By Krizia Consolacion
I belong to the cultural minority group (bag-o) that thrives in the highlands of the northern Philippines. Living there is not easy because there are times that our place is isolated for days during typhoons/heavy rains (due to landslides and/or overflowing of the river that connects us with other municipalities). Whenever we go down to the lowlands to buy our needs/supplies you would hear some people say we are “taga-banbantay” or “taga–third floor” (people from the mountain). They’d make you feel like we are lesser human being than they do – you could vividly see and hear ‘discrimination’ from them – they just don’t know how we love to breathe fresh air, play at the vast green lands and swim in a river teeming with fishes!
I am a transgender woman and I am proud of my being. I started to identify myself as such when I was in the first grade, when I’d sneak into my sister’s room and wear her dress as if I am wearing the best evening gown ever made at that time. I also used to wear my bath towel wrapped around my head as if my hair was long. My journey started when my parents sent me to a bigger municipality in the lowlands to pursue my secondary education, I was fourteen by then – I went outside my comfort zone at such a young age with only my dreams coupled by my parents teachings. Little did I know that what’s waiting for me there is not what I expected at all. I experienced being discriminated just because I am part of a cultural minority group and at the same for being myself – it is a double whammy for me! Some students wouldn’t want to be with me and a couple of teachers would favor students from the lowlands over me.
One experience I cannot forget is when I filed my candidacy for president to one of the school’s organizations – one of the cisgender male candidates shouted at me right in front of my face – “Ang kapal ng mukha mong tumakbo!” – like I don’t have the right to do it, that I am not as qualified as him! As Geena (Rocero) said yesterday – ‘As long as you pursue your truth, you can never go wrong’! I stood on my ground, did my best and ignored people who steal dreams.
When I finished my degree in the university, I started organizing a small group in my hometown which aims to empower each member and to make them feel valued and make them feel that sense of belongingness. I also worked with our local government unit and organized beauty pageants in our town – whenever I ask help to our municipal officials I always tell them that transgender people like me are part of their constituents and that we cannot just be ignored, nor put on the wayside because whether they like it or not, we also contribute to the progress and development of our community.
The Association of Transgender People in the Philippines, the organization where I belong, greatly helped me further my advocacy in bringing forth awareness of transgenderism back in my hometown. With all the projects and programs that we do (even with little funds) like awareness campaign, personality development training, campaigns for Stop Trans Pathologization, IDAHOT, TDOR, et cetera, and with the support system that we have which is part of our culture being a trans-organization, I am sure that I, being a transgender woman and member of a cultural minority will be able to give back knowledge and share experiences to my fellow trans-people who share the same roots, and at the same time empowering them to make their own marks in our biased, judgmental, and discriminating society.
I would like to end this by saying that we are all people living in the same solid ground – with differences but still belonging to the same species. My hopes and dreams continue. And the next time we see each other in an event like this, I hope that we no longer discuss violence, death, and discrimination to members of the the LGBTI communities, rather we are having dialogue regarding our contributions and ways and means to further our advocacies towards nation building!
This is the speech delivered by Krizia Consolacion at the regional dialogue on LGBTI rights and health in Asia and the Pacific, held in Bangkok, Thailand. Consolacion is a board member of the Association of Transgender People in the Philippines (ATP); and the chairwoman of ATP – QC Chapter.