s nothing wrong with this.”
So “continue to educate yourselves about intersex conditions. And if you have questions, I am willing to talk, Intersex Philippines is willing to talk… so you can better understand this issue.”
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