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Madeline Cadiao: ‘Take pride in being different’

Meet Madeline Cadiao, here as part of #KaraniwangLGBT, which Outrage Magazine launched to offer vignettes of LGBT people/living. Born with restricted growth (a.k.a. dwarfism), Madie’s positive attitude has taught her to focus on the “good things in life.” Her restricted growth, for instance, taught her that “I won’t find out na kaya ko ni (I can do this).”

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.”

Born with restricted growth (otherwise known as dwarfism), and standing at only about 4’10’’, transpinay Madeline Cadiao (or Madie) is a bigger-than-life character.

“I am fierce,” she said. “I am not afraid to explore”.

Madie has – in fact – never considered her dwarfism as a weakness by Madie; instead, it served as some sort of badge of being a survivor, and of standing up against all odds.

“Every day is a learning process,” Madie said. “I am proud of my disability.”

A native of Oton, Iloilo, Madie finished Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of San Agustin, Iloilo (graduating “with the loudest applause from the audience,” she quipped with a smile). She is now pursuing her Masters of Arts in Public Administration from the same university.

Madie – who now works as a BPO travel account consultant – sees her career as her main priority in life.

“Lovelife is not my priority. Career goes first. Love comes unexpectedly,” said Madie, a fashion enthusiast and also a make-up artist. “If you are on the top, have the career and money, everything will follow. I’m on the process of (having) all that.”

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Madie was once elected in the Sangguniang Kabataan of her locality, where she was even elected as SK chairman at one time. There, she said she learned that – quoting political theorist Jean-Jacques Rousseau – “each person is good from birth.” So Madie wants to see first “the good in everyone.”

Madie identifies as a transwoman; but there’s also this confusion with the term (i.e. “trans”) being associated with those who already transitioned (e.g. underwent medical procedures to make changes on the body to align the same with one’s self-identity). On gender confirmation surgery, for instance, Madie said “I did not go through any surgery, Diyos ko (My God, I did not go through any surgery)!”

If she is given the chance, she’d like to legally change her name.

This is also why she likes working in a BPO company, since there, customers almost always address her as “Ma’am or Miss”. Her colleagues also see her as a woman, though she admitted that this may be based solely on her gender expression (i.e. on how she looks and how she dresses).

Like many of her transgender sisters, Madie also worries about the “dreaded bathroom issue.”

“Usually, I use the female comfort room (CR) when my friends ask me to put make up on them. However, I was called out one time because of company policy. Now, I am forced to use the male CR,” she said. “I want to use the female CR because… I’m a female.”

Madie’s dwarfism has positive and negative effects on her life.

For Madie, who loves to travel alone, “iba ka gid ya, pagsulod ko pa lang diretso ko ya sa check-in and sa terminal kung mag travel ako (It’s really different for me. When I travel, I go directly to the check-in counter and the terminal),” she said when talking about the perks of having a “Person with Disability (PWD)” ID.

But she also admitted that “may mga struggles. Indi ko ka-enjoy kay dasig ko makapoy. Kung manghagad friends ko mag-marathon, indi ko na yah kaya (There are struggles. I can’t enjoy at times because I get tired so easily. If my friends invite me to join a marathon, I can’t join them).”

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But Madie always had the support of family and friends, something she is grateful to have.

“My mom is the first person to accept me. She was proud of me despite me being ‘physically challenged’. She was proud of my achievements. She encouraged me during my elementary days, especially when I was being bullied,” Madie said.

Madie’s positive attitude taught her to focus on the “good things in life.” Her restricted growth, for instance, taught her that “I won’t find out na kaya ko ni (I can do this).”

Earlier interviewed by Carlo Evidente for “Humans of Iloilo”, Madie was quoted as saying: “If I were to write a book about myself the title would be ‘Coping Up with Criticism’. Sometimes there are children who imitate the way I walk. It’s actually quite depressing. However, I learned how to smile towards my critics.”

And even as she continues to face discrimination, most of them based on how she looks, Madie remains resolute. “I am not here for you,” she said, with pride. “I am here for my dreams.”


Justin is a proud Ilonggo, as much as he is a proud LGBT advocate for the youth. A political science student from West Visayas State University, he is the founder of The Student Advocates for Gender Equality (SAGE) Network. At 19 years old, Justin has already given SOGIE, HIV and AIDS, and human rights talks and lectures. He is also a Department of Health HIV and AIDS VCT counselor; and a volunteer and member of Youth Voices Count - Asia, a youth initiative led by young MSM and transgender women. As an advocate, he believes that "only when a brave few will raise the rainbow flag can the LGBT movement really reach its pinnacle."


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