“For me, my relationship is none of your business; it’s not like you’ve even given me a peso (to sustain us),” said transgender man Ziekent Luchana Dela Peña, who’s in a relationship with bisexual woman Ash Padillo. “So mind your own business.”
On top of this, added Ash, “they should start accepting that we exist,” and part of this is for LGBTQIA relationships to be given legal recognition so that “we can have legal rights as a couple. It’s fine if they don’t recognize us in the church; but – in recognition of the separation of the Church and State – they should start accepting us.”
The two met at a gathering of members of a Facebook GC (group chat). At that time (December 2014), recalled Ash, “I was looking for a safe space”, and she found this GC where Ziekent was already a member of.
Ziekent admitted that when he first saw Ash, he felt “normal”; after all, he was busy welcoming the other GC members as one of the longer-term admins. “I just made her experience with us pleasurable,” he laughed.
“He was a snob,” Ash recalled, considering that she knew she had romantic inclinations. The two met again after that, though still via the GC. Though, eventually, they started dating… “until (what we have) now.”
Ziekent added that he was “broken” at that time, and he wasn’t really looking for a relationship. But Ash was always there, so he thought to himself, ‘Why not give this a try?’ Perhaps it will work.”
“I don’t think it was love at first sight,” Ash said, though she said she saw someone she can spend her life with, and as a self-described go-getter, she said so. “There was nothing he could do; I get what I want.”
They became “them” on February 1, 2015 – a date Ash teased Ziekent to remember.
As was in the closet for over 30 years before she met Ziekent. So her family was not too thrilled discovering she’s with a transgender man. This forced her to leave home to be with her partner.
“We had to wait a year (before I communicated with them again),” Ash said, adding that this came after Ziekent encouraged her to do so, telling her “we’re not kids anymore.”
The two visited Ash’s family. There, family members did not outright disown them; but – Ash teased – Ziekent had to “prove” himself, as traditional heterosexual men tend to do when visiting their partners’ families. “He cleaned the backyard, did things like that. He showed off.”
They eventually came to terms with the relationship.
It’s different in Ziekent’s family’s case because they’re welcoming of LGBTQIA people, with many family members belonging to the LGBTQIA community. “It’s not new to them,” he said.
BEST OF EACH OTHER
They’ve been living together since February 1, 2015.
For Ash, Ziekent is the complete opposite of what she is. “For example, I spend a lot; he looks after his finances carefully. I’m sort of messy; he’s not.” But for her, “he makes me better. He complements (me), and I learn from it. So I learned to become a better person.”
But Ziekent said Ash has helped him personally developed as well. For instance, in the past, he won’t pamper himself by eating in a fancy restaurant (“I may as well buy the ingredients and cook the food myself,” he smiled), but Ash made him realize it’s okay to do this now and then.
Obviously, the blending of their differences is a challenge – e.g. the way they look at finances is different. But then “we are able to discuss, so I feel safe,” said Ash.
A good lesson they both learned is to allow the other to lead as needed. “We can’t be both alpha at the same time,” Ash said. Instead, there’s this learning to “let the other be the alpha in some situations.”
FINDING LOVE IN DAVAO CITY
Both think that finding love in Davao City isn’t necessarily hard for LGBTQIA people, particularly since there are now many community-based organizations that would allow one to meet others.
“We now have a lot of friends we can introduce to each other,” Ziekent said, “and this helps those in search of love.”
LOVE IS WORTH IT
Yes, LGBTQIA relationships are still not legally accepted in the Philippines, but being in one is still worth it, said Ziekent. “We have love to give the moment we were born,” he said. “You just share that love.”
“Even if there are no legal protections for LGBTQIA couples, I think it’s still worth it to love because… love always wins. No matter how hard you avoid it, it will always be there. As Ziekent said, the moment you’re born, love’s already there. And who you have so much love to give, you need to share it.”
Ash added, though, that because LGBTQIA relationships are not protected by law in the Philippines, those in it have to be wise. “You need to discuss (things),” she said – e.g. When buying property as a couple, who should be named at its owner? Things like this could be sources of fighting not just for the couple if/when they break up, but also their families if/when one of the partners passed away.
Nonetheless, “we should not stop pushing for (legal recognition of our relationships),” Ash stressed.
ENJOYING EACH MOMENT
Though they plan ahead, “if you ask us what our plans are, we actually just take it one day at a time,” Ash said. “We hope to grow old together. But you never know what’s going to happen. (And if things didn’t work out, then) we’ll try to be good persons outside of this relationship.”
Pensively, Ziekent added: “This is good until the end. But we’re ready for what could happen… while taking it one day at a time.”