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Ang prinsesa ng Divisoria

Meet Avril, here as part of #KaraniwangLGBT, which Outrage Magazine launched to offer vignettes of LGBT people/living. Avril finds some comfort in knowing “naay Guinoo (there’s God). Kung may problema, musimba mi; ma-Diyosnon (When we have problems, we go to church; we become believers).” Though for now, “lipay lang ko (I’m just happy),” Avril says.

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Not that many people actually know her name. Instead, locals just know her as “kanang ga-pangayo ug P55.00 para sa chicken fillet (that one who begs for P55.00 for chicken fillet).” In fact, “kung hatagan nimo’g P20.00, mu-reklamo siya; tag-P55.00 daw ang chicken fillet (if you give her P20.00, she’d complain; she’d say that chicken fillet costs P55.00).”

She’s a “resident” of Divisoria in downtown Cagayan de Oro City – that is, because she’s homeless, she now partially resides in the plaza (i.e. Divisoria), her means of living mainly to beg for whatever passersby can give her.

Meet Avril – so called because “ga-admire ko kay (I admire) Avril Lavigne,” she said – the self-proclaimed “prinsesa sa (princess of) Divisoria.”

LIFE STEPS

Avril actually found her way to Divisoria sometime after 2011.

In December 2011, when tropical storm Washi (locally known as Bagyong Sendong) made a landfall over Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro City was among the places most affected. In fact, as per the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the storm took the lives of 1,472 people, with 1,074 more missing and 1,748 others injured. Total infrastructure damage reached billions of pesos.

Avril’s family – who lived in a barangay (village) called Indahag – was among those affected. “Nadaot tanan (Everything was destroyed),” she said.

Her family was relocated, but Avril left her family. “Mingaw man gud didto sa (It’s lonely in the) relocation site,” she said. With a friend, another transwoman, “sa plaza na mi nipuyo (we lived in the plaza).”

Avril’s parents – and her five siblings for that matter – were never cruel to her. In fact, “wala ko gikasab-an nga girl ko (I was never reprimanded for being a transgirl),” she said. “Mahadlok man sila nga mulayas ko (They feared that I’d run away).”

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Avril was “gi-palangga (beloved).” “Wala man ko gikulata sa balay. Ganahan sila nga ingun-ani ko kay naa mutabang a paglimpyo (I was never abused at home. They liked that I’m like this because I helped clean the house),” she said.

Avril also helped her mom do laundry. “Labandera man si mama. Isa ka balde, P100 bayad. Mga silingan ang gilabhan (My mom was a laundrywoman. For one pail of laundry, P100 is the payment. We did the neighbors’ laundry),” she said.

Whatever was earned added to her father’s earnings as a panday (blacksmith).

In hindsight, she has some good memories from home. “Nakatuon ko mag-bra sa akong ate (I learned how to use bra from my elder sister),” she said with a laugh. But she has bad memories from home, too. “Dili na ko ka-eskuwela kay gigisi sa ako magulang ako card – special child man gud siya (I can’t go back to school because my elder sibling tore my school car – that sibling is a ‘special child’),” she said.

Avril would occasionally cross paths with her family members, but she said “dili jud ko muuli. Ambot asa sila; bahala sila (I will never go home. I don’t know where they are; I let them be/I don’t care about them).”

Then, with a loud laugh, she said: “Friendship lang kaya ko ibigay sa kanila (I can only give them friendship).”

STARTING EARLY

Avril recalled having her first sexual experience when she was 12 years old, also with a 12-year-old. “Silingan namo (It was with a neighbor),” she said. “Pero sa baba lang [But it was just the mouth (i.e. oral sex)].”

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She was 14 when she first had penetrative sex, this time with a 20-year-old man. “Fourteen ko nalubutan – siya jud naka-virgin (I was 14 when I was anally penetrated – he was the one who really devirginized me).”

That sexual experience happened under Carmen Bridge, which is also know as the place where most of the homeless in Cagayan de Oro City head to wash up.

Nowadays, Avril continues to be sexually active. These sexual contacts happen “kasagaran sa kasagbutan (often, in grassy areas),” she said.

There were times in the past when – as a minor – she was taken by the City Social Welfare and Development (CSWD) with the other minors who also lived on the streets, “ganahan pud ko (I also liked that),” Avril said. “Reklamo ka pa, daghan laki dadto (How can you complain when there are many guys there)!”

Now that she said she’s no longer a “bata nga bantayunon sa CSWD (a child that CSWD has to look after),” Avril remains happy that “akong kinabuhi ako-a (I live my life the way I want).”

She claims to have a stalker – a taxi driver who is also (and without playing with words) a “client”. “Didto ko niya sa ngitngit kuhaon (He’d pick me up in dark areas),” Avril said. “Lami man pud kay humot man siya (It feels good, too, because he smells good).”

Avril prides herself of knowing safer sexual practices. “Mu-condom jud ko (I make sure I use condom),” she said. But for lubricant, she uses “cooking oil – mupalit ko sa tindahan (I buy from a convenience store).” And if cooking oil isn’t available, “Cream Silk na lang (I use Cream Silk shampoo).”

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Avril had regular boyfriends before – one when she was 15, and another only recently. Both boyfriends left her when they met partners who were assigned female at birth.

Magkita mi, wala tagdanay (We see each other, we don’t pay attention to each other),” Avril said.

A DAY AT A TIME

Sleeping on benches in the plaza isn’t easy, Avril said. “Kung muulan, sa ‘dorm’ mi mudayon (When it rains, we proceed to our ‘dorm’),” she said; that “dorm” referring to the façade of the Red Ribbon branch in Divisoria.

The begging doesn’t always go well, too, so that “kung dili muhatag, awayon (if they don’t give me anything, I quarrel with them),” she laughed. “Sultian nako: ‘Wala forever!’ Masuko sila [I tell them: ‘There’s no forever!’ They get angry).”

The expression “There’s no forever!” is used to highlight that no relationship lasts long/forever; and that everything ends.

Most people, though, remain nice to Avril. “Muhatag sila’g kuwarta. Usahay, mamata ko, naay pagkaon (They give me food. Sometimes, when I wake up, there’s food there),” she said.

But she still prefers receiving cash – preferably P55.00 – so she can buy “chicken fillet sa McDonald’s.”

Avril finds some comfort in knowing “naay Guinoo (there’s God),” she said. “Kung may problema, musimba mi; ma-Diyosnon (When we have problems, we go to church; we become believers).”

Avril, of course, eyes to have better life – “mu-eskuwela tingali (perhaps go back to school),” she said. But for now, “lipay lang ko (I’m just happy),” Avril ended.

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Gandang Elden

#Cotabato City-based Elden Lopena – who realized he’s gay when he’s 16 – did not immediately accept his #SOGIESC; but his exposure to the #LGBT community persuaded him he belonged, leading to self-acceptance. Now a successful cosmetologist in #Maguindanao, he also teaches younger LGBTQIA people to be better versions of themselves.

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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.”

Elden Lopena, a 54-year-old hairstylist from Cotabato City, realized he’s gay when he was 16. “I just graduated from high school then,” he recalled. “I realized I’m gay when I got attracted to a male classmate, and we had sex.”

At first, Elden said he couldn’t accept he’s gay. “Gradually, I realized this makes me happy; particularly when I saw my (LGBTQIA environment). I was happy with the LGBTQIA circle I had, and this made me happy to be gay.”

Elden has three siblings (“I am the eldest”), so “it wasn’t easy for me to come out as gay. Although I knew my parents knew I’m gay, I still came out gradually.”

Elden thinks his parents really knew he’s gay when “I started hanging out in salons, and they heard of this. Later on, they (even) encouraged me to work in a salon. They told me: ‘Whatever makes you happy, do it.'”

Elden entered the beauty industry when he was in college.

“When my parents couldn’t send me to school anymore, I decided to work. Later, I realized I had to develop myself as a hairstylist. So I stopped going to school to focus on this,” he said.

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It never occurred to Elden he’d be a hairdresser for life.

“When I was young, I wanted to be an engineer or a doctor. But my parents couldn’t afford to send me to school; I had to find a way to send myself to school (at first). When I discovered this industry, I realized I should just focus on this. I underwent trainings, attended seminars. By then I realized this is meant for me. I also learned to love it. Until we see we can survive, then progress comes.”

At first, Elden said he couldn’t accept he’s gay. “Gradually, I realized this makes me happy; particularly when I saw my (LGBTQIA environment). I was happy with the LGBTQIA circle I had, and this made me happy to be gay.”

Elden opened his own salon in 1991.

“I had a small capital. I just added staff later. My (first salon) was simple – it just had a simple chair and a mirror. My initial capital was P15,000. I spent it on beautifying the area,” he said.

Elden thinks his salon worked because he focuses on satisfying his customers.

“Even if your place isn’t that beautiful, just give clients the best service,” he said.

As he is getting older, “we have to be stronger. You should enjoy life,” Elden said.

And for him, “the most important thing for us to do as we get older is to leave lessons to the young. Me, I am a hairstylist and a trainer. So I teach those who want to be in this industry; who want this line of work. This makes me happy: Training people (such as TESDA students).”

Elden said that younger hairstylists now do not have enough proper training. “We always need training to update our skills.”

“Even if your place isn’t that beautiful, just give clients the best service,” he said.

As a local of Cotabato City, Elden said “there really are people who judge us because of differences in beliefs. There are different cultures in Cotabato City. Dealing with this isn’t easy for (LGBTQIA people). For instance, as a gay man, I organize shows for gays here. One time, I organized an event in this gym. Things were initially okay until I was told we couldn’t hold the show there because we’re gay. I still fought for it. But I realized we still need their understanding.”

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LGBTQIA people are considered ‘haram’ (taboo) in Islam, added Elden. “To deal with that, we often just don’t react in any way. It’s better to act this way to avoid aggravating those who may have more adverse reactions to us. We respect various religions. But I also expect people to respect me as a gay person.”

Elden added: “We want people to understand our humanity. So, little by little, we educate ourselves, and we educate others… To date, people are slowly starting to better understand us… no matter their culture.”

Incidentally, Elden is also an HIV advocate, saying that “I became an HIV advocate when I found out that male-to-male sex is the main mode of HIV transmission.”

As he is getting older, “we have to be stronger. You should enjoy life,” Elden said.

“The rate of HIV infection in Cotabato is already high… (so) we’re now trying to educate more people here about HIV,” he said.

For Elden, “as a gay person, we have to be good at what we do; we have to excel in everything. You don’t have to be mediocre just because you’re gay. Show you can do things.”

To achieve this, “first, love yourself. Look after yourself,” Elden said, adding that LGBTQIA people should “love your parents.”

In the end, “focus on respecting others so people also respect you. To younger LGBTQIA people: Life goes on. So continue dreaming. Never stop respecting others… and yourself. That way, society will accept you.”

And for him, “the most important thing for us to do as we get older is to leave lessons to the young.”

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Defining who you are…

Before discovering she’s a woman, Ruffy Yulo – an intersex person with Klinefelter syndrome – said people gossiped that she “just wanted” to be a woman so she “can sleep around.” The mockery of intersex experience, she now says, ignores the difficulties intersex people go through.

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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.”

Assigned male at birth, Ruffy Yulo, 42 from Ortigas/Pasig City, was already 29 when she discovered “I’m actually intersex.”

She recalled though that, earlier, “when I was 19, when I went to the doctor, I would always get checked. The doctor would always say I have hormonal imbalance.”

But one day, when she was 29, she met a doctor in a gathering for gay and bi men. “The first time he saw me, he asked me what I was doing in that gathering.”

The doctor then mentioned to Ruffy that she may be/is intersex; and “it was the first time I heard of such a condition,” considering her sex assignment at birth.

In hindsight, though, there were “clues” in her life on her condition.

“My family actually hid it. But I don’t think it was their intention to keep it from me. I think they were also scared that society won’t understand (my situation),” she said. But she recalled that “one time, we went to the pediatrician who looked after me. I heard him say: ‘Did I not tell you in the past to fix this?’.”

And so when she was told she’s intersex, “I thought I’d just do the test (karyotyping). If I see from the test that I’m not intersex, that’s okay.”

But when Ryffy took the test, “I found out that I was actually a mosaic, I was really surprised. I was happy, but at the same time, I was also very confused.”

“My family actually hid it. But I don’t think it was their intention to keep it from me. I think they were also scared that society won’t understand (my situation).”

LIFE LIVED HARD

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There was a time when Ruffu met someone who’s intersex. “That time, I thought, their case is very complicated. But their situation also made it easy for them… like explaining to those who’d mock them. I was young then; and that’s what I thought – that it was easier for them.”

But after finding out she, herself, is intersex, “it turns out I was wrong. When I found out (I’m intersex), that was when I realized how difficult it is to be intersex.”

For example, as an adolescent, “when my body started changing, I had difficulty going to the toilet. When I go to the male toilet, I would get questioned: ‘Ma’am, this is the male toilet; yours is on the other side.’ There came a point when I wouldn’t even go to a toilet anymore. I’d just contain myself, and use a toilet when I’m in a place with (gender-neutral facilities).”

And when she applies for a job, “I always get to the second interview. But when I undergo medical exams, I never get any more calls.”

Ruffy said: “There was a point in time when I felt I was alone. I felt like there was no one to talk to. It’s like even if you’re talking to a loved one, they don’t really understand you. It’s like speaking in a foreign language with them.”

BODY AUTONOMY

For most people who know Ruffy, “from the time we were classmates to the present time, they all consider me as gay. So even if I explain my situation as an intersex person, they will not understand. In fact, I tried several times,” she said.

There were times when people gossiped about her in school, for instance.

“When we were supposed to have a reunion, I was not able to attend. There were rumours that I (had gender affirmation surgery as a trans woman). That I had surgery because I just wanted to sleep around. Those were the stories that went around. But the truth was, I was already at risk for testicular cancer. That was the main reason why I had myself checked.”

The doctor who can do the surgery Ruffy needed here in the Philippines only had around 70 cases. “Unlike in Thailand, when I went there, I met my doctor and he already did over a thousand cases. In those 1,000 cases, he did (surgery) on two intersex individuals already. So I felt a lot safer (with him).”

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It was a costly procedure, Ruffy admitted.

“But, you know, at that time when I did this, I didn’t have a choice. I was already at risk of having testicular cancer. And things needed to be removed. I also told my parents then that since there are many issues with my body, I wanted to fix everything in one go. At that time I was at risk to get testicular cancer, I had hernia… and there was that issue with my being intersex,” she said.

After her surgery, when Ruffy returned to the Philippines, she bled. “So I rushed myself to the hospital. There, while the doctor was checking me, I was surprised when nurses started gathering around me. They left their patients. They were all there trying to ask me several questions. I felt that the questions were irrelevant. They asked: How do you do sex? Why do you think you bled? Did you insert something inside you? Some of them I found really offensive,” Ruffy recalled. “But at that time, I had very little choice but to answer them. I thought, too, that maybe it’s for my own benefit.”

“When I found out (I’m intersex), that was when I realized how difficult it is to be intersex.”

In hindsight, Ruffy said that “there (isn’t a lot of study done about the intersex condition). In fact, when I was talking to a physician, he told me that when they were still in medical school, there’s only one chapter covering this topic. What they know is so limited, so that every time they encounter an intersex person, they tend to ask a lot because it’s their only chance to get answers.”

To Ruffy, though – and she stresses this – if intersex people think that getting (non-necessary) surgery is the answer, “the solution for them to be happy, let me say this isn’t the solution. In fact I discourage intersex individuals to undergo surgery. To start, it’s costly. Secondly, it’s hard. Take my case, for instance, after undergoing the procedure, there were complications. One of the complications for me was… like I had early menopause. So the tendency was… for my bones to be more brittle.”

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ON FINDING LOVE

“We know that a lot of men want someone who’s ‘normal’. They want someone who can conceive. They want someone they can grow old with… while caring for their grandchildren. This is something I can’t give,” Ruffy said.

So for a time, she didn’t date. “I mean, I also tried dating. But it’s challenging; it doesn’t work out. From the very start, even before we go on a date, I already tell them (that I am intersex).”

The doctor told her not to immediately disclose. “There was an instance after the surgery – when the doctor told me not to immediately disclose – when not disclosing gave me more problems. The guy thought I lied to him. Even if, in fact, that was not the intention.”

FINDING THE COURAGE

To younger intersex people, Ruffu said that “it’s totally normal to be scared. I will not say that you will instantly be courageous. But if you are facing hardships, these challenges are not exclusive to intersex people. Bisexuals, gays, lesbians and (even) heterosexuals – people from all spectrum, we all encounter difficulties. Perhaps it’s just more complicated for intersex people.

“But, you know, don’t limit your way of thinking that you’d amount to nothing. In fact, there are more chances to improve.”

“There was a point in time when I felt I was alone. I felt like there was no one to talk to. It’s like even if you’re talking to a loved one, they don’t really understand you. It’s like speaking in a foreign language with them.”

That there will always be people who will look down on (or at least look differently at) intersex people does not escape Ruffy.

“What I learned over time is that it is the people who discriminate who have problems. They may be afraid that what other people experience, it will also be done to them. For instance, a person may say another person is not capable. It may be because that person is the one who is not capable. They are only projecting to others their lack of capability,” she said. “The truth is, if we give others a chance, there’s more to everyone (than meets the eye).”

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Trans in Baguio

Van Sanchez, the trans woman vice president of the Baguio City Federation of the Sangguniang Kabataan, believes LGBTQIA people should be strong in fighting for what they feel in their hearts. For her, it’s time to show haters that “we’re already here, and we’re standing up for our human rights.”

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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.”

Van Sanchez, 25 years old from Baguio City, realized she’s trans when she was 15. This wasn’t… surprising for her, since “there are other LGBTQIA people in (my) clan,” she said. “There are 11 of us brothers and sisters. Two of us are ‘bakla’. We also have one sibling who’s a lesbian. So we’re totally complete in the family – we have lesbian and gay members.”

Perhaps it is this that made her family more accepting of her, since when Van’s parents found out she’s trans, “they didn’t react badly… They still fully support us.”

This isn’t to say Van’s life was always easy.

“Yes, I also experienced discrimination,” she said. “A lot of people in society still can’t accept people like us.”

This is why “I’m here advocating for gender equality.”

“If I have a message to younger LGBTQIA people, it’s for them to be strong. Follow your dreams. Stand up for what you feel in your heart; and be proud of this.”
“I was never intimidated while schooling. They cut my hair; they made me change how I presented myself,” she recalled. But she said she never let this stop her.

Van was elected to be part of Sangguniang Kabataan in 2018, she said “representing the LGBTQIA community.” She also won as the vice president of the Baguio City Federation of the Sangguniang Kabataan.

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For Van, “it’s not difficult to be a public official. It’s not difficult even for me who’s part of the LGBTQIA community as a trans woman. The work you do is the same.”

Van thinks that being LGBTQIA is somewhat easier in a city like Baguio.

“Here in Baguio City, it’s not that hard to live as a trans person. Particularly now that there are people like us who advocate for gender equality in the city. I have yet to see locals discriminate against people like us,” she said.

She noted – and acknowledged – though that “perhaps they just don’t discriminate as much. It’s not bad to be trans here because people know about us… and they somehow accept us already.”

Van believes “fighting” starts within.

While completing a degree in education, “I was never intimidated while schooling. They cut my hair; they made me change how I presented myself,” she recalled. But she said she never let this stop her.

“I also don’t believe in these when teaching. What matters more is how you teach your students; that you share your knowledge to them. Teaching should not be premised on the physical appearance of people; and even in the acquisition of knowledge/education,” Van said.

“Yes, I also experienced discrimination,” she said. “A lot of people in society still can’t accept people like us.”
“We’re already here, and there’s nothing you can do about that.”

Now, “if I have a message to younger LGBTQIA people, it’s for them to be strong. Follow your dreams. Stand up for what you feel in your heart; and be proud of this,” Van said, adding that “trans people and LGBTQIA community members should be united in fighting for our human rights.”

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And to those who discriminate against LGBTQIA people, Van said: “Good luck. We’re already here, and there’s nothing you can do about that. We’re here standing in front of you, and we’re here standing up for our rights. In the end, we’re all humans, and we’re equals in the eyes of God.”

“Teaching should not be premised on the physical appearance of people; and even in the acquisition of knowledge/education,” Van Sanchez said.

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Forever seeking the love…

Forever Diosa may not have personally experienced discrimination as a gay man, but his life – even with supportive family – isn’t always easy. His heart has been broken, for instance. But he believes in using pain to elevate oneself – something, he said, LGBTQIA people should learn.

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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.”

People told Forever Diosa that “if being gay is a sickness, then it can be washed away,” he said. So then gay people can just shower every day to wash this away. “But you can’t wash this away. And so there’s that pain when people mock you for being gay… Every time we step out, we have to accept we’d be ridiculed even if we did nothing wrong.”

Forever Diosa (a.k.a. Geraldine Madridano; and lives in Malabon, Metro Manila) was “five years old when I knew I am part of the LGBTQIA community. I knew because I felt it,” he said, adding that nothing, in particular, triggered this realization.

He isn’t surprised, though, since “let’s say it’s in my blood. There are other family members who are also LGBTQIA.”

He has an an uncle, a designer, who’s also part of the LGBTQIA community; a sibling is trans; and another is a lesbian.

“My family is happy I’m gay. Think of it this way: Would they rather have a drug addict for a child, or a gay child? It’s practical; parents know who they’d choose to have as a child,” he said.

“You should know how to respect yourself. And you should know how to respect others.”
“You can say you helped your nieces/nephews, and your parents. But people say it’s different when you have your own child who will look after you in old age,” he said.

His eldest sibling is a policeman – and Forever Diosa is proud of this. “Just think of that: I have a brother who’s a policeman. None can imagine I have a policeman for a brother. A policeman who has two gay brothers. That seems improbable. I am proud of my brother; I salute him because he is proud of us.”

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Not surprisingly, Forever Diosa draws support from his family.

“We can’t say my siblings are perfect. But we’re there to support each other. We support those who need support. Because we can say that at the end of the day, the blood in our veins connect us.”

All too apparent, in a way, Forever Diosa is more privileged.

“I did not experience discrimination as a gay person,” he said; something he attributes to “knowing how to position yourself as a gay person. You should know how to respect yourself. And you should know how to respect others.”

But life isn’t a bed of roses for Forever Diosa.

“Oh, yes, I loved one guy before… We were together for four years,” he recalled.

But then things soured. The guy dumped him… for no apparent reason.

“Until now I want to ask him: What happened to the two of us? I believe that when leaving a relationship, the people involved should talk. That way, if we see each other again, we can smile at each other; we can still be friends.”

But Forever Diosa said that “I am not ashamed to claim him as the guy who hurt me… I don’t regret this experience. I know I was able to help him, and he also helped me.”

He added: “All of us, we have roles to play on Earth. I don’t regret this experience because I survived it. It’s like, his life was extended because of me. Actually… not necessarily because of me. But I became an instrument to help him.”

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But the experience actually changed Forever Diosa.

“In the past, people just called me Diosa. But Diosa died because Diosa was hurt. And Forever Diosa was born to show strength.”

“I believe that when leaving a relationship, the people involved should talk. That way, if we see each other again, we can smile at each other; we can still be friends.”
“All of us, we have roles to play on Earth. I don’t regret this experience because I survived it.”

Forever Diosa believes in – shall we say – limited equality.

“I can’t say I back marriage equality because I’m a religious person. I respect other people’s opinions; but I also respect what’s ‘right’. So I don’t believe in marriage equality for now,” he said.

Somewhat contradictory to this, he added: “I support the need to pass the Anti-Discrimination Bill. I may not have personally experienced discrimination, but it could benefit those who are not as privileged as me. There are LGBTQIA people who are not well educated; and they should know their rights. Non-discrimination could also benefit the young, whose parents may eventually rely on. The young need to know/tackle discrimination. This is why we need equality.”

Forever Diosa said that people asked him who will look after him when he gets older.

“You can say you helped your nieces/nephews, and your parents. But people say it’s different when you have your own child who will look after you in old age,” he said.

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And so “I hope to have my own family. I hope to find a woman who will understand my past as a gay man. That’s what I will be looking for.”

Jokingly, he said: “I have a female office mate; we agreed that if she won’t find a BF by the time she turns 37, we’d be an item. She’s not yet 37, and she’s still single. I tell her to find a BF, and that our promise to each other won’t be fulfilled.”

Engaging with younger LGBTQIA people, Forever Diosa said “I tell them, ‘Study well.’ Respect yourself. Love yourself. Only you can elevate yourself. The people around you are only there to support you.”

And to people who continue to ridicule and hurt LGBTQIA people, “thank you; you inspire us to do/be more.”

“I hope to have my own family. I hope to find a woman who will understand my past as a gay man. That’s what I will be looking for.”

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Lesbian and intersex

Noting their difference even as a toddler, Alym Escultura came out as a lesbian while growing up. But they discovered that they are actually also intersex, which they said “complicates their issue for many people” because of “confusion”. As part of Intersex Philippines, Alym now educates people about intersex issues, while pushing for recognition that “intersex people should be included in discourses of equality.”

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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.”

Myla “Alym” Escultura, 44 and originally from Bicol, thinks they was a toddler when “I knew I’m different. I identified – and accepted – this difference by identifying as a lesbian. But there were questions in me on why my being a lesbian was different from the other lesbian women.”

When Alym was 22. “I realized I’m not just a lesbian, I am also intersex.”

Alym knew of this from resources she obtained online, after talking to people who are also intersex from all over the world, and – just as relevant – from “personal experience”.

“To start, anatomically, I’m different from other women,” Alym said, adding that because of her “personal engagements with other women”, they was able to differentiate the ‘normal’ and ‘not so normal’.

“This difference,” Alym said, “is very vivid/apparent. So I told myself I needed to know more about this.”

To young intersex Filipinos, “don’t be afraid,” Alym Escultura said. “Come out. Though you don’t have to advertise it to the world.”

To date, Alym still hasn’t had chromosomal analysis, mainly because this can be costly. Genetic testing can cost from under $100 to more than $2,000 (or equivalent in peso), depending on the nature/complexity of the test. The figure can still go higher if more than one test is necessary; and these tests may also not be readily available in the Philippines.

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But Alym already owns their being intersex.

“It’s not easy to be an intersex person,” Alym said.

In their case, for instance, “I am in the shadows/at the fringes of the lesbian community,” they said. “It is already complex to live as a lesbian, and then people realize, ‘What, you’re also intersex?’. You have to explain to people why you identify as a lesbian, and as intersex. People don’t necessarily know that my anatomical features are also different. And it’s hard to explain.”

And then there are the legalities – e.g. “If you were assigned male at birth, but your legal documents say you’re female. Right there, you already have an issue. What do you follow: Your legal documents, or how you really feel?”

“It’s not easy to be an intersex person,” Alym Escultura said.

Alym’s relationship with their family is, at least, fine. “They’re fine with me being a lesbian as long as I don’t bring shame to the family’s name.”

And “when they found out I’m also intersex, they took it as just a normal thing. For them, ‘We already accepted you for what you are. Your being intersex is just an add-on/bonus.'”

From Bicol, Alym eventually moved to Metro Manila.

“Resources that can help give you personal development are limited in the province. So I opted to be in a place where I can develop/cultivate myself. This way, I am not dependent on others,” they said.

For Alym, “you’re already (LGBTQIA), so you should be able to support yourself, be able to defend yourself. You should be able to help others without expecting anything in return.”

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Nowadays, “I don’t have to always tell people about my intersex condition. If they just identify me as a lesbian, that’s fine. But if they ask for more information about me, then I inject the information that I am also intersex.”

But Alym is finding their happiness now; living with their partner for almost three years now.

“If you were assigned male at birth, but your legal documents say you’re female. Right there, you already have an issue. What do you follow: Your legal documents, or how you really feel?”

To young intersex Filipinos, “don’t be afraid,” Alym said. “Come out. Though you don’t have to advertise it to the world. Look for others like you. Nowadays, we already have the Internet and there are online support groups.”

But Alym wants the LGBTQIA community to be inclusive. “We’re fighting for the same things. We’re fighting for inclusion. Similar to the declaration of the United Nations, ‘No one left behind’, we should support each other. We all want equal opportunity. We all want gender recognition. If we join our voices, then our voices will echo louder as we make our demands.”

And to people who ridicule intersex people, “that’s fine; that’s your choice. As long as you don’t do anything to physically harm us. We can take what you throw at us. But let me tell you this: We may be intersex people, but you’ll see that we’re willing and able to help, to build and make change for the better,” Alym ended.

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And this, too, shall pass…

Carlos C. Bandorin, 60, had a stroke in 2007; and people around him often – with sadness – recall how those he helped left him since then. But there’s no bitterness in Carlos’ voice as he now says that life’s like that… nothing lasts forever.

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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.”

“We know that time passes; that we grow old. We should learn to accept this. Nothing lasts forever.”

So said Carlos C. Bandorin, 60, from Sangandaan, Caloocan City.

Even when he was young, many people called Carlos as “Carlota”, a name obviously derived from his Carlos. But even if his name was already feminized, he said he wasn’t necessarily always “out”.

“In the past, it wasn’t that hard to be gay; you just hid it. Many of us were closet queens, so to speak. In those days, we don’t tell our parents we’re gay. Nowadays, people already do this,” Carlos said.

His mother sort of knew; and Carlos said she was fine with it. “But with my dad, it wasn’t (okay). He was quite strict.”

And so Carlos said he also experienced discrimination. “For instance, people were cruel to us. Even at home, there was cruelty.”

There are six of them. The eldest is a sister; and Carlos is the second to the last child. “I am the only gay member in the family.”

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Looking back, Carlos said that “to have fun, we dressed as women. Me and my friends would attend parties dressed as women. We did it all together – drinking… things like that. That’s what we did to have fun then.”

Carlos said he also had sexual experiences with women. “There were some women who were insistent… so I had sex with them. I was bisexual then – I did it with women, and also with men.”

When he was young, Carlos wanted to be a fashion designer. “I liked drawing when I was young,” he said. But “nothing came of it. Also because life was hard.”

He finished Grade 6. “Our mother also died then; in 1970. So I had to stop going to school.”

And so “I had to focus on making a living then.”

Carlos helped support his nieces/nephews when they were young.

“I was a vendor in the past; I sold snack foods. I sold palabok, guinataan, palitaw, pichi-pichi… That’s what I did then. (But) I also accepted laundry; I helped my sister do laundry. Her children were young then, so I helped her make a living. It was hard to earn in those days,” he said.

When he was young, Carlos wanted to be a fashion designer. “I liked drawing when I was young,” he said. But “nothing came of it. Also because life was hard.”
Nowadays, “my bones hurt; my joints hurt; everything hurts. But I bear the pain. I put up with everything.”

In 2007, Carlos had a stroke.

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“I think I was affected with palsy… because of my work before. I would stay under the sun, then get wet in the rain. So I was affected with palsy.”

Nowadays, “my bones hurt; my joints hurt; everything hurts. But I bear the pain. I put up with everything.”

In the past, “I used to have boyfriends, too. I left them eventually. I had to part with them because I could no longer offer them financial support.”

Carlos said that there were times when he actually loved men. “I shed tears over them because I loved them,” he said. “That’s in the past. It’s done. What’s important is I was able to show them that I loved them. I was able to give them what they needed. And that’s okay for me. I’m happy with my life now.”

Carlos believes that “men are meant to be with women. We need to accept this. That’s how it is. And this is the same with lesbians.”

And then, trying to wipe a tear forming in his eye, he said: “If only we can stop ourselves from loving… But we have to accept this. I tried loving before; but I knew I will just get hurt. So I had to stop myself from loving. I knew I will just cry from getting hurt. So even if I really loved a man, I fought it; I stopped myself. I knew I will just get hurt. I don’t want to get hurt anymore.”

Carlos said that there were times when he actually loved men. “I shed tears over them because I loved them,” he said.
In the past, “I used to have boyfriends, too. I left them eventually. I had to part with them because I could no longer offer them financial support.”

Right now, his family supports him – his sister, and his nieces/nephews. “They all support me now. They all try to help me now so I have money for my needs – for food, for my medicines, for… everything.”

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And because he lives under their care, “I humble myself when there are disagreements, or when I am reprimanded. That way, there’s no disagreement in the house.”

Every Sunday, Carlos goes to church for Bible study. “I am now amending my life. Perhaps that’s what God wants; for me to amend my life. This way life will already be peaceful,” he said.

As part of this “fixing” of his life, “I avoid hanging out with friends, as well as bad habits/my vices. Those things change with the passing of time.”

Every Sunday, Carlos goes to church for Bible study. “I am now amending my life. Perhaps that’s what God wants; for me to amend my life. This way life will already be peaceful,” he said.
“LGBTQIA people should not pay attention to those who ridicule us. Just continue living your life on Earth in peace… and with fear in God.”

Carlos wants younger LGBTQIA people “not to be hardheaded. Obey your parents. Fix your life so you don’t end up like us… Fix your life so you don’t end up sabotaging your own life.”

In the end, he believes that “LGBTQIA people should not pay attention to those who ridicule us. Just continue living your life on Earth in peace… and with fear in God.”

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