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Living as a genderqueer person in Ilocos Norte

Meet 24-year-old genderqueer person Shalala, who initially had a hard time with her family, but now works as an ‘empanada’ maker to better the lives of family members.

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.”

Twenty-four year-old Arzee Padayao – a.k.a. Shalala – from Ilocos Norte identifies herself as a “ladyboy”.

“I started expressing myself this way at the age of six. I was still in nursery school then,” she recalled, adding that “in high school, I realized I wasn’t happy as a male. I was happy being who I am, like this. I chose the happiness that I wanted.”

Looking back, she remembered that “at first it was hard for my family to accept me. It was difficult for them to accept the truth about who and what I am. But after some time passed with them knowing I’m like this, they slowly started to accept who and what I am. And now they completely accept me.”

Shalala has two female sibling; she’s the eldest. “The sibling after me married early, at the age of 18. The other one is in senior high school, in Grade 12, and about to graduate.”

She wants families of LGBTQIA people to be more accepting. “Do you know that gays will be the people who will help you? You won’t look for anything else because of them. So accept them completely.”

Looking back, she remembered that “at first it was hard for my family to accept me. It was difficult for them to accept the truth about who and what I am.”

DEALING WITH HATE

“I also experienced discriminatory acts. For instance, I was bullied, told I look like a man. I was also told I don’t belong here because we will just be judged, will not be respected, will remain unloved,” Shalala said. But “in my mind, I just ignore them.”

MAKING A LIVING

For work, Shalala makes empanada.

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“This is fun. When I feed many people, I make them happy,” she said, adding that this made her realize that “there are still people who love me, and I’m so blessed and so thankful.”

Now, family members are just at home. And so “I work because I want to help them. We’re not exactly affluent to just stay home and not make a living.”

In fact, Shalala is single now; “I just think of my family.”

“I still dream of going back to school. I want to enroll in a Hotel and Restaurant Management course. And maybe someday, I can give my family a good life,” she said.

But also for her, “it’s hard for LGBTQIA people to find partners in Ilocos Norte. Here, you won’t see flamboyant LGBTQIA people. Most of them here are in ‘alter’. So it’s hard looking for them.”

But still, for her, “it’s not that hard to be a ‘ladyboy’ in Ilocos. Actually, I may be LGBTQIA but I’m not ostentatious. I am not like those who are on the streets, or just get drunk. I am a homebody. From work, I go home, where I stay. My friends told me: ‘Let’s have some fun!’. I tell them: ‘No need. Maybe another time, if I have spare time.’ Because now that’s my priority. To give more time to my family, and not for myself.”

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

“I still dream of going back to school. I want to enroll in a Hotel and Restaurant Management course. And maybe someday, I can give my family a good life,” she said.

“Many of younger LGBTQIA people aren’t respectful. But at that young age, you need to be respectful.”

To parents of kids who are members of the LGBTQIA community, Shalala said that “I hope you give them rights, give them love.”

But for her, responsibility also lies with members of the LGBTQIA community.

“To younger LGBTQIA people… Many of younger LGBTQIA people aren’t respectful. But at that young age, you need to be respectful. This way, others will also respect you,” Shalala ended. – WITH ARTHUR ABAD NWABIA

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Now, family members are just at home. And so “I work because I want to help them. We’re not exactly affluent to just stay home and not make a living.”

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