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My life as a beautician

What is it like to work as a beautician to support your entire family in the province? Outrage Magazine chats with Jillian Agbuya, who has been working in the beauty industry since after she finished high school, just so she can send money to her family in Pangasinan.

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.”

Jillian Agbuya, 23, only just finished high school when she started working as a beautician.

When she was younger, “gusto kong maging (I wanted to be a) teacher, a psychologist, a model,” she said, wanly smiling. None of these happened, though Jillian just looks at how she ended up in a positive way. “Masaya na rin ako kung ano naging trabaho ko (I also find happiness in the job I ended up having).”

Though Jillian identifies as a “babaehan (like a woman)”, she does not see herself as a trans woman. This is because of a misconception – i.e. she believes that only those who can afford to undergo gender affirmation surgery can use the term “trans”. And so she offhandedly uses words like “gay”, “bakla” and “babaehan” to refer to herself, even if her lived experience is that of a straight (trans) woman. If she is given the chance, she would like to be a “real woman” by “becoming trans”; though she said it saddens her that she has to save a lot just to be able to identify as a “trans woman”.

As a “babaehan”, she uses the female pronoun (thus the use here).

Originally from Pangasinan, Jillian moved to Caloocan when she finished high school around six years ago. “Doon ako tumagal ng (I stayed there for) five years,” she said, crediting her past workplace as “doon ko natutunan lahat (where I learned everything).”

Jillian, by the way, also studied cosmetology with Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

As the fifth of 11 kids, Jillian said her family always “nag-udyok (encouraged)” for her to be the way she is. All her elder siblings are male, so her father – who wanted a girl – encouraged for her to be “girly”. They bought her dresses, and treated her as a girl; and so, for Jillian, it wasn’t surprising she became what she is now. She was in Grade 1 (around seven years old) when she realized she was part of the LGBTQI community.

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When she graduated from high school, Jillian actually wanted to pursue college. She even started inquiring about BS Psychology. But then, “sa kawalan ng pera (because we are not financially capable),” she had to stop schooling and start working.

Nung una, nahirapan ako (At first I had a hard time, too),” she said. “Pero ngayon, easy-easy na lang (But things come easily to me now).”

Jillian is the breadwinner of her family. Daily, she earns from P300 to over P1,000; and every week, she sends money to her mother.

Now working – and living – in Makati City, she hopes to be with her family when she gets older, and hopefully already running her own business. “Sila talaga priority ko eh (My family is really my priority),” she said.

Jillian said she never regretted being “babaehan”. “Paninindigan ko talaga pagiging (ganito) ko (I really stand up to what I turned out to be),” she said. “Kasi kung iisipin ko ang pam-bu-bully sa akin ng mga tao, wala naman silang ginagawa para sa kagandahan ng buhay ko eh, kundi sarili ko lang (If I pay attention to those who bully me, I realize they don’t really do anything to better my life anyway; it’s only me who looks after myself).”

And this more empowered perspective is what she hopes young LGBTQI people to learn.

Maging ka-respe-respeto; huwag maging bastusin. Kailangan maging proud ka kung sino ka basta huwag ka lang gumawa ng masama sa kapuwa mo… para sa susunod na henerasyon para malinis ang ating pangalan bilang LGBT community (Be a respectful/respectable person. You should also be proud of who you are; and don’t do anything bad to others… for the next generation and for the entire community to have a good name),” Jillian ended.

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