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.”
Airah Austria, 37, was in Grade 3 in elementary school when she discovered – for herself – that she was “different” from boys her age.
“Yung boys, masculine; pero ako, I feel feminine. Tapos ang gusto ko kalaro, mga girls. Mahilig ako sa mga larong pambabae, especially Barbie, mga paper dolls (They were masculine and I was feminine. My playmates were girls; I liked playing only games stereotypically associated with girls, especially with Barbie and paper dolls),” she recalled.
This realization made her admit then that “I discovered I’m gay.”
Airah was, in a way, luckier. Though a product of a broken family, her grandmother – who raised her – accepted her “for who I am and what I am.”
Outside her home, of course, she also experienced discrimination and bullying – e.g. getting taunted for being “different”.
But – particularly as she gets older – Airah said “binigyan ko ng magandang pananaw para maging diretso yung pananaw ko din sa buhay (I looked at these in a positive light. I did this so that I would also have a positive outlook in life).”
A few years back, while working in a salon, Airah remembered singing with who’s on the radio. “One of our clients was a road manager. He asked me if I wanted to work in comedy bars (as a host/singer). I took this chance. So now I’m in this industry because I enjoy hosting any kind of events, and I love singing a lot.”
Being in this line of work is not (always) easy.
“This line of work can get difficult,” Airah said. For instance, she doesn’t always earn well. “There are also times when the person who asked you to host is a friend, and he/she asked for a discounted rate, you give in.”
Not that this really bothers Airah.
“Giving discounts is okay for me as long as I am happy with what I am doing. This is what’s more important for me. As long as you enjoy what you’re doing, nothing is really that difficult to do.”
Discrimination can also be hurled her way even when she’s onstage.
“As a singer/comedienne, when I encounter discrimination while onstage, I try to make light of the situation. But I also make it a point to leave messages for them to realize that we’re also humans created by God, and that we need to be respected. Just like them, we’re also normal people,” she said.
Just as she is about to turn 38, Airah said she is focusing on saving money “so that when I’m older, I won’t be in a pitiful state. I have encountered some older LGBTQIA people who go from one parlor to another, asking for money to sustain them. I don’t want that to happen to me. So I work hard now. So that when I get older, someone would look after me. Even if they’re only doing this because I have money.”
Airah used to have a partner for 12 years. That turned sour when the guy got another woman pregnant, something Airah sadly said was “bound to happen because I can’t bear him children.”
And this makes her sad and “at times lonely,” she said, “especially since my grandparents are gone, and I am all alone… But kaya naman (I can bear this loneliness).”
Looking forward, Airah believes she’d continue doing what she’s doing “for as long as I can sing, for as long as I can stand onstage… I’ll try to continue making people happy.”
Her message to those who continue to bully LGBTQIA people: “Please stop. Because we are also human beings; we were also created by God. Ginagawa lang namin yung pamamaraang alam naming tama, na ikaliligaya din namin. Because at the end of the day, tayo-tayo din ang magtutulungan (We live our lives just as we see fit; and in ways that also make us happy. At the end of the day, people should help people). So please stop discrimination.”
And to other LGBTQIA people, especially those younger than she is, “study well. Make yourself productive so people won’t also discriminate against you. We, ourselves, decide our own fates.”
Airah is big on resilience while just doing what’s good.
“Don’t mind those people who discriminate against you as long as you do good to your fellow citizens, you do good to your country. LGBTQIA people are not doing anything wrong as long as we don’t step on others, and we live with dignity,” Airah ended.