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Living queer and carefree in Balayan, Batangas

Born in #Mindanao as #LGBTQIA with #cleftpalate, Teacher Nicolai Jimenez Sison used to encounter #discrimination for being different. Moving to #Batangas helped her find herself, as she is now a locally-recognized choreographer and make-up artist. Even discrimination can be a motivation to improve oneself further, she said, so “take what they say to better yourself.”

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.”

Growing up as a queer child in Lanao del Norte in Mindanao, Nicolai Jimenez Sison remembers experiencing discrimination and even harassment not only because of her SOGIESC but also because of her cleft palate, a medical condition occurring when the tissue that makes up the lip does not join completely during development in the womb. This difficulty was – in a way – cut short when, in 2009, Nicolai moved to Balayan, Batangas, where her father’s based, so she could continue her studies there (after failing in some subjects in a university in Mindanao).

Living in Balayan, Batangas was “different”, said Nicolai to Outrage Magazine, since the environment was “friendlier”. She thinks this may be because “people here in Balayan are friendly, and they don’t interact much with others out of their fear to be judged.”

But this change helped Nicolai live queer and carefree, as she now focuses on reaching her dreams.

Of course there are people who remain critical of her, but Nicolai dismisses this as product “of envy or spite.”

PASSION & PRESTIGE

Beginning in 2012, in her second/third year in college, Nicolai’s careers took off.

First, she found work as a dance choreographer, a job that – in fact – gave her the name she uses now: “Teacher Nicolai” or just “Teacher N”, after the popular Georcelle or Teacher G of G-Force. 

But Nicolai also soon became a freelance make-up artist, another career path that she now focuses on. 

Nicolai believes that her passion in what she does gave her the respect she now receives. “It feels good to be finally respected,” she said, adding that there are LGBTQIA people who even “idolize me.” 

For Nicolai, even discrimination can be a motivation to improve oneself further.

There are also people who defend her from discriminatory acts because, yes, she’s “Teacher Nicolai”.

Of course there are people who remain critical of her, but Nicolai dismisses this as product “of envy or spite.”

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Besides, Nicolai said, even if people may discriminate her, “I don’t care. Kung lalabanan ko yung mga taong nanlalait sa akin, para ko na ring nilabanan yung sarili ko (If I fight those who discriminate me, I also lose).” Instead, “God will take care of them.”

TRUTH AS MOTIVATION

For Nicolai, even discrimination can be a motivation to improve oneself further.

For her, in fact, people who speak bluntly to your face “actually just tell you the truth… about what they see.” And so for her, “I take those truths as a motivation to improve myself – e.g. if I am that unattractive to them, then I will make myself more beautiful.”

Yes, there are still times when it gets too much and that she breaks down too. This is why she makes sure to take a check on herself from time to time and recharge her energy by hanging out with her friends.

If I fight those who discriminate me, I also lose.” Instead, “God will take care of them.”

WORDS TO LIVE BY

And what advice can Nicolai give to LGBTQIA youth who are struggling to gain respect and find their place in the sun?

“Just pursue what you want in life,” she said. “Use your skills and talents to make names for yourselves.”

And yes, “don’t be afraid to start small,” she added, noting that she also just started small (as an assistant) until her craft as a freelance makeup artist was finally recognized.

But in the end, “in order to be respected, we must respect others as well,” she said, “and be kind to everyone.”

“Just pursue what you want in life,” she said. “Use your skills and talent to make names for yourselves.”

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